Rory Broomfield, Director, writes…
The world has seen many changes and, due to the free market, rule of law and belief in property rights, the lives of humans have been enhanced wherever those principles – and others of a free society – are respected. Of course, in June 2016 the UK took a giant step in order recapture some of its lost freedom back from the hands of the EU. With this decision comes huge opportunities in the way we structure our society and live, and 2017 marks a number of new strategies and campaigns that The Freedom Association (TFA) will adopt in order to aid the furthering of human prosperity and the freedom of those in the United Kingdom.
In doing so the aim is build on the upbeat and positive message that is (and has been) projected by our existing campaigns, including the Better Off Out. Leaving the EU means that the UK has a number of new capabilities and can lead the way in free trade for others, not just throughout Europe, but throughout the world as well.
In 2017 we will look to launch a new campaign that is focused around Trade Not Aid (TNA). In doing so, we want to stress the benefits that free markets can achieve over the giving aid. We want to illustrate to the British public, politicians and the press that free markets are the vehicle from poverty to prosperity and, in a new post-Brexit vote scenario, the UK has the possibility to enrich both the lives of its citizens but also of those abroad by adopting a bullish free market perspective with the rest of the world.
The campaign strategy is, as with the Better Off Out campaign, thoroughly positive and is designed to drive forward the aims through many of the same techniques used within the Better Off Out campaign. One key difference between the campaigns, however, will be that the TNA campaign will concentrate on the opportunities to trade with the developing world, the benefits of using the money elsewhere and stress, much like Better Off Out, the positives and achievements of the alternatives – in this case the prioritising of trade over the wasteful nature of aid in raising the standards of human existence.
In doing so, we hope to build on the good work that Priti Patel, the current International Development Secretary of State, has already highlighted that she wishes to achieve in this role; we want to work with other groups – across the political perspective – to coordinate projects in which more people can be targeted in a ways that appeal to them.
But this is not the only campaign strategy that The Freedom Association can adopt in 2017 to drive forward the opportunities that we will see post Brexit.
You will have read elsewhere in the magazine the prospects for our new Freedom to Vape campaign. This campaign looks to remove the regulations imposed on the vaping industry by the European Union’s 2014 Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) (which came into force on 20 May 2016), including the ban on advertising, the maximum size of tanks, the size of e-liquid bottles, and the strength of e-liquids.
Throughout this campaign we look to raise awareness of the differences between vaping and smoking combustible tobacco. Indeed, a key area in this campaign focuses on the health benefits that come from vaping in comparison to smoking tobacco. In doing so, we once again stress the innovative nature of the market and what it can be achieved. Vaping is a market solution to a problem and, as we currently see, is having its development – and the benefits that might occur from that development – be deprived / stunted by government intervention. We want a fresh start for the free market, not for its innovations and potential choice for consumers to be held back by the dead hand of Government regulations.
With this in mind the Freedom to Vape campaign will also join forces with others to promote the case. Head by Andrew Allison, it will look to work with other groups, industry and parliamentarians to push forward the positive case. However, we also wish to do so for another innovative campaign strategy: the sharing economy and the promotion of deregulation of the economy.
After Brexit there will be a lot – approximately 160,000 pages of EU law – to look at and potentially unwind. This will take some doing but what we don’t want is, to coin a phrase, to have successfully rolled back the frontiers of the EU, only to see them reimposed at a Westminster level. To have much of this law stay on the Statute Book forever would be a disservice to the British people and entrepreneurs in the UK and throughout the EU (nay, world) that want to see new ways of doing things and new possibilities, innovations and inventions come from a free United Kingdom.
One of those innovations is within the economy itself. Because of the UK’s legal traditions – seen in other parts of the world – the economy is changing in a way that is offering its citizens new opportunities to use and share their assets for a return. The rise of the sharing economy is something that many people are unaware of yet is alive and could potentially thrive in the UK today.
Uber, Airbnb and other companies besides are growing and tapping into a new type of transaction that can lead to further market innovations and the utilisation of hidden assets amongst the population. It can also build trust amongst the population, as it helps the economy become more transparent, accountable and knowledge led, without the “aid” of government regulation or subsidies.
This is something that we want to champion and also to illustrate, educate and promote understanding of the huge potential that lies behind this type of practice. The sharing economy is revolutionising certain sectors of the economy and we want to be at the forefront of its promotion.
In doing so, however, we will look to fight back against the problems of regulations in stifling the sharing economy’s development. We have already seen initiatives and court cases that have sought to derail the sector’s development and we hope to start counteracting and, in time, to overturn this trend.
What you can see is a desire to promote the principles of a free society through a positive lense – always trying to push on the positive angles in discussion about any given subject.
As such, there are other strategies that we wish to employ that can highlight the benefits of a free society post Brexit. This includes us promoting our responsibilities. Indeed, we believe in the rule of law, and have exported freedom and democracy across the world.
Underpinning our culture, values, and traditions is Christianity. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate this. The majority of those people who make this country their home understand this too and are perfectly happy to enjoy everything the UK has to offer. Those of other faiths and none are not upset that we celebrate Christmas, for example – it tends to be busybodies who feel we shouldn’t upset those of other faiths who try to push Christ out of Christmas. Christians also feel that they are fair game, whereas expressing critical views of other religions is taboo.
This strategy looks to ask as many questions as it will answer and will be employed to make the case that the UK is a welcoming place for all who legally enter and want to make it their home; however, it will oppose those who wish to change the DNA of our country, remove our traditions, and replace them with something they feel is more politically correct.
In order to open debate, we will also look to enhance the presence of free thought within our universities.
2016 was a year that saw an increase in retrograde steps within universities regarding freedom of speech in both the US and the UK and we need to up the ante in response. In doing so, along with others, we hope stop the slide further and recapture the ability of students in the UK to speak their minds, debate a range of issues and be encouraged to challenge received opinions. This starts with our current university societies but needs to expand, with increased emphasis and intensity.
For this, and our other campaign strategies, we will require your help and support. Despite the demise of the Labour Party and continued internal struggles within that party, there are still left wing activists and academics that are looking to block the advancement of the principles of a free society. Indeed, if I think these influences are bad then the Government, given their entrenched power, can be even worse!
Nonetheless, all forces of socialism, statism and the ways of protest groups need to be counteracted by a strong response from groups like TFA that believe in the principles of a free society. We have the chance to take advantage of opportunities that are presented by Brexit but there is also a matter of ensuring those that believe in overriding state power don’t continue their creep and dominate in these areas. If they do, the UK will be missing an open goal that would help to become one of the freest nations in the world.
Of course, there are external challenges go beyond even TFA’s control. The seeming inability of EU leaders to get their homes in order mean that it is beholden on us to lead the way.
Many will be familiar with what William Pitt the Younger said at the despatch box in Parliament:
“England has saved herself through her exertions, she needs to save Europe by her example.”
In being able to articulate a positive message for free trade, to celebrate and champion innovations brought about by individual freedom, to allow society to adapt and make the most of the sharing economy, and be able to defend free speech and express alternative ideas that can change agendas. Those things would help ensure the heightening of freedom in the UK, and it’s something we need to take advantage of in the face of external events and internal pressures.
A well thought out and forceful argument is one to be reckoned with. To quote Abraham Lincoln: “right is might”. In order to achieve this we all need to be actively involved in the process. This means writing to your MP, calling up your local radio stations and writing letters to a whole range of media outlets. In 2017, I want our membership to continue exerting its influence; we did so during the EU referendum campaign and now we need to keep the press up on our politicians and in the press to ensure opportunities are realised.
This challenge is acute when we consider the influence external courts will continue to have over the UK, even post-Brexit.
Even after the UK leaves the EU (and its ECJ) our court system will still be influenced by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. This has become highly influential within our court system (see my article elsewhere in this magazine on the McWhirter Lecture) and this is still perverting the principles of English and Welsh law.
Indeed, as discussed at a debate on our legal freedoms that TFA held at Christ Church, Oxford, along with the university’s Disraeli Society, there is a potential for our judges to become even more active after we leave the EU through their desire to over-interpret the European Court’s decisions, which themselves often are an overinterpretation of the Convention.
We need to do all we can to ensure that the rule of law and our legal freedoms are defended. With the manifesto promise of the Conservative Party (now Government) to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a new British Bill of Rights, it gives us a new opportunity to push for English legal principles to be defended and for the influence of foreign judges to be restricted. I hope that TFA can continue its work with the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, and others, to promote discussion and for us, TFA, to press for government to free the UK from the restraints we are given from abroad.
What we face is a future that is full of possibility and opportunity. It is up to us leavers to take up the challenge and articulate and press for the UK to take advantage of this new environment and press the positive case. We need to work together to keep up the pressure and ensure this opportunity is not squandered.
2017 is a new year with a great set of opportunities. We need to take our chances and make the most of them.