Euro-Philes a Vanishing Species
We have long been Euro-sceptics. The wider arc of history had been showing the continent of Europe to be in terminal, irrevocable decline. Getting together into a federation or union, we believed, would end up exacerbating the decline, not reverse it. It is falling out as we expected.
The basis for European comity once lay in the shared Christian belief structures of the Continent. But the wars of kings, and of religion, and of struggles over absolute versus limited constitutional government, together with the rapid rise of Enlightenment rationalism meant that the Europe of the twentieth century was as divided as it had ever been. The French hated the English and vice versa. The Germans and French maintained a reciprocal antipathy. The Mediterranean belt was hopelessly servile to corruption.
Post-war European federalism was an elite-driven, top down attempt to paper over these realities to make Europe (that is, European elites) really important in a global sense. Europe as an economic bloc would rival the United States, Japan, China and the emerging economies of Asia. Its currency would become the default currency of trade for the European bloc, possibly even eclipsing the US dollar as the world default currency. These millenarian utopian dreams required a real unity of culture, world-view, and purpose to have any hope of success, but it simply did not exist, and never has–at least in the modern period.
It seems almost inevitable now that the UK will move away from these European federal ambitions.
Whilst euro-philes have pronounced great doom if this were to occur, the reality is likely to be very different. It is highly likely that moving out of the EU will be the best thing for the UK by a country mile. Daniel Hannan explains why, by fisking some of the standard arguments put forward to keep the UK in the European Union:
1. “We need to be in the EU to export”.
Ever noticed that you can buy Nescafé in the EU? Or a Swatch or a Rolex or a Toblerone? Switzerland manages to sell four-and-a-half times as much per head to the EU as Britain. Norway sells two-and-a-half times as much. Now that Ukraine is signing an Association Agreement with Brussels, there is only one state in Europe that does not enjoy free trade with the EU: Belarus.
The point Hannan is making is that non-EU states in Europe, such as Switzerland and Norway export huge volumes of goods and services to the EU. Therefore, Britain’s exit will likely increase UK exports to the EU rather than the opposite.
2. “Three million British jobs depend on our trade with Europe”
Right: on our trade with Europe, not on our membership of the EU. And absolutely no one in Brussels is suggesting that our withdrawal from the political aspects of membership – the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the European Arrest Warrant and so on – would prejudice our commercial links. We run a significant trade deficit with the EU (and, incidentally, a surplus with the rest of the world): salesmen generally don’t threaten their customers. Totting up the number of Britons who work in EU institutions, I reckon the actual number of job losses would be around 14,000 – mine included. Of course, releasing us into the private sector might stimulate the UK economy.
Hannan’s point is that were Britain to leave the union, EU exports to Britain are likely to continue because the EU cannot afford to do anything but continue to promote and support its member states exporting to one of its largest markets.
3. “The EU takes half our exports”
No it doesn’t. Even on the raw data, the proportion has fallen over the past eight years from 54 per cent to 46 per cent. But that figure is distorted by two factors. First, many UK exports to non-EU markets are routed through the massive ports at Rotterdam and Antwerp, and so show up in the statistics as exports to the EU. Second, goods from around the world that are destined for the Republic of Ireland are often shipped through Belfast, again showing up in the raw figures as UK exports to the EU.
The EU is simply not the global economic powerhouse that Euro-philes actually imagine it to be. In fact, it is a languishing economic zone–a malaise not unrelated to the distortions caused by its conflicting monetary policies and its debt mountain, coupled with its congenital protectionist instincts, and its bizarre bureaucratic regulation of all goods and services. We are reminded of Reginald Perrin’s complaints about Euro-rhubarb– the product of European specification of rhubarb standards for the entire continent.
4. “We’re part of the world’s biggest market”
Every continent in the world is now experiencing economic growth except Europe. More to the point, as a recent analysis of OECD data carried out by Civitas showed, there is absolutely no correlation between EU membership and sales to the EU.
5. “The EU-US trade deal will create an even bigger free trade area”
Outside the EU’s Common External Tariff, Britain would have signed a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States decades ago. And not only the United States. EFTA members, such as Iceland and Switzerland, have signed FTAs with China. As an EU member, Britain can’t. EFTA is currently negotiating an FTA with India, but the EU has shelved its trade talks with Delhi. Never mind our linguistic and legal ties, never mind the 1.4 million Britons of Indian origin, never mind that India is the fourth largest investor here – EU membership prevents us enjoying unrestricted commerce with that rising giant.
Globalists have long sought after universal treaties and conventions. It’s part of the incipient utopianism of those who lust for a Babelesque heaven upon earth. The World Trade Organization wants global trade agreements. We are now in WTO negotiation round number 6034 and it’s as far away as ever. Meanwhile, bi-lateral and tri-lateral agreements between nations are everywhere in place, and bringing the benefits to their respective signatory nations that free-trade inevitably produces. Leaving the EU would allow the UK to negotiate bilateral agreements.
6. “Outside the EU, we’d have to obey rules over which we have no say”
Swiss companies must meet EU standards when exporting to the EU, just as they must meet Japanese standards when exporting to Japan. But they don’t have to apply those standards to their non-EU trade nor – except in a few special cases – to their domestic economy. The current deal may not be perfect, but 80 per cent of Swiss voters prefer it to EU membership.
Businesses realise that the costs of being part of the EU bloc outweigh the benefits of being a member. Were Britain to pull out, expect a huge increase in investment and economic activity in the UK over the next ten years.
7. “Businesses will disinvest if we pull out”
Nissan, for example, has said jobs might go if we leave the EU. Oops, sorry, my mistake: that was what it said about keeping the pound. We kept the pound and are now selling more cars than ever before. Business is not represented only the multi-nationals which pour money into lobbying Brussels for rules that advantage them at the expense of their smaller rivals. When businesses are neutrally polled, rather than selectively asked, most say that the costs of EU regulation outweigh the benefits of the single market.
Hannan’s final point is that the claim that the EU helps maintain continent wide peace is spurious also. In reality, it has inflamed nationalist tensions.
8. “The EU keeps the peace in Europe”
The EU is not a cause, but a consequence, of a European peace based on the defeat of fascism, the spread of democracy and the Nato alliance. If anything, jamming disparate countries into common policies has served to stoke national antagonisms.
The upshot is that there is very little real downside, and lots of potential benefits to be exploited were the UK to leave the EU.
Daniel Hannan blogs at The Telegraph