Horrible grammar, but a good thought
In the last few days we have seen a report from a respected German think-tank, the Bertelsmann Foundation, saying that Brexit (a UK exit from the EU) would do huge damage to the British economy, and could cost up to 13% of GDP, (bear in mind that several serious analyses of the cost of British EU membership suggest it’s already costing 10 to 11% of GDP).
Yet almost simultaneously, the highly respected and prominent American Think Tank, the Heritage Foundation, says exactly the opposite. It urges the UK to leave the EU , arguing that the EU is “doomed”, and that the UK will thrive as an independent trading nation.
So whom to believe? It’s always worth checking the antecedents of this type of report, to see who might have an axe to grind.
And lo and behold, we discover that the Bertelsmann Foundation had a banner on its web-site “The United Citizens of Europe”. And we find that Board of Trustees includes none other that Vivian Reding, until recently a European Commissioner. Last year she called for a full United States of Europe. Even our own pro-EU foreign office has described her as ‘an unrepentant federalist’ with ‘no understanding of the EU’s deep flaws’.
One of the two authors of the report is Ulrich Schoof, who used to work for the European Commission and also for the European Parliament. We can hardly be surprised that the ‘proof’ this ex-eurocrat offers that leaving the EU would be a blow to the British economy is no more than a slim eight pages long. Serious studies in Britain on the effects of Brexit run to hundreds of pages. Many of these studies show that Brexit could lead to increased UK prosperity.
In short, it would be fair to see the Bertelsmann Report as little more than a propaganda exercise by committed European federalists.
But perhaps you’re wondering — doesn’t the Heritage Foundation have any axes to grind? Well they’re certainly committed to free markets and free trade — and there’s nothing wrong with that. And they are of course, as you would expect, committed to the US national interest. But there is no consensus in Washington as to where the USA’s interests lie in this debate over the UK’s EU membership. The Administration says it believes that it is in the interests of Britain, the EU and the USA that Europe should remain united and that the UK should remain in the EU. (Whether it says that because it believes it, or because it doesn’t want to disoblige Brussels, is another question). But many Americans — including Heritage — believe that the UK would be a stronger ally and a more prosperous country as an independent nation than as a Brussels satrapy.
And for the avoidance of doubt, I should add that I am more inclined to agree with the Heritage Foundation than with Vivian Reding.