There are a number of central claims to the Remain campaign. In this article we examine them one by one. Their claims just don’t stack up.
“Around 3.5 million British jobs are directly linked to British membership of the European Union’s single market – 1 in 10 British jobs.”
This is likely to be inaccurate. We think it’s closer to five million jobs that depend on free trade as part of the single market, and it may be substantially more. All anybody can do is guess. However, it’s dishonest to say that these jobs depend on EU membership. The EU is not the single market and we would retain single market access were we to leave. No government would find it politically possible to close our markets, and the EU would have similar difficulties. It is simply not in anybody’s interests.
“The EU negotiates trade agreements with the rest of the world. Outside the EU Britain would have to renegotiate trade deals alone. While the EU is the world’s largest market, a UK outside the EU would not be a high priority for other counties to negotiate a trade deal.”
This is dishonesty on stilts. Plenty of countries have free trade deals with powers like China. Morover, we would not have to renegotiate trade deals alone. We can use the EU’s own trade deals as members of the single market, but we may also choose alliances and coalitions at the WTO level to secure better terms. Brexit means we get to choose who we trade with and on what terms.
In recent years we have seen a departure of the US automotive industry to Mexico which trumps the US on free trade. Mexico has agreements with 45 countries, meaning low tariffs for exporting cars globally and favourable deals on the import of components, for which both the US and the EU have protectionist barriers. Mexico achieved this through a process of separate agreements, un-bundled and sector specific, rather than the type of “big bang”, comprehensive deals the EU prefers. That is the new model of global trade. The EU does things the old way.
“British families enjoy lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled. These sorts of benefits could not be achieved by Britain alone.”
Central to our case for leaving is that much of what we assume to be EU benefits are actually agreements at the global level. It’s certainly no coincidence that Africa and China have recently dropped their roaming charges. It stems from a convention agreed at through the OECD. If anything the EU has caused significant delay to its implementation. Moreover, the devil is in the detail. Often the EU waters down global agreements and environmental protections. We believe we should be dealing direct at the top table rather than going through the EU middleman. Here the EU is dishonestly taking the credit for a global agreement.
“Through commonly agreed EU standards, national Governments have achieved improvements to the quality of air, rivers and beaches. Good for Britain and good for Britons holidaying or living abroad!”
Most of these standards are agreed at the global level by the WHO, UNEP and major British NGOs. They are then adopted by the EU verbatim. All the EU does is either water them down or delay them. Some of these measures are actually counter productive or inferior to our own standards. Outside the EU we would have an independent veto at the global level. We need a stronger voice at the top table to make sure we get the right results for our unique island.
“The EU has taken on multinational giants like Microsoft, Samsung and Toshiba for unfair competition. The UK would not be able to do this alone.”
They are right when they say the UK could not do this alone. But as we shift to a more globalised world, with a global single market emerging with truly multinational corporates enjoying the agility of global trade, even the EU cannot act alone. This is why, like roaming charges, there is a need for global cooperation. In terms of unfair practices, we need a much stronger role at the WTO. Soon we will see an OECD convention on tax avoidance. The EU can clamp down all it likes within its own borders, but in a global marketplace, we need full intergovernmental cooperation. Britain would obviously play a part in that.
“Freedom to work and study abroad – and easy travel”
There is a broad spectrum of opinion on freedom of movement. On the whole we see it as a good thing albeit requiring a bit of an overhaul. As participants in the European single market we will retain the free movement of people policy. Brexit will, however, give us the freedom to initiate reforms to the global asylum rules that tarnish the principle of free movement.
“The EU has helped secure peace among previously warring western European nations. It helped to consolidate democracy in Spain, Portugal, Greece and former Soviet bloc countries and helped preserve peace in the Balkans since the end of the Balkans War. With the UN it now plays a leading role in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and democracy building.”
We think NATO can take more credit for keeping the peace. As for “consolidating democracy”, it’s a meaningless expression from an institution that is itself not a democracy. What the action in Libya showed us is that the EU is incapable of reaching agreement on a common foreign policy and could not obtain consent from Germany to bomb Libya. Thus the EU diplomatic machine was acting without a full EU mandate, while the military action was the result of intergovernmentalism under the NATO flag. We’ll leave it to you to decide if that was a good idea. The point is, the EU could not reach agreement on military action – and probably never will. In this regard pooling of sovereignty leads to procrastination, self delusion and delay while people die. Britain is a much more effective global actor when working independently through the UN securing allies from around the world.
