The Economist gets it wrong. Again.


In its November 9th edition, the Economist carries a leader on the EU question.  It’s entitled “Little England or Great Britain? The country faces a choice between comfortable isolation and bracing openness.  Go for openness”.  The Economist, it seems, is addicted to the language of the Lib-Dems.

And of course, their idea of “Great Britain” is an offshore province in a country called Europe.  And “comfortable isolation” means independence, democracy, self-government.  It means having a free trade deal with our European neighbours.  It means resuming our seat in the WTO.  It means being part of innumerable international organisations including the UN Security Council, NATO, the Commonwealth, the WTO, the World Bank and dozens more.  It means resuming our natural rôle as a global trading nation.  It’s a strange use for the word “isolation”.

It means freeing ourselves from the burden of EU regulation, which is costing this country tens of billions of pounds a year.  And from the burden of EU climate and energy policy, which is costing us tens of billions more, and driving up energy prices, forcing households into fuel poverty, undermining industrial competitiveness, and forcing industries off-shore, taking their jobs and their investment with them.  With the huge savings on direct budget contributions, and the progressive elimination of excessive regulation, we will be in a position to move to lower taxes.  Outside the EU, we can have a rational energy policy and lower energy prices.  Lower taxes, lower energy costs, less damaging regulation — leading to faster growth, more jobs, more prosperity.  What’s not to like?

The Economist needs to explain why we should link ourselves, primarily or preferentially, to the one major economic area in the world which is in long-term relative (and perhaps absolute) decline.  It needs to explain why we should not rather turn towards the Rest of the World, where the growth is.  Bizarrely, it suggests that we could be “surer of our place in Europe, and more outward looking”.  No chaps. That’s an either/or, not an “and”.

They trot out again the old saw that “50% of our exports go to the EU”.  They’re way behind the times.  The true figure is well below 50%, and declining. Factor in the Rotterdam effect, and it’s nearer 40%.  Credible estimates from Global Britain (an excellent think-tank which produces invaluable analyses of trade figures) show that by 2032, the EU may account for only 22% of UK exports.  While Nissan is stressing the importance of EU membership for the auto industry, Ford is closing its van operations in the EU and moving them outside the EU – to Turkey – confident that it can service its EU markets just as well – and perhaps better – from a non-EU country.  Nissan, please take note.

There is, of course, the issue of the various trade deals that the EU has struck, and in which we participate as members.  When we leave, will be still have a free trade deal with, say, Korea?  What about the Transatlantic free-trade deal with the USA, currently in the early stages of negotiation?  But we can credibly argue that outside the EU we might have had a free trade deal with the States twenty years ago – and on terms that would not be biased to account for French protectionism.  It will be in everyone’s interests to grandfather current FTAs to a newly independent Britain.  And we will then have the option of negotiating to tweak them in areas specific to UK interests.

The EU is under the double hammer of demographics and a wholly dysfunctional monetary system.  (I may add that the €uro is doing exactly what we euro-sceptics forecast more than a decade ago).  It suffers from a wholly unjustified sense of entitlement, and the burden of unaffordable welfare systems.  And in several member-states, youth unemployment is close to 60%, and poverty reminiscent of the 1930s.

Back in the seventies, when we joined the Common Market, it was possible to see Europe as exciting, modern, growing – a land of opportunity, from which we could not afford to be excluded.  And the Commonwealth could be seen as old, fuddy-duddy, and in decline.  Today the tables are turned.  It is Europe in decline, while all the growth is elsewhere, and a surprising amount of it in the Commonwealth, as well as the other BRICS.  I am not, of course, proposing any formal economic union in the Commonwealth.  But I do say that it deserves a great deal more attention than it gets today.

On the EU issue, as on other issues (think Climate Change) the Economist is locked into an irredeemably last-century mind-set, and seems unable to engage with current realities.  It presents a false choice.  It is not a question of Little England (as an independent nation) or Great Britain (as a European province).  It’s a choice between a dying Europe and a vibrant, growing world.  It’s a choice between staying buried in the bureaucratic nightmare of Brussels, or resuming our proper place in the Rest of the World.

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13 Responses to The Economist gets it wrong. Again.

