George Osborne has a very interesting piece in the Telegraph of Dec 16th. Some of the points he makes invite a degree of comment.
He refers to the UK’s “full and committed membership of the EU”. I’m sure that in using those words he certainly speaks for the Deputy Prime Minister (pictured with him above). And he speaks for the Guardianista tendency (to whose opinions the Party seems to attach much weight). But I suspect he speaks for rather few Conservatives. Indeed they’ll be asking which Party he’s speaking for — if not which planet he’s on. Given that we’re out of the €uro (thank heaven) and partly out of Schengen, it’s scarcely even true that we’re full EU members. And as for committed — the majority of British voters (and most Party members I speak to) are anything but committed to the EU. Most want out.
He speaks of Chinese tourists who “will visit Britain” (in this Olympic Year) “as tourists, carried on Airbus wings and Rolls-Royce engines”. Great. That’s of course if their airlines can find a slot at Heathrow, and that Chinese airlines haven’t decided to boycott EU airports because of Brussels’ lunatic Emissions Trading Scheme as applied to airlines.
“We are doing what it takes to become one of the most competitive places to do business”. Yes? And how about infrastructure? How about power stations? And energy costs? How about UK/London airport capacity? Foreign investors won’t be attracted by a high-speed train to Birmingham if they can’t get a flight to the UK. What about the 50% income-tax rate? Or 60% when you include National Insurance? That makes us an attractive place to do business? It looks as though we’re deliberately trying to drive wealth-creators and entrepreneurs away. And don’t even get me started on the Deputy Prime Minister’s Mansion Tax proposal!
He speaks of “an opportunity through the G20 to defeat the forces of protectionism”. Yet the EU (of which we are full and committed members) has been a major obstacle to completion of the Doha Round, while its protectionist Common Agricultural Policy is denying third world farmers the opportunity to trade their way out of poverty.
I admire the Chancellor’s rhetoric. I endorse much of what he has done. But we will continue to have a problem until the reality matches the fine words.