Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    This article was written for the Express.


    The amazing thing about the British economy is how resilient it has been despite months of Project Fear talking it down.


    Imagine how buoyant it will be when we have a new government talking up our strengths and the positive opportunities which Brexit opens up for the UK. To misquote President Franklin D Roosevelt, my only fear was fear itself; that Project Fear would become a selffulfilling prophecy. Yet the stock market has bounced back to above its pre-Brexit level; the sterling/euro exchange rate is higher than it was throughout 2013 and the latest employment, earnings and retail sales figures are also up. 


    And Chancellor George Osborne’s “punishment Budget” failed to transpire. This is disappointing for the BBC but good news for the rest of us. Sooner than I dared hope, there are reports of enthusiasm for making free-trade agreements with the UK from ­Australasia, Asia and the European free-trade area. While still in the EU we cannot negotiate our own free-trade deals. But outside we will – just as Switzerland has negotiated a trade deal with China followed by big increases in its exports. 


    India is now pressing ahead with a trade deal with the Swiss after abandoning its negotiations with the EU because the Indians were fed up with EU countries all demanding complex exemptions. 


    Had we stayed in the EU we would have foregone the prospect of tariff-free trade with the two largest countries in the world. There is no need to finalise our exit from the EU before we start talking to potential trading partners world wide. Apart from ensuring that Project Fear does not become self-fulfilling, the main concern is to minimise uncertainty. 


    That means the Tory Party choosing a new leader and prime minister speedily. But it is crucial that the winner is someone who is decisive, determined and experienced in business and the complexities of the European issues so that they can press ahead straight away. To my mind, the one candidate who meets all those criteria is Andrea Leadsom, who has the bonus of being popular across the party. I was asked to pick the star among the large and unusually talented influx of new MPs in 2010 and she was my choice as the brightest. 


    We must also reassure EU citizens already settled here that they will retain the right to remain. No party has proposed removing that right, which is guaranteed under the Vienna Convention by which we are bound, as is the right of UK citizens living on the Continent. Likewise, we should reassure people that freedom of movement across Europe will continue. You will not need a visa for a Spanish holiday any more than you do for Thailand. 


    Taking back control of our borders means we can set limits on how many people, with what skills, from the EU, are allowed to work and settle here, as we do for those from other parts of the world. But that can be enforced simply by requiring future EU migrants to show a work permit to obtain an NI number. It may well be necessary to introduce this system speedily to prevent any large inflow of people out to pre-empt Brexit