I always have the greatest respect for the observations of our greatest living statesman (and National Treasure) Tony Blair, so I was struck by his comments on the prospect of an EU referendum. He said (more or less and so far as I can remember) that an EU referendum would be “a distraction”. It would be madness “to turn our backs on our major trading partners”. Some other nameless europhile in the same paper used similar words. We should not “cut ourselves off” from our continental markets.
Personally, I have never met anyone who thought we should “turn our backs” or “cut ourselves off” from overseas markets. Have you? No. I thought not. There is a caricature of eurosceptics who want to blow up the Channel Tunnel and build a wall around the UK to exclude foreigners, garlic and French onion sellers. But I’ve never met one. They don’t exist, except in the overheated imaginations of Guardian correspondents and signed-up euro-luvvies.
This is the latest version of the well-worn catch-phrase “isolated and marginalised” — and has as little basis in reality. Unable to argue against a genuine eurosceptic position, they invent this straw man with the sole purpose of knocking it down. Well thanks, guys, but I think we’ve seen through it.
The fact is that in recent years German exports outside the EU have grown faster than German exports inside the EU. Imports to the EU from non-EU countries have grown faster than continental imports from the UK. There is no trade data evidence that membership of the EU enhances trade — indeed exactly the reverse.
So for the record: UKIP does not propose to cut anyone off, nor to turn our backs (no other party is so up-front and forward-facing). We are the internationalists (not the Little Europeans). We see Britain as a great global trading nation. Of course we want trade with Europe, but we recognise that the EU is in long-term relative decline, and that the future of trade lies elsewhere. Commonwealth GDP recently overtook Eurozone GDP. UKIP wants trade, and friendship, and cooperation with our Continental neighbours (and with all countries of good-will). But we also believe in freedom, independence and democracy, and we don’t want to be governed by unaccountable, unelected and inaccessible foreign institutions in Brussels.
Outside the EU, we should certainly have a Free Trade Deal with Europe (and we should not be subject to “regulation by fax”, any more than Canada or China are). It is overwhelmingly in the EU’s interests as well as ours. Leaving the EU will not damage our trade with Europe, but if we play our cards right it will enhance our trade elsewhere. It will save the UK economy many billions of pounds every year. And it will leave the British people in charge of their own government, their own laws and their own destiny.