UK should ‘do a Singapore’, says former Defra secretary

Post-Brexit Britain should follow Singapore’s example and adopt low-tax, low-spend, low-regulation policies to achieve higher living standards, according to former Defra secretary Owen Paterson.

“If we are to thrive, our post-Brexit model should exactly be Singapore, a tiny country devoid of natural resources, but with a booming economy,” Mr Paterson wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday (21 November).

In 1980, Britons were 20% richer than Singaporeans on average, he claimed. However, today Singaporeans are twice as rich as Britons.

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Jungle of regulations

Mr Paterson called for radical changes to UK economic policy. 

“My proposition is simple. There is not much point leaving the EU and its bureaucratic jungle of regulations, only to run our economy on precisely the same lines as before.”

Mr Paterson said in countries such as France, Sweden and Denmark, the state spends more than 50% of GDP, with corresponding high levels of personal and business taxation.

“We are in better shape – but not much. Our government spends about 42% of GDP and our tax burden is firmly in the middle of the EU pack.”

Mr Paterson said he supports the argument set out by Economists for Free Trade.

The group is chaired by Patrick Minford, who according to Mr Paterson is “one of the few experts who has been consistently right on the major economic questions” of the past 30 years.

‘Clean Brexit’

“They predict a surge in UK growth through the 2020s – assuming a clean Brexit in which we cut ourselves free of EU regulations.”

The Budget is a real opportunity for a turning point in UK fiscal policy – a chance to signal that the government will make Britain one of the world’s most competitive economies, said Mr Paterson.

Chancellor Philip Hammond should “look east when he rises to his feet on Wednesday, not to the sluggish, overtaxed and overregulated states across the Channel”.

Mr Paterson added: “As we battle our way to the door and prepare to say goodbye to Brussels, the chancellor should recognise that Brexit means bravery and boldness.

“Let Singapore be our model.”

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