The pro-Brussels camp seems to have two main arguments for EU membership. In the recent Farage/Clegg debates, Clegg pushed them relentlessly. Outside the EU, we shall lose jobs, and influence, he claimed. We shall be “isolated and marginalised”.
I comprehensively demolished the jobs argument in a recent blog post. Not only will we lose no jobs when we leave the EU – but we are losing millions of jobs today as a result of perverse EU policies. At a time when the Eurozone faces an unemployment catastrophe, especially in the Club Med countries, it is simply preposterous to argue that the EU is good for jobs.
But the other key line of argument is “isolation”. When we leave the EU, they tell us, we shall be isolated and marginalised. And we shall lose the “clout” (doesn’t Nick Clegg love that word?) that we gain as a member of the EU. To which we reply: What clout? We’ve seen the EU’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis (a crisis largely provoked by Brussels’ inept handling of the Ukraine issue). The EU is totally unable to produce a realistic response. It’s terrified of trade sanctions because of its over-dependence on Russian gas. Quite simply, impotence. No clout at all. Roosevelt’s dictum was “Tread softly and carry a big stick”. Europe, this powerful empire of half a billion consumers which bestrides the globe like a Colossus, has no stick at all. It backed down as soon as President Putin shouted “Boo”.
Nor does Britain enjoy much “influence” in Brussels in any case. Our percentage of votes in the parliament and the Council is in single figures, and declining. Our government has tried fifty-five times in the last twenty years in the Council to block EU initiatives, and it has failed every time. Those who say that outside the EU we shall “lose the power to influence Brussels” should understand that we have no such power now. I always think it odd that these same europhiles don’t seem to worry about our “lack of influence” in Washington or Beijing. I don’t hear Nick Clegg arguing that we should apply to become America’s fifty-first state so as to “gain influence in Washington”.
If the EU commanded respect in the world, the “clout” argument might make some sense. But the EU is held in low regard (and not only by President Putin), as a paper tiger. Its share of global GDP is in long term relative decline. It talks of soft power, but wields no real power at all. Who is better known in the world’s great capital cities? John Kerry? Or Cathy Ashton?
Better to have 100% control over our own laws than an eight percent say in EU laws.
So let’s look at “isolation”. Britain is a top-ten nation in terms of GDP, and of trade. We are (and have been for centuries) a great global trading nation. An outward-facing nation. We are in the G8 (or is it G7?), and the G20. We are member of the UN, and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Despite the recent savage cuts to our armed forces, we have the world’s sixth largest military by current expenditure. We are a leading player in NATO. We are a leading member of the Commonwealth (whose GDP recently overtook that of the Eurozone). We are in the OECD and the World Bank. The OSCE. After Independence, we shall resume full membership of the WTO (where as an EU member-state we are currently merely observers).
The think tank Global Britain recently presented a list of around 150 international organisations and forums in which Britain is a member. This is a very strange type of isolation.
Britain is, in fact, “isolated” today as an off-shore province in a country called Europe, where Brussels claims to speak for us in trade negotiations, and we have no voice of our own. We shall have more international engagement when we re-join the Rest of the World, where the growth is, and take our proper place in the community of nations as a major, independent country. To suggest, as Nick Clegg does, that in order to avoid “isolation” a major country like the UK has to out-source its governance to undemocratic and unaccountable foreign institutions, is an insult to the British people. It is demeaning and defeatist. It is a shameful surrender of our fundamental rights. And it is also, of course, a lie.