There are strong economic and political arguments for leaving the EU says Alex Deane
I am profoundly Eurosceptic. Many amongst others who hold my outlook seem to be disappointed with the PM’s recent speech on the subject. I’m not; I don’t really know what more he could sensibly have done, short of preemptively announcing a pull-out. It’s right and reasonable to talk about renegotiation – importantly, with the possibility of leaving on the table, so as to ensure that negotiations are serious – rather than moving straight to departure.
That said, I have views on what comes after that – namely that such negotiations are (through no fault of the UK’s) exceptionally unlikely to result in anything other than failure.
So I think that we need to prepare to set out our stall for withdrawal from the EU. Here is my pitch. Take the heat out We need to take the heat out of what is really quite an overblown debate. Like many of us, in my diet, my reading, my architectural interests, my holidays, I am culturally “European”. We’re not contemplating “leaving Europe”, which is a place. We simply want to leave the EU, which is a set of treaty arrangements from which we don’t profit. It’s a question of the national interest. We’re getting a bad deal, and the prospects of getting a better deal are slim. That’s it. We are contemplating changing our treaty settlement with other nations; something which happens relatively frequently in the international system. There was a Britain before membership; there will be a Britain after it.
So in that cold, clear analysis, why leave? A bad deal The Office of National Statistics figures published in late November showed that in 2012 the UK’s gross contribution to the European Union hit £19.2 billion, a more than 5% increase from the previous year. We receive just over £8 billion back (down from 2009 due to the Labour Government’s giving up our rebate, an astonishing act).
So our net contribution is a staggering £10.8 billion. We are now giving the equivalent of £52.5 million each day to the EU.
I simply think that we could make far better use of that money spending it domestically (whether on services or on infrastructure projects), or using it to pay down our debt, or on lower taxes to stimulate the economy. But wouldn’t we lose access to the market? If Britain withdrew from the EU, a deal would be done. I don’t just say that because the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the EU must seek to make a trade agreement with a country which leaves the EU; such things can be ignored, after all. I say so because it’s significantly in the economic interests of the remaining members to make such a deal. The EU sells a lot more to us than we sell to them. In 2009 there was a trade deficit of £34.9bn; in 2011, it rose to nearly £50bn. It would be nonsensical for them not to trade with one of their biggest customers. Angry or not, the imperative of keeping the trade going in the interests of their own workforces would dictate that.
And why not? The EU has free trade agreements with 53 countries and is negotiating a further 74. Deals are done with many other countries of less economic importance than ourselves. We’re a serious market. A UK/EU Free Trade Agreement would be very likely indeed.
Norway and Switzerland are not in the EU, yet they export far more per capita to the EU than the UK does. This suggests that membership is not a prerequisite for a healthy trading relationship with the EU.
On the other hand, if we were outside the EU, we should have the freedom to make stronger trade deals with other nations and negotiate better trade deals for Britain. We should be able to genuinely compete with our neighbours for investment with lower tariffs and taxes. Both Norway and Switzerland are able to sign trade deals with non-EU states. They have free trade accords with Canada, for example — something we have to wait for Brussels to do on our behalf.
The notion that we can’t survive outside core membership of a trading bloc is scaremongering. Major economies, like Japan (the world’s 3rd largest) are not in a trading bloc.
In any case, the EU is not where most economic growth is occurring. The EU’s share of world GDP is forecast to decline to 15% in 2020, down from 26% in 1980. I want us to trade with the world, and the EU, but if forced to choose between this declining group and rest of the world, then I would choose the rest of the world.
But one hopes that there’s no need for that. The Swiss have almost all the advantages of membership, with almost none of the costs. They enjoy the four freedoms of the single market — free movement of goods, services, people and capital — while remaining outside the political structures and making only a token budget contribution. Switzerland sells four-and-a-half times as much to the EU, per capita, as Britain does, and its people are the wealthiest in Europe. What about people not investing here? There’s no sign that we’d be a less attractive destination for investment. In a 2010 survey on UK’s attractiveness to foreign investors Ernst and Young found that Britain remained the number one Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination in Europe – largely owing to the City of London and the UK’s close corporate relationship with the US. EU membership was not mentioned at all in their table of key investment factors, which were (in order of importance): UK culture and values and the English language; telecommunications infrastructure; quality of life; stable social environment, and 20 FREEDOM TODAY . WINTER 2013 INDEPENDENCE IS IN OUR NATIONAL INTEREST There are strong economic and political arguments for leaving the EU says Alex Deane Will those running the institutions of the EU ever operate with Britain’s best interests at heart? WINTER 2013 . FREEDOM TODAY 21 transport and logistics infrastructure. The comparison with Switzerland and Norway is misleading, Some claim – and they’re right; it inadequately reflects how much more the scales are in our favour, given our comparative advantages over them.
London is the financial capital of the world and Britain has the sixth largest economy. The UK is also in the top ten manufacturing nations in the world. But there would be WAR without the EU! And so, we get the worst argument of all at the end. I think that it’s NATO, founded in 1949 and dominated by the USA, and not the EU, that actually kept the peace in Europe. Indeed, the Common Market didn’t come into existence until 1958, and then with only 6 nations, and somehow the rest of Europe managed not to have wars.
We weren’t waging wars on the Swedes or the Spanish until 1973. There was no war between European countries from 1945 to 1956 when it didn’t exist at all. To put it another way: just who would go to war without it? Our national interest It’s worth remembering that we don’t need the EU to be in trouble (we’ve got our economy in a mess all on our own, with a still-growing splurging state budget and a very unhealthy level of state sector GDP consumption) – pulling out isn’t a miracle cure-all. But I hope that I’ve demonstrated that on any sober and frank evaluation our membership isn’t worth the candle.
I haven’t even got on to the iniquities of the Common Agricultural Policy, or the daft movements of the Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg (a classic EU issue: nobody can explain it; nobody can justify it; nobody can change it). Space precludes it. but I hope that that’s enough for present purposes. If not, you may still be undecided on the issue, in which case I suggest that you use this key test. Ask yourself this: will those running the institutions of the EU ever operate with Britain’s best interests at heart? I don’t think that they ever will.
I don’t especially blame them. I blame us for allowing them to steer the ship which we’re aboard by lights different from our own. The only appropriate test for allowing others to make decisions on your behalf is whether they will operate in your national interest. Who can plausibly claim that here?
My position might be different if we got a good deal out of EU, but we don’t, and we shan’t and so, not on any emotional or nationalistic logic but on a simple, rational basis, if and when our Prime Minister’s admirable attempts to negotiate don’t succeed, we should pull out.
Freedom Today article, Winter 2013.
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