  1. Me_Again says:

    Excellent post Roger, I trust there was a copy to the Economist………………

  2. Mike Spilligan says:

    I haven’t bothered with Economist opinion (nor even its “facts”) for more than a decade. What surprises me is that its editorial staff think that those old and frayed-edge slogans will still be persuasive to the rational and intelligent people that they like to believe form its readership.

  3. David says:

    In my book your right as usual Roger.

  4. Roger, the business community seems – at long last – to be waking up to the European threat. Paul Sykes is by no means alone, it seems, in giving generously to UKIP. The Conservatives are in total denial – strange how long it takes in politics to change your mind.
    Of course you are right, and of course the Economist (I no longer read it) is wrong (no and not the article either, I am afraid.)
    When will the Conservatives come to their senses, ally with UKIP and walk through the election open door though? Mr Cameron, remember, is the man who actually lost to Gordon Brown!

    • Me_Again says:

      Same old same old….
      You assume everyone in UKIP is a former Tory or a closet Tory, Mike.
      That isn’t the truth and hasn’t been for a long time.
      I consider myself [and lots of former ‘non voters’] to have chosen a party with a different path, a libertarian and commonsense path. If it should ever be taken towards a pact [stupid really as it’s always suicide for the junior party] with either Tories, Liberals or Labour I’m afraid my support will stop. Instantly. Permanently. I think a lot of other current and recent [last 4 years] UKIP supporters/members would feel the same. UKIP could say goodbye to all the former labour supporters and most of its nascent support in the north, they could say goodby to an awful lot of the former ‘non voters’ who will just say ‘bugger it, closet Tories after all’. Same muppetry, different rosette, and I never went for purple and yellow anyway….’

  5. maureen gannon says:

    When are any of them going to join us in the real world where we are watching our country being descimated , bit by bit until we are but sections called European regions, that complete erosion of the word they use a lot but have no idea of the meaning, democracy, when we are being ruled by the most undemocratic unification of nations there has ever been .and they have the front to tell us that we are so weak we cannot survive without them.
    I shall be at the HOL tomorrow fighting the cause for an English Parliament, their regionalisation has done nothing but caused division, I would rather we were this little island which was untill Heath betrayed us self sufficient, we would at least be free from the shackles that bind us, taking from us our freedom to protest our self rule,

    Sorry for the rant hope I have been coherant. keep up the good fight Roger I watched you on the politics show you were superb.

    • Me_Again says:

      I too would favour an English parliament, I toyed with the English Democrats for a while and decide they were both too new and the EU exit comes first. But after the dust has settled on EU exit, there still remains the same kind of inequality we are fighting against now, only this time it is pitched against the majority.

  6. Chris says:

    The establishment are worried; the civil service, politicians from the three main parties and the large multi-nationals. The evidence is seen in the main stream media (MSM), with scare stories in the Economist, the usual suspects in the Daily Telegraph (Dan Hodges, Matthew d’Ancona) and the left-wing media.

    Next year it will get worse. The amount of rubbish which will be thrown at UKIP will be torrential as they pull out all the stops to try and stop the party.

    If I was a Tory MEP, I would be worried about my job in 2014.
    If I was a Tory MP, I would be worried about my job in 2015. Especially if my name was Anna Soubry (majority of 390).

  7. Anne says:

    What ever anyone wants to call our Country, I just want the call that it is a FREE Country once more. I want to enjoy the GREAT celebrations we had in this Country we had in 1945 (Yes, I was there) when we were assured that we were free from foreign rule. We were indeed very poor and in deep debt, but by continuing to pay for TWO Governments-one foreign- and three Parliaments-one foreign- as we are at present, we will ALWAYS be in deep, deep debt.

    As long as people continue to vote for any of the three major Political Parties that want to remain in the EU-forever, we will indeed remain in the EU, and in debt.

    I believe that the only way this Country will ever be free from foreign rule is by using the General Election in 2015 as the REFERENDUM we have been denied and only vote for those Political Parties or Organisation that want freedom from foreign rule. PUT YOUR COUNTRY BEFORE YOUR POLITICAL PARTY. It matters not, if those you elect have never Governed before, for those in Parliament since 1972/3 have only obeyed EU orders. There are some back Benchers of course that want out of the EU-they of course should be voted for, if they stand again. I firmly believe by looking at what the EU has already lined up for 2020, 2030, and even 2050, the 2015 General Election /REFERENDUM is the only chance left to get out of the EU at all.

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