Nor is the EU sure about where its borders should lie. Always happy to expand, there have been calls at various times for the EU to include Ukraine, Russia, Israel, France’s former North African colonies and Turkey. Turkey is still involved in protracted membership negotiations and its EU aspirations are ardently supported by Britain, if less so by France and Germany. Should Ankara enter with its eighty million citizens, it would almost immediately become the largest state in the EU, which, in turn, would acquire a border with the Islamic State. Turkey’s citizens are, of course, mainly Muslims. But then, Brussels itself, the EU capital, is forecast to have a Muslim majority in twenty years’ time.
Finally, the EU has boasted of being ultramodern by exercising “soft power.” This involves the use of foreign aid and the support of human rights as instruments of influence. Unfortunately, there have been too many cases of the aid being diverted (allegedly to terrorists in at least one instance), while at the United Nations, support for human rights has steadily diminished. The result is that few states bother very much about EU foreign policy, especially since its own leading member states can rarely agree on key issues. Israel holds it in contempt. (Polls demonstrate that a majority of EU citizens consider Israel the greatest threat to world peace!) The end result is that the EU cannot defend itself externally, is under growing terrorist threat internally, spends next to nothing on defense and relies on exerting influence through foreign aid and support for human rights—all this in an increasingly dangerous world where hard power is clearly what counts. So bigness brings no security, and Britain’s defenses depend on NATO and the Americans. These have kept the peace in Europe since 1945, with considerable and up-to-date armies and weapons on the ground backed by the threat of nuclear war. The EU, in contrast, has always been—and remains—irrelevant to European defense. This is another reason for Britain to abandon membership.
WITHDRAWAL FROM the EU will mean that immigration as a policy will revert to the control of the British government. But how that control is exercised can be debated once Britain has withdrawn. It is not necessary to debate it here. The economics of EU membership and withdrawal do, of course, need to be addressed.
Harold Macmillan told Britain in the Sixties that discussions over European Economic Community membership amounted merely to “commercial negotiations.” Edward Heath asserted equally mendaciously that there would be no loss of sovereignty involved. By 1970 Heath was so desperate for Britain to join the EEC that the civil servant leading the negotiations followed the motto: “Swallow the lot, and swallow it now.” So Britain accepted all the EEC’s demands, including a new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which surrendered all its fishing rights. All this was done partly to secure “the political leadership of Europe” (which never materialized) and partly to help Tory governments use Europe to end Britain’s relative economic decline. Yet if European states were experiencing faster growth, this was on account of conditions there—the rebuilding of European cities after the war, the reduction of trade barriers within the European customs union established by the EEC and the continuing structural switch from agriculture to industry—a process which had ended in Britain a century before. Britain’s own economic problems at the time were entirely of its own making—militant trade unions, high taxes and high overseas defense expenditure—and would be solved by British government action in the 1970s and 1980s. The EEC brought economic problems, not solutions—like membership in the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which cost the country billions; masses of red tape on industry and finance; not to mention the higher food prices caused by the Common Agricultural Policy or the disappearance of Britain’s fishing fleet, fishing communities and fish stocks into the maw of the CFP. These policies also caused Britain to contribute ever-increasing sums annually to the EU budget (£21 billion gross today), while the overall cost of EU membership has been estimated by a variety of experts to be the equivalent of 4 percent of GDP (rising to 10 percent if opportunity costs are factored in). That is a huge sum of money (£40-100 billion annually).
Once again, after the world crash of 2008, it was Britain’s own actions—nationalizing banks and undertaking quantitative easing—that saved the British economy. Had it followed the Europhiles’ advice of adopting the euro as its currency, it would have been in a similar position to Greece and other debtor countries in the euro zone, faced with a policy of austerity and forced to deflate internally amidst social penury and massive unemployment. It was in the euro zone, too, that Berlin and Brussels forced out elected leaders in Italy and Greece and had them replaced by technocrats. Ulrich Beck then wrote his best-selling German Europe, offering Southern European countries the prospect of permanent German neocolonialism—albeit by the “best” generation of Germans ever.
Mercifully, Britain’s unemployment rate is half that inside the euro zone, and last year its growth rate was twice as high. Moreover, the prospects for EU growth are not good due to lack of structural reforms and demographic decline. Yet, while Britain’s success causes hundreds of thousands of Europeans from France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria to come to the UK in search of work, its European partners try hard to undermine it by, for example, attempting to ban the City of London dealing in euro-denominated securities. The European courts have just prevented this from happening, although the European Central Bank may still appeal. The EU is also attempting to impose a tax on all financial transactions, another attempt to undermine the success of the City of London. Finally, Britain suffers economically from the fact that member states of the EU—Belgium, Luxemburg and Ireland for example—provide tax havens for multinational corporations who therefore avoid paying tax in the UK. Indeed, the president of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has recently been revealed as having abetted these corporate giants to achieve their aims when he was prime minister of Luxembourg. (Corporate lobbyists in Brussels, by the way, are much more influential than MEPs.) Clearly, Britain would be better off economically outside the EU.
Would this mean losing jobs? Europhiles claim three million would be lost, but this is a deliberate distortion on their part of research published in 2000 by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). An annual report about the research merely stated that up to 3.2 million jobs were “associated directly with” the export of goods and services to the EU. The then director of the NIESR, Martin Weale, denounced the Europhile spin as “pure Goebbels.” Indeed, the same paragraph in the report stated:
In conjunction with the potential gains from withdrawing from the Common Agricultural Policy and no longer paying net fiscal contributions to the EU, there is a case that withdrawal from the EU might actually offer net economic benefits.
The Europhiles claim that withdrawal would lead to a major tariff war between the UK and the EU, a pure fantasy on their part. Why? Because 6.5 million jobs in Europe are directly associated with the export of goods and services to the UK. The EU sells far more to us than we do to it. So why would political leaders risk ten million jobs in a tariff war? What would be the point? The global average tariff is less than 3 percent, according to the most recent World Bank data. In Europe and the United States, the respective figures are 1.04 percent and 1.46 percent. Switzerland charges zero and Norway 1.09 percent. The rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), moreover, follow the principle of the most-favored nation, which means that member states cannot impose arbitrarily high tariffs on one another. Hence a trade war would be illegal. Even if one occurred against WTO rules, who would possibly benefit? The UK, as already seen, would be in a more advantageous position than the EU. But why bother? In reality, a free-trade treaty would be signed; probably one that abolished tariffs altogether. There is no need to examine Swiss or Norwegian arrangements either. The British economy is so much bigger, and trade with the EU so much greater, that any deal with the UK would be unique.
Once unfettered from EU membership a number of benefits would accrue to the UK. As a normal, self-governing democracy again, it could negotiate its own free-trade treaties with other countries and trading blocs; it could represent itself in international trade organizations (presently, being only one of twenty-eight EU member states, its own interests are submerged and overlooked); it would not have to impose EU health and safety regulations on the 95 percent of companies that are not involved in trade with the EU; it could concentrate on boosting its already growing exports to the wider world (where it has a trade surplus); it could reclaim its fishing grounds; and its government would not have to spend 40 percent of its time on EU business. Certainly, exporters to the EU would continue to have to abide by EU regulations, but they already have to do this with regard to the regulations of any external single market, whether it is that of the United States, China or Japan.