We’re far enough into the €uro campaign for broad lines of our opponents’ case to be becoming clear. First it was Jobs. We need to be in the EU for jobs. The Lib-Dem slogan will be “In Europe, In Work” – which is fairly preposterous, with the EU facing an almost unprecedented unemployment crisis. Tim Congdon tells me that the average labour market participation rate in the EU is around 60%, compared to around 70% in other advanced economies.
I’ve already done what I hope is an effective rebuttal on this point. The EU is a job-Shredding Machine. It’s “In Europe, Out of Work“.
Then (one that BND likes), the CBI has done an estimate arguing that our membership of the EU is worth £3000 a year to every household in Britain. We’re working on a considered rebuttal to that, but in a sound-bite: it seems the CBI took published estimates of trade benefits, exaggerated them, and ignored any costs or downsides. This is a curious mirror-image of the Stern Report on climate change, which took an exaggerated view of the downsides, ignored the up-sides (and applied an absurd long-term discount rate). The CBI Report, which we’re currently studying, also appears to assume that trade with the EU would stop dead after Independence Day. In reality, of course, we shall have a free trade agreement, and trade will continue much as before. So we’ll have the penny and the bun – most of the trade benefits, but saving most of the costs.
For comparison, both Tim Congdon and Patrick Minford, two of the UK’s most respected economists, have independently estimated the total costs of EU membership at slightly over 10% of GDP. This gives an annual cost per household of around £4000.
But now I’d like to take the third point of the pro-Brussels lobby head-on. Influence. Outside the EU we’ll be isolated and marginalised. We’ll have no influence in the world.
Right on cue, we get a report from Business for Britain pointing out that since 1996, the UK has opposed 55 measures in the European Council. And how many did we manage to stop? Precisely none. Zero. Zilch. How’s that for influence? The same report points out that over the period, the UK’s voting weight in the European Council has slipped from 17% to 8%, with a similar reduction in the parliament. So much for “influence”. And increasingly decisions are made by qualified majority. That 8% doesn’t go far in creating a blocking minority.
Look at it another way. While we have an 8% voice in the Council, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding has recently confirmed a statistic widely quoted in euro-sceptic circles, that 75% of our new laws come from Brussels. Is that a good trade? We get an 8% say in EU law-making, but in exchange we’ve given Brussels a 75% say in our own affairs. Sounds like a loss of influence to me.
Of course a big group of countries like the EU has more clout than a single member-state – doesn’t it? Well it might if we all had broadly the same interests and the same policies. If all the feet pointed in the same direction. But (in very general terms) we find ourselves in a Northern European/Anglo Saxon group, set against a more corporatist, statist middle and south. So we are in a permanent structural minority. We saw that when (then) Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson tried to get a deal on the Doha World Trade Round meeting in Hong Kong. He was blocked by several factors, but the biggest problem was the intransigence of the protectionist French farm lobby. British interests subordinated to the EU’s failing protectionist model.
We have so much influence that we can’t even deport some 4000 foreign criminals, including murderers and rapists, from our country, because of the Human Rights Act (and before you point out that the ECHR is Council of Europe, not EU, let me mention that given the convergence between the two, and the links between them, it’s difficult to tell the difference. For example, signing up to the ECHR is a condition of EU membership).
And does anyone seriously think that an offshore province has more influence than a sovereign nation? Take California. With the most recent GDP figure I can find at $1.9 trillion (well over 10% of US GDP), that would put an independent California at about #10 globally by GDP. As I write, we have President Obama coming to Brussels tomorrow. But we hear much less about the Governor of California. Who can doubt that as an independent country California would have more global influence?
Or consider Canada, currently #11 by GDP, just a fraction smaller than California, and about three quarters the size of the UK economy. Canada is an independent a sovereign nation, smaller than UK. But it’s in the G8. Anyone think it lacks clout because it’s not in the EU? Or that it would have more clout if it were? No. I thought not.
When we leave the EU, we will be in the top ten countries by GDP. We will be the EU’s largest external customer in the world – bar none. We will be a great global trading nation. We will still be on the UN Security Council, on the OECD, the World Bank, the WTO, in NATO, a leading country in the Commonwealth (whose GDP now exceeds the Eurozone), and on dozens of international organisations, too many to list. We shall be a major voice in the councils of nations – and our own voice, not Brussels’ voice. We shall be not so much leaving the EU, as re-joining the real world, where growth and opportunity are to be found.