February 20, 2018 Print

Mark Littlewood is Director General of the UK-based Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and will be speaking at Atlas Network events on Feb. 21 in Sarasota and Feb. 22 in New York City about the risks and opportunities of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and how negotiations have been effected by turbulent political events since the initial vote to leave.

In advance of those upcoming events, Littlewood gave Atlas Network a little glimpse into the UK’s current political climate and what the IEA is doing to spread the message of freedom throughout the UK.

Atlas Network: What’s the current “mood” or “feeling” in the UK regarding Brexit?

Littlewood: The British political establishment still appear to have not come to terms with the decision of the British people to leave the European Union – even while they attempt to implement the decision of the electorate from June 2016. There is a feeling of drift while competing groups continue to fight within Cabinet as to the type of Brexit we should be seeking, and what sort of country we should hope to be once we have left.

What do you consider to be an opportunity of Brexit?

The great opportunity is the chance to diverge from restrictive EU policies and move in a much more free market direction. Brexit itself is neither good nor bad, it is simply an opportunity to reform parts of our economy and society that currently our political system cannot touch. The greatest opportunity will be in trade policy, where the UK could slash prices for UK consumers and increase economic growth through a radical free trade policy — particularly if the UK and United States can negotiate a swift free trade agreement. 

What do you consider to be a risk of Brexit?

There are two major risks of Brexit. Firstly, there is the risk that we do not significantly diverge from current EU policies at all (particularly in trade policy), or somehow bind ourselves into some sort of semi-membership where the UK has to accept a range of policies and regulations from Brussels without any influence over them. 

The second risk is the flip side of the great opportunity of Brexit — the types of policies we follow once we leave. At the moment the EU acts as a straitjacket, preventing us from enacting radical policies, whether left wing or right wing. The risk is that, once we are free of these restricting [policies], far-left politicians use the opportunity to enact radical left-wing policies such as nationalisation of large parts of the UK economy, or trade restrictions. 

Do you anticipate that the UK will use Brexit to chart a new free trading course outside the EU, or will the UK wind up less free and worse off than it might have by remaining in the EU? 

This is the question! I would like to think that we will move in a more free direction, but we are facing a major headwind. We will need help from the United States if we are going to make a success of Brexit.

Any final thoughts?

People can sometimes get over-eager talking about election results and political victories — calling an election 'the most important in history,' or saying that an election is a 'once-in-a-lifetime' decision. But with Brexit, we truly do have a once in a generation chance to renew the 'Special Relationship' between the United States and the UK, forming a new frontier to support and extend freedom and free trade. We should seize this chance.