Civitas has produced absolutely the best and clearest case for British withdrawal from the EU that I have ever seen. It is astonishingly credible and concise. You can read the main body of it in a quarter of an hour, though the appendices would take longer. The appendices themselves, packed with statistics, are a vital resource for all involved in the great EU debate. The paper is written by Ian Milne, who has a distinguished track record as a commentator on EU affairs.
Milne presents trade statistics that clearly show the declining relevance of the EU to Britain’s position in the world. He points out that the EU’s share of global GDP and world trade is set to halve by 2050 — while the rest of the world will grow. Much of that growth, fortuitously, will come in the Commonwealth, which we have shamefully ignored since our accession to Europe.
Some say that the costs of EU membership are worth it for access to the Single Market. Milne retorts that credible estimates of the cost of membership (including regulatory costs) actually exceed the value of our UK exports to the EU 26 (EU minus the UK). He notes that the EU structure (a Customs Union with a Single Market bolted on) has not been emulated anywhere else in the world. In fact Customs Unions are an idea whose time has come and gone. Milne says that the costs of collecting duties under the Common External Tariff exceed the amount of duty collected. It is a pointless exercise.
The paper summarises the likely impact on key economic sectors of leaving the EU, and concludes that most would benefit and none would be significantly harmed. He points out that just about all credible Cost/Benefit analyses of EU membership show that costs outweigh benefits — as did the Swiss government study in their case. Our government refuses a formal Cost/Benefit analysis, presumably because it knows what the answer would be. The paper goes on to analyse the post-EU options, which loosely speaking are European Economic Area (EEA); EFTA (like Norway and Switzerland); or leaving altogether.
I have always argued that on leaving the EU, the UK would certainly be able to negotiate a free trade deal with the rump-EU. It turns out that we don’t even need to do that. As signatories of the EEA Treaty, we would remain at least to start with in the EEA, and therefore in a free trade deal with the EU, automatically. We may decide not to remain permanently in the EEA — Milne makes a strong case that leaving altogether is the best option — but at least on leaving the EU we should have a free trade deal in place pro tem, without having to negotiate it.
Milne’s last section “The Road to Self-Government” is a sheer delight. It consists of a draft letter to be sent jointly by the British Prime Minister and the Leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, to EU heads of state and others, in the aftermath of a NO vote in an EU Referendum, informing them of the nation’s decision and setting out the steps we propose to take to facilitate the transfer to full independence. He refers to the effective date when the transition is completed as “I-Day”.
If I could suggest just one slight improvement, I’d go the whole hog and call it what it will be: “Independence Day”. If you care about the prosperity of our country and the survival of British democracy, please read this paper.