Leaving need not be a disaster

The potential negative ramifications of Brexit are well known by now, but what about the opportunities? Dave Wetzel, Hounslow Green Party and, until recently, President of the International Union for Land Value Taxation, tells us why Brexit may not be all doom and gloom

Dave Wetzel
Tue 22 Aug 2017

Listening to some politicians and commentators one might easily assume that leaving the EU will be an unmitigated disaster for the UK.

It is wrong to assume that everybody who voted to leave the EU did so on UKIP's terms. There are many strong political and economic reasons why it is sensible for the UK to leave the EU but to continue fostering trade with the EU27 whilst also enjoying the new freedom to decide our own tax regime, import duties, farm subsidies and to trade more freely with the other 166 countries outside the EU.

Since its inception in the 1950s as the European Coal and Steel Community, the EU has been a capitalist club benefitting the rich. One topical example of this is the proposed EU/USA TTIP trade deal, which could give American firms power to sue a European government for protecting its public services (such as the NHS) from private competition.

The EU is undemocratic. The European Parliament is only a 'parliament' in name - it is a talking shop wandering between Strasburg and Brussels with no powers to initiate legislation; it is even incapable of properly scrutinising EU expenditure. More power lies with an unelected elite. The EU's accounts were not signed off by the auditors for years, and even now every year since 2007 the auditors have found that some funds have not been used by member states in accordance with EU rules - 3.8 per cent in 2015.

Let's imagine life outside the EU.

No longer would we be giving direct payments to Bulgarian and Greek farmers to grow tobacco! At a time when this Tory Government is restricting the wages of public servants, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) gives huge subsidies to the richest landowners in the country. The Tories won't do it, but a Green government could scrap farm subsidies. Although paid to farmers, these funds all end up in the pockets of farmland owners. Whenever a farm is sold or rented the value of the subsidy is always included in the negotiations - the higher the subsidy, the higher the price or rent a farmer has to pay to the landowner. So CAP benefits farmland owners rather than farmers - with Greenpeace highlighting that Brexit-backing billionaire James Dyson was the largest private recipient of farm subsidies (totalling ?1.6 million) in 2016.

VAT, moreover, is a condition of EU membership that in the UK creates an internal tariff of 20 per cent on most goods and services. This artificial increase in prices reduces consumption and production, fuelling unemployment. In many Mediterranean countries, youth unemployment is now over 50 per cent. So why worry that with no EU deal a tariff wall governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules will be erected? As most WTO tariffs are far below 20 per cent, if we replaced VAT with an annual land value tax on all land, we would in fact reduce most retail prices, jobs would be created and the economy would operate much more efficiently with empty brownfield sites and empty homes being brought into use as land speculation became less attractive. Since land cannot be moved to a tax haven, tax evasion and tax avoidance would reduce and with idle land banks brought into use we would see more jobs created thus either reducing our total welfare bills or diverting funds to most in need.

Of course, we would not have to impose any tariff barriers on imports at all. It would be our choice to drop all tariff barriers other than for health and safety or to better protect the environment and as some of our manufactured goods are made from imported materials and components this would reduce the cost of our exports and many countries would be likely to reciprocate by removing their tariffs for our goods and services.

Our Green Party has the policies to strengthen our economy, such as annual land value tax, banking reform and our social policies. We know that our ideas for addressing climate change, global warming and environmental pollution will create sustainable homes and worthwhile employment. We can encourage manufacturers to produce products that are built to last - not with built-in obsolescence to be discarded every few years. We can introduce a citizen's land dividend to fund a universal basic income and welcome a future outside of the EU that offers all our citizens prosperous, healthy and happy lives, building a society based upon love, peace, co-operation and respect not wasteful competition, arms sales and hatred.