Murnaghan Interview with Daniel Hannan, MEP, Tory Vote Leave campaigner, 11.09.16

Dermot Murnaghan


DERMOT MURNAGHAN: This week in Westminster the new Brexit Secretary was slapped down by the Prime Minister for saying that Britain may leave the EU single market, the new International Trade Secretary called British business fat and lazy and this morning the new Foreign Secretary launches a campaign group calling for a hard Brexit, in what appears to be an effort to put pressure on the Prime Minister.  Boris Johnson calls for the return of control over borders, laws, money and trade from the EU to the UK.  Well a high profile leave campaigner and Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan, is live now in Basingstoke, and a very good morning to you.  What about Liam Fox, is he right about British business and there may be dereliction of duty to export more?

DANIEL HANNAN:  I think Liam would accept that he phrased that badly and which of us hasn’t done that at one time or another?  I know I certainly have, I suspect even you might have done Dermot, from time to time.  In the course of a basically very good speech talking about the export opportunities that will now be open to us as a global country engaged with global markets, he I think phrased one section in a way that I’m sure he regrets now.

DM: Okay, so you don’t think he should have phrased it like that but what about David Davis then, the Brexit Secretary, saying well Britain may have to leave the single market, not government policy yet, we’re not sure what it is but do you agree with Mr Davis?

DANIEL HANNAN: The thing is, in this century more than 90% of the economic growth is going to come from outside the EU and the challenge for Britain is to be part of that growth, to be plugged in as we benefit as Africa, Asia, South America and the other surging parts of the world push ahead and in order to do that we can’t rely on the EU because we know that the EU is very reluctant to sign trade deals with these parts of the world. It has been talking for nine years with India and hasn’t done anything, refuses to talk to China and so there is a huge opportunity for us to return to being a global maritime merchant country, of course trade with our friends in Europe but no longer being subject to the external tariffs of the European Union, the customs union and the regulation of all of our domestic commerce and industry.  Of course we are going to have to meet EU standards when selling to the EU just like we have to meet Russian standards when we sell to Russia but no longer will we have to apply burdensome and expensive regulations either to our domestic commerce and industry or to that which we sell beyond the EU.

DM: And this characterisation of the soft and hard Brexit, do you think the nature of the results should inform that debate, the 52/48 in favour of Brexit?  If it had been 60/40 would that have signalled hard Brexit, this result means something more nuanced?

DANIEL HANNAN:  I guess that’s a very fair point, it was a very marginal result, I think that that imposes on the winning side an obligation to take very seriously the top concerns of the losing side both in terms of continued trade with the EU and in terms of with continued participation in various research and educational programmes and so on.  I think we need to listen to what the 48% want and I think we should have the closest relationship with the EU compatible with being a sovereign country.  Think of it as a bit like Canada with the US, Canada also has a federal state on its doorstep, it isn’t part of that federation, it makes its own laws but it has the closest relation in terms of military alliance, security links, trade and so on and that I think should be our model.  We want to work very closely with our friends and allies who are also our suppliers and customers in Europe but making our own laws.

DM: So is Boris Johnson, is the Foreign Secretary pushing it too far?

DANIEL HANNAN:  No, you just showed Boris there in the clip saying we want control of our own laws, money, democracy, absolutely, that’s what people voted for.  Having taken back control that doesn’t mean that we swan off and don’t talk to our friends and neighbours.  I think there is a very good case have taken back jurisdiction for in some cases replicating through treaties as a friend and neighbour bilaterally some of the arrangements that we have with our allies in Europe.  We are not talking about just having a trade relationship with them, we are going to have close intergovernmental cooperation, close military alliance and so on but it will be on the basis that parliament and therefore we ultimately decide what happens.

DM: One of the other things that Boris Johnson is remembered for from the campaign of course is standing beside that bus with the £350 million for the NHS on it, now it may have come down to £100 million a week but do you think Theresa May should not have reneged on that?

DANIEL HANNAN:  Well it is hardly reneging, it wasn’t a promise that she made.  I think if Boris had been Prime Minister he would have felt morally obliged to honour that but the essence of a referendum is you are instructing a government, a referendum isn’t a general election and because we’re not used to them a lot of people struggle with this.  If people voted leave they weren’t electing Boris, they were voting to instruct the government to get out of the EU on the best terms we can get, advantageously to ourselves but also being fair to our friends and allies in Europe. That is going to free up a lot of the money that we are currently paying to Brussels but how we now spend that money of course will be a question for the British people in parliament.

DM: Let me ask you, we have had discussions before, haven’t we, Mr Hannan, about the nature of the trade deals and you feel that a free trade arrangement, a quick one from the UK, will be one of the best ways to go.  I have just been talking to a very experienced trade negotiator, Michael Johnson, who says he doesn’t really believe there is any such thing as free trade and the downside of that is that some of the activities in the country that does that, the UK, suffer very badly indeed.  We’re thinking about agriculture here, certain industries, the steel industry, the car industry.  

DANIEL HANNAN:  He was right to say that no country in the world has ever pursued pure free trade because as he correctly said, there are always vested industries, there are always industries that want protection.  However, the countries that have got closest to that ideal, whether it’s Switzerland, Hong Kong or Singapore, almost without exception have been countries that have then grown more quickly and the standard of living for everybody in that country has tended to rise faster than the countries that retain distortions, protections and closed markets.  So of course we are not going to be able to have a sort of pure, perfect, open trade model because there are going to be distortions here, I’ve been in politics long enough to know that that’s how it happens but the closer we get to it, the better it will be for everyone and whether our industries that are particularly going to be affected by the transition and farming is a good example – we are in the Common Agricultural Policy now, outside it we’ll have much cheaper food, it will be a huge boon for almost every family in the country as groceries come down but when every other country in the world, every other one except New Zealand, subsidises its farmers, it would be very difficult to say we are going to be the only ones who don’t.  So what we should do in that situation is simply give a higher direct grant to our farmers than at present rather than having tariffs, quotas or other trade barriers.  That’s by far the cheaper and more effective way of doing it.  

DM: Lastly Mr Hannan, may I ask you about what I think we’d all agree has been a very unwelcome dimension of the Brexit vote, do you feel there has been an increase in hate crimes involving foreign nationals in the UK?

DANIEL HANNAN:  You phrase the question there as if it were a given, you called it an unwelcome consequence.  I don’t accept that and I think it’s a tendentious thing to put the question in the way that you do.  There has been for a long period a rise in the reporting of hate crime incidents because of the way in which the police have their websites and treat every report as an incident.  There hasn’t been any increase in the number of cases referred for prosecution and some of the cases the media have jumped on have turned out to have nothing to do with Brexit at all so there was a huge fuss about those plankton in Newcastle who had a ‘Send them all back’ repatriation banner.  Those idiots have been doing that every weekend outside the town hall in Newcastle for years, it was nothing to do with Brexit. Similarly there was a case that was supposedly about Brexit inspired anti-Polish graffiti, it turned out not to have been anything of the kind so I think there has been some slightly irresponsible reporting of this.  Of course any kind of intolerance, any kind of hateful incident doesn’t … it goes without saying that we all condemn that but insult 52% of the British electorate by suggesting there is some connection between voting to take back our laws and being unpleasant to people who have made their lives here, I think that’s an extremely dangerous way of going.

DM: Okay, good talking to you Mr Hannan, thank you very much indeed.  Daniel Hannan there.