The EU divorce paper?

“We need to give serious consideration to how the UK could have a free and prosperous economy outside the EU.”

The Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) announced that it was going to award a prize of €100,000 to the lucky participant who came up with the best Brexit (British exit from the EU) strategy.

People have to submit a 2,000 word paper outlining their proposals and judges will whittle down the entries to 20. Those lucky to make it through will then have four months to detail their proposals further. Lord Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, welcomed the news saying;

“Now that we have been promised an in-out referendum on Britain and the EU in 2017, it is essential that this momentous decision is preceded by a well-informed debate. The winning entries in this competition will be an important contribution to that process.”

In simple terms, Lord Lawson is right. If Britons are to consider the issue of the UK’s EU membership seriously, they need a well-informed debate and all the facts in front of them. Of course many of the facts will be disputed by either side, but the public needs to hear this debate loud and clear.

We need a full and frank discussion about our relationship with Europe, what we want out of it and how we think we can achieve it. This debate should be welcomed by both eurosceptics and europhiles. The case should be won by the better argument, not by the better public relations campaign.

I, for one, support the Prime Minister’s plan to renegotiate our membership terms and then hold a referendum in 2017 (quelle surprise?). It would be wrong to withdraw from the European Union without a proper debate or a referendum; likewise it would be wrong to stay in the European Union without acknowledging the will of the people and acting based upon their decision.

I don’t know which way I will vote in 2017 (honestly!). Right now, I’m inclined to thrash it out longer and channel all our diplomatic energies (warp factor nine!) into building an EU closer to our ideals.

I am yet to be convinced that the UK would be better off on its own. I originally started this column with the desire to keep out of in-out debates, but I was naïve to believe one could write about the EU and not get stuck into the pros and cons.

I really am looking forward to one of the most extensive, exhausting and exhilarating debates in modern UK political times and, either way, I support more than anything else, the right of the British people to have their say. We will all have to come to terms with the final decision.