Letter: Country’s voters being mislead

David Daniels CBE

Beech House Lane, Robertsbridge

Brexiteers don’t understand external controls on trade are a fact of life.

Every country applies its own trading standards in goods and services to ensure their own economic advantage, and UK voters are being mislead in thinking Brexit will give the UK advantage anywhere in the world.

Trade provides the income to run the country, so anything that damages trade hurts all of us and especially our ability to fund services such as the NHS.

Consider the notional company, Sussex Electronics Ltd with an annual turnover of £50m and a workforce of 250.

It manufactures and exports electronic equipment; 60 per cent to the EU, 20 per cent to South America and 20 per cent to the Middle East.

The company’s market share in the EU is achieved because current trade tariffs and geographical proximity give it a price advantage compared with its competitors.

To sell its products in the EU, Sussex Electronics Ltd must ensure they meet the EU trading standards and must identify the relevant directives, verify the product’s specific requirements, identify whether an independent conformity assessment is necessary, test the product, create technical documentation and finally add a CE mark to the product because it cannot sell its products unless they are compliant.

EU standards are under continued review, so when the appropriate directives are updated, a process over which the UK will no longer have any control after Brexit, Sussex Electronics Ltd will have little option but to meet them.

Post Brexit, the WTO tariffs will result in Sussex Electronics Ltd losing its price advantage compared with its US competitors, so its market share in the EU will probably fall.

Multiply this effect all over the UK and the writing is on the wall in terms of cut backs and unemployment.

Sussex Electronics Ltd could look for other markets in the US, China, India, Indonesia etc, but will have to meet their national requirements, appoint agents, perhaps form a joint venture, all of which costs time and money at a time when its turnover may be falling.

Opening up new markets takes a great deal of hard work and is not just a five minute politician’s blether as Messrs Johnson, Gove and Davis seem to believe, and with the effect of Trump on the US-UK relationship, any trade deal there will be a very long time coming.

Brexit’s main proposition of freeing the UK from trading controls shows clearly that the Brexiteers and their hysterical press supporters haven’t the remotest idea of the complexity of international trade.

The case for a second referendum on Brexit, once the deal is negotiated and known and whether Brexit is worth the pain, is entirely consistent with democratically taking back control.

This should be in an atmosphere free of the vicious unpleasantness whipped up by the foamingly right wing sections of the UK press.

There was once a general consensus among all political parties that civilised discussion was essential for civilised debate and it is about time that emotional tribalism is replaced by reasoned and factual discussion.