Peter Lilley spoke to politics, economics and business students from Hitchin Girls’ and Boys’ Schools and the Priory School at Hitchin Girls’ School Sixth Form Centre last Thursday.
Peter explained why he had campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU in the 1975 referendum, and why he now believes we should leave. He drew on his experience as Trade and Industry Minister, who negotiated the last successful trade deal and implemented the Single Market programme in the 1990s.
He explained that trade deals take longer to negotiate and produce a less comprehensive result the more countries are involved, which is why the EU – with 28 Member States – has so far been unable to complete trade deals with China, India, the United States, and Australia, etc.
He argued that it would be simpler for the UK to negotiate trade deals bilaterally with the huge markets growing in Asia and Latin America.
Peter praised the students for the wide range of penetrating questions they asked.
Peter said: “In 1975, there was a good economic case to join the Common Market, because European economies were growing fast, and we needed to get inside Europe’s tariff wall in order to trade with its then fast-growing market. Now, Europe is stagnant, and its tariff wall is only 2 or 3%. The future for our young people will depend on gaining access to the fast-growing economies of Africa, Asia and Latin America, so we need to negotiate trade deals with them. We cannot do that on our own as long as we remain within the EU. The EU has managed to negotiate few trade deals because of the problem of getting agreement between 28 Member States. If we leave, we will be able to negotiate bilaterally with the global markets on which the prosperity of the next generation will depend.”