so I’ll answer it
One amazing consequence of UKIP’s remarkable run of by-election successes has been a new respect from the old parties. Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi has invited Lord Pearson for a fireside chat. And Vince Cable, no less, once everyone’s favourite uncle, and now the anti-business secretary, has said that UKIP should be taken seriously. Thanks for that, Vince.
“I certainly don’t think we should be insulting the voters or indeed insulting UKIP. If they want to be taken seriously we should engage with them on the big issues.” But he goes on to question some of our political positions. “They are arguing at the moment as I understand it that we should have a massive increase in defence spending, we should have massive tax cuts and balance the budget at the same time. It is far from clear how you do those things but let’s challenge them and get them to explain it.”
Thanks for the offer, Vince. For a start, the UK foreign aid budget is around £12 billion. Not much, in the sort of terms that George Osborne talks about, but still something like £500 per household. UKIP believes that the UK should be ready to contribute to disaster relief — earthquakes, floods, tsunamis — tents and blankets — but not routine development aid, especially when so much is pilfered and wasted, and so much goes to countries who seem in some respects better off than we are. Today we hear that Ed Davey in Doha is promising £2 billion for wind turbines in Africa. The nonsense goes on.
Poor countries need lessons in governance, not endless foreign aid that breeds corruption and dependency. If the EU is serious about helping poor countries, it would do more good by dismantling its protectionist agriculture policies than by giving hand-outs.
Then there’s energy policy. The UK is spending something like £100 billion this decade on wind turbines and other renewables. We can’t afford it. Nor can we afford the consequent high price of energy, which is driving energy-intensive industries offshore, taking their jobs and investment with them. It is forcing households and pensioners into fuel poverty. It is mortgaging our children and bankrupting our grandchildren. Stop that green nonsense, Vince, and we’ll have lots more headroom in the budget.
But of course the big one — the really big one — is the EU itself. Never mind our direct budget contributions (and the pathetic hand-outs which we get back in return). The really big issue is the regulatory cost. Tim Congdon, one of the UK’s leading economists, has done a very thorough study of the total costs of our EU membership, and his headline number is £150 billion a year — or 10% of GDP. That would pay for a lot of aircraft carriers and tax cuts, and help us pay down the debt.
Of course we couldn’t count on those savings from Day One (or Independence day, as I like to think of it). It might take two or three years to unwind the most egregious EU legislation. But the savings would be tens of billions from Year One, and perhaps £100 billion by year five. Leaving the EU would transform the UK’s economic prospects. Just now, in economic terms, we are tethered to a corpse. We need to rejoin the rest of the world, where the growth is.