One of the key predictions of the ‘Remain’ camp during the referendum campaign was that a United Kingdom which was not part of the EU would be a diminished, isolated country, cut-off from the world and sinking into insignificance and irrelevance.
What has become plain since June 23 is that this is complete and utter nonsense. As we position ourselves to once more embrace the world, it is clear that much of the world is prepared to embrace us right back.
Despite the EU’s heavy-handed prohibitions on the UK starting trade negotiations with other countries, (which in itself is a perfect example of why it was right to vote to leave), we are already seeing countries lining up to trade with us post-Brexit.
At the head of the pack are Australia and New Zealand, who are not only extremely keen to sort out a free-trade agreement as soon as possible – they have even offered to share their expertise in negotiating deals with other countries.
Canada is impatient at the EU-imposed delay in getting things started, doubtless prompted by the slow progress in its existing trade negotiations with the EU.
China, India and the Mercosur countries of South America have all expressed interest in expanding trade with the United Kingdom without the constraints of the EU being in charge of what can be discussed and agreed.
In total, 10 countries have said they want a free trade deal and 17 more have expressed interest in negotiating one. That does not sound like isolation to me, it sounds like opportunity and future mutual prosperity for all involved.
Far from the claim that the UK would be isolated by voting to leave the EU we are seeing the beginnings of global involvement and cooperation not seen since we cut ourselves off from our relationships with the Commonwealth and other countries when we joined the EEC in 1975.
This is particularly encouraging in terms of Africa. Countries such as Ghana are eagerly awaiting the chance to export their agricultural products to us without the burden of EU quotas and punitive import tariffs designed to protect the farming sectors on the continent.
Not only will this lower the cost of the food on our supermarket shelves, it will empower developing economies to become more self-sufficient and lessen their dependence on outside aid.
This means more of our foreign aid money could be better spent on humanitarian and medical interventions and not on building roads and other infrastructure projects countries should do for themselves.
The Prime Minister and the ‘three Brexiteers’ she has appointed to oversee the transition from membership of a closed, protectionist and somewhat isolationist political and economic block into a global-facing independent trading nation are potentially the right people to do the job and I am cautiously optimistic – but we need to see some more solid plans even before we trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty and begin the formal mechanisms of leaving the EU.
Speeches at the Tory conference are one thing – solid, identifiable progress is another. Theresa May, David Davis and Liam Fox are all saying the right things at the moment – all we can hope for is that the obstructionists and die-hard ‘Remainers’ in both houses of parliament, made bitter and resentful by their resounding defeat, let them get on with the job and fulfill the electorally expressed wishes of the British people.