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The Brexit Prize - An American Dream?

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The world we are told repeatedly is changing, and fast. The European Commission President this week told the European Parliament that, "Europe must do the big things bigger and the small things smaller." Puzzled? You're not the only one. But what Barosso's comments do show is that Europe is considering its own place in the world too.

This week, the Institute of Economic Affairs will be considering the best essays on how the UK would operate best outside the EU. I've submitted my own essay and here's why.

Whilst it would be great to win the prize, I do not for a moment expect to; but what I do want is to open people's eyes to an option the UK must consider seriously. I am arguing that we should consider our most special relationship of all - the one we have with the United States.

British-American trade was worth $214billion in 2012. That is the biggest bilateral trade relationship of any two countries anywhere. UK investment in the US is 116 times that invested in the US by China and 90 times that invested by India and 88 times that invested by Brazil. Around a million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic depend on US-UK trade. These statistics are staggering. When the vote on Syria took place a few weeks ago, the Sun newspaper ran with the headline "Death Notice: The Special Relationship". Quite clearly from the statistics I've outlined, the interdependence of our two countries is unquestionable - and that's without free trade.

One fact which is often overlooked about the European debate in Britain is that we're in a customs union. Federalists and pro Europeans alike remind us of the single market and the free trade that brings. They're right of course, but it also means that Britain is unable to negotiate its own trade deals outside of the Customs Union - that is a right only the European Commission has.

Frankly, they are not very good at it.

David Cameron recently expressed his desire to push an EU-USA free trade agreement signalling that it could be worth over $100billion in extra trade annually.

The Institute for Economic Affairs' prize allows the chance for real 'blue sky thinking' on how Britain would operate on the other side. For only 40 years of the UK's 306 year history has it been fixed on European trade over Global trade. In the early 1970s, the EEC, as it was then was, accounted for well over 30% of global trade whilst the USA had just 25% of world trade. Today with the accession of the former Eastern Bloc and a 28 nation strong union, the EU as a bloc stands at 26% and the USA hasn't budged at 25%. Whilst Europe feels the shift of power to the Orient, the United States has maintained the same place it had 40 years ago.

My argument is simple. If the United Kingdom could choose, why can't it have both? Namely the ability to access the Single Market through the European Free Trade Agreement that it created and joined in 1962, and join the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta). 40 to 50% of the UK's exports do go to the EU, but they trade far more to us than we do to them, suggesting that access to the single market wouldn't be a problem. It would not be in continental Europe's interests to pick a trade was with us.

But imagine the possibility of free trade with Canada and the United States. Not only are we aligned more than any other nations by heritage, language, legal system, and culture but the trade statistics speak for themselves. American and British businesses invest in each other's markets and political barriers and positioning haven't stopped that.

Whilst the European Union continues to grapple with a Eurozone crisis that started nearly five years ago, the Institute of Economic Affairs' competition gives everybody the opportunity to think about the future. My argument is that for our future; let's look at what we do best - looking to the world and having our own American Dream.

Further information on the Institute for Economic Affairs can be found here. Michael Fabricant co-wrote his Brexit Prize essay submission with Welsh Conservative Chief of Staff, Anthony Pickles

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