Brexit matters, with the post-Brexit United Kingdom becoming more relevant to America and global geopolitics than ever. That is the timely reminder and keen observation shared by former U.K. Minister of State Lord David Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator for exiting the European Union.
In his recent thought-provoking speech at The Heritage Foundation, Frost underscored that Brexit “was fundamentally about democracy—the determination that, as far as possible, decisions that affect Britain should be taken in Britain,” through a referendum to refashion “the democratic nation-state, with all the freedoms, opportunities, and challenges that go with that.”
He further noted,
That is also why its significance matters beyond our borders and why it should matter particularly here to our friends and allies in the U.S.—at least to those of you who still believe in a special role for the U.S. as leader of the West. Brexit is—or should be—the first sign of a potential renewal of self-confidence in the West. It’s not a throwback—it is a move forward. It is the renewal of the formula that made the West successful: democratic states deciding their own affairs domestically and defending their security together against external enemies.
Frost delivered Britain’s exit from the European Union against the odds and negotiated the Trade and Cooperation Agreement in 2020 that established Britain’s new relationship with the EU and its member states.
Reflecting on the political and economic situation of Britain two years after the country’s exit from the EU, he also discussed how conservative politics need to develop in Britain if the opportunities of Brexit are to be fully exploited. As importantly, he spoke of Britain’s global role, including how it should position itself in the face of the ongoing challenges from China.
Brexited Global Britain deserves to be, and should become, a more dynamic enterprise hub, because expanding trade and investment isn’t solely about market openness, though that remains crucial. Trade and investment are also advanced by a strong rule of law, effective regulatory efficiency, and limited government size—areas where Britain performs far better than many of its regional European competitors.
Indeed, there will be ample opportunity for greater economic freedom in the post-Brexit U.K. economy. Unshackled from the strictures of EU bureaucracy, the British economy could register substantial improvements in key policy areas such as business freedom and trade freedom.
From a broader foreign policy perspective, the record of a post-Brexit U.K. on defense and foreign policy—the area where many skeptics of Brexit argued the U.K. would find it the most difficult to make a difference—Frost reminds us “is in fact arguably the most positive, the area where a new direction has been most clearly marked.”
It is equally important to remember that the U.S.-U.K. partnership must be the beating heart of the free world. It is in the clear interest of Washington and London, particularly in light of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to work together and to further enhance the Special Relationship between two of the world’s long-time free-market democracies. This includes moving forward swiftly with a historic bilateral trade deal that will not only facilitate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but also further enhance investment and job creation on both sides of the Atlantic.
As The Heritage Foundation has argued, an Anglo-American trade and investment agreement will be a force generator for greater economic growth and prosperity and will play a key role in reinvigorating the global free-trade agenda. This is a unique opportunity the United States and Great Britain must seize upon to revitalize and upgrade the growth engines of the private sectors on both sides of the Atlantic.
In concluding his remarks titled “Last Exit to Freedom? Britain After Brexit and the Future of Conservative Politics,” Frost keenly observed today’s political landscapes of America and Britain by pointing out,
The attachment of many Americans to free markets, to growth, to the West, and to freedom is still remarkably, and reassuringly, strong. In Britain, too, many people sense deeply that something has gone wrong but aren’t sure why. They still believe in the strength of Western society and are ready to get back on track, even, I believe, at some cost to themselves. It’s the job of conservative politicians to strengthen this group, to enlarge it, and to offer its members hope that things can change for the better.
Indeed, the year 2022 is the year to act on that important work of implementing even more conservative, free-market, pro-freedom solutions and expand on the unprecedented successes our two nations have long enjoyed.
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