“Equal pay for men and women is enshrined in EU law, as are bans on discrimination by age, race or sexual orientation. This benefits Britain and British people who live in other EU countries.”
We would argue that, again, the EU is a redundant middleman as far as this goes. Much of the work in this regard is carried out by the International Labour Organisation at the global level. Most of the EU regulations and human rights provisions mention ILO conventions and rules by name. In most instances, the EU is a law taker, not a law maker. We think Britain should be dealing direct. The EU likes to take credit for this work as our media is only dimly aware of the international dimension, but in reality is causes delays as the EU struggles to reach a common position. The law we implement is much weaker as a result of compromises.
“As 28 democracies, and as the world’s biggest market, we are strong when we work together. Britain is represented in many international organisations in joint EU delegations – giving Britain more influence than it would have alone. The EU has played a major role in climate, world trade and development.”
They say the EU is the world’s biggest market. But it’s not going to stay that way. And really when you look at how trade is developing, the world is the world’s biggest market! In a global marketplace, it’s far better if countries with common interests can meet at a time of their choosing to remove tariffs and technical barriers to trade. A large body like the EU often dictates the terms and the timescales, often electing to push through big bang trade deals while the rest of the world progresses with one small deal, a sector at a time. That means any emerging industry that isn’t at the top of the EU’s own agenda loses out.
As a major technological and intellectual innovator, Britain needs to be taking a leading role on the global stage, convening meetings of those nations and non-state actors who have an interest in nurturing emerging economies and new ideas. We’re not able to do that in the EU. Britain is better off freely choosing its alliances and coalitions – and it’s always going to be more democratic if Britain has an independent vote at the top tables.
“Common rules for the common market make it unnecessary to have 28 sets of national regulations”.
The assumption here is that only those 28 nations have a common set of rules. This is not true. Most of the regulations are made by global bodies, most notable, the ILO, the IMO and UNECE. There are sectors where there is a global single market emerging with over a hundred countries using the same regulatory frameworks. We would prefer that Britain was an independent actor at the top tables adding its considerable expertise to the process – and we want that process to be directly accountable to our own parliament. With the EU signing accords and conventions on our behalf, it is making decisions for nearly half a billion people. Even with the best intentions, the European Parliament could never truly protect the interests of all its peoples. The global regulatory precess is nowhere near democratic enough, and the EU is the chief obstacle to democracy in this regard.
“The UK is the second largest beneficiary of EU research funds, and the British Government expects future EU research funding to constitute a vital source of income for our world-leading universities and companies.”
Try as we might, we have no idea why EU advocates seem to think Brexit means the end of all international cooperation. If anything, leaving the EU marks a new dawn in intergovernmentalism. The EU’s research programmes are extensive and make a huge contribution but they are used as a means of strong-arming members into surrendering certain controls over their own affairs. It is our view that this prevents such cooperation from moving forward and expanding and really we should be looking at a global system that looks beyond the confines of the EU. Not forgetting of course that when the EU says it pays our universities – it’s not lost on any of us that it is in fact our own money.
In conclusion, we can see that the europhile case is built on the lie that the EU is the single market, and that Britain is weak and can’t survive without surrendering it right to self-government.
The case for the EU also seems to depend of obscuring the globalisation dynamic from view.
EU advocates seem to be predominantly inward looking on little Europe, seemingly unaware of globalisation. It is a myopic vision locked in the ideology of yesteryear and ignores the last thirty years of technological progress that has seen developing nations bursting into the global markets. Trade is global and so is regulation; we need new and more transparent institutions in light of that. Europhiles want their “European Community”. We want a global community and a community of equals that works on cooperation, not subjugation.
Presently, our voice is silenced by the EU. At best we have 1/28th of a voice and only 1.2 MEPs per million people. Europhiles would call that democracy – but any system where the voice of over sixty million people can be overruled cannot by definition be democracy. Voting rituals alone don’t make a democracy and when the voices of so many are drowned out, that peace the EU claims to keep will not last.
This referendum is a chance to correct a historical mistake and to retake our place in the world as a true democracy. One way or another we will eventually leave the EU. This is an opportunity to do it peacefully, amicably and without disastrous repercussions.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty