Why did the only positive vision of Britain’s future come from right-wing Brexit advocates? That’s the question I’m preoccupied by having read Why Vote Leave by Daniel Hannan. Take this for example, from loc 1903-1917:
It’s 2020, and the UK is flourishing outside of the EU. The rump Union, now a united bloc, continues its genteel decline, but Britain has become the most successful and competitive knowledge-based economy in the region. Our universities attract the world’s brightest students. We lead the way in software, biotech, law, finance and the audio-visual sector. We have forged a distinctive foreign policy, allied to Europe, but giving due weight to the US, India and other common-law, Anglophone democracies. More intangibly but no less significantly, we have recovered our self-belief. As Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the European Federation, crossly puts it: ‘In economic terms, Britain is Hong Kong to Europe’s China, Singapore to our Indonesia.’
Part of our success rests on bilateral free-trade agreements with the rest of the world. The EU has to weigh the interests of Italian textile manufacturers, French film-makers, Polish farmers. Even Germany likes to defend its analogue-era giants against American Internet challengers such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Uber. Once outside the Common External Tariff, the UK swiftly signed a slew of free-trade agreements, including with the US, India and Australia. Our policy is like Switzerland’s: we match EU trade negotiators when convenient, but go further when Brussels is reluctant to liberalize, as with China.
Following Switzerland, we forged overseas relationships while remaining full members of the EU’s common market –covered by free movement of goods, services and capital. Non-EU trade matters more than ever. Since 2010, every region in the world has experienced significant economic growth –except Europe. The prosperity of distant continents has spilled over into Britain. Our Atlantic ports, above all Glasgow and Liverpool, are entering a second golden age. London, too, is booming. Eurocrats never had much sympathy for financial services. As their regulations took effect –a financial transactions tax, a ban on short-selling, restrictions on clearing, a bonus cap, windfall levies, micro-regulation of funds –waves of young financiers brought their talents from Frankfurt, Paris and Milan to the City.
I’m not persuaded by this vision. But it is nonetheless a desirable image of a potential future. Whereas my own (eventual) advocacy of Remain would struggle to offer anything more than “it’s a bit less bad than the alternative”. When did optimism become a characteristic possessed by the right and lacked by the left?