A (biased) take on Britain’s membership of the European Union – Thomas De Freitas, Year 12

If the European Union (EU) came to you and asked you the following, I wonder how you’d answer. Let’s say that the UK never joined the EU back in 1973, and today, 43 years later, knowing what we now know, we were asked to join all over again.

They make you an offer. The terms are simple. They will allow you free trade with the world’s largest single economy (which you can have anyway), economic co-operation (which you can have anyway) and a leading voice on the world economic stage (which you already have).

Now in return for this irresistible offer, they would like you to surrender the sovereignty of your Parliament and of your Courts. You will not be able to elect the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission or the President of the European Parliament (who essentially run the EU) and to top it off they’d also like £350 million each week, plus any extras as they see fit. Deal?

No. Let’s discuss.

I wrote in brackets that we can have free trade anyway and it’s true. We currently have a trade deficit with the EU, we buy more off them than they do off us. If we were an independent nation, we could make individual free trade deals with each of the 28 EU member states quite easily and it would be in their financial interests to accept. We would use the same template as is in current usage and offer it around, however we would not use Cameron (he is a pretty shocking negotiator, I’m sure we can all agree).

Each EU member state would be faced with a decision, do we have tariffs on all exports and imports or do we allow free trade, as we have had for the past 43 years? As they buy more from us than we do them, they would be losing quite a lot of money by declining.

To help explain this, I’ll use Latvia as an example. They buy huge quantities of goods and services from the UK. From the 120+ Scimitar armoured vehicles worth more than $53.6 million from BAE Systems last year to our delicious Cheeses. The cost of buying these would rocket with added import tariffs. As for exports, when was that last time you bought anything labelled ‘made in Latvia’?

They would have no choice but to agree. Latvia love their cheese!

Next we have economic co-operation. When people say that the UK won’t be able to co-operate with our European partners and that we would ‘drift off into the middle of the Atlantic’, they are trying to have us for fools and fools we are not. The United States, the world’s largest economy, is an independent nation. They are not in any EU-like union with anybody and yet they have free trade agreements (FTA’s) with many nations (see diagram below). And, coincidentally, the US is in the process of negotiating a multilateral free trade agreement with the EU itself – the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) which is the orange area of Europe shown below. We can and will have economic co-operation.

eu images.tif/The United States Current Bilateral /Multilateral FTA’s Proposed /Suspended Bilateral/Multilateral FTA’s

The EU claim to offer us a ‘leading voice on the world stage’. They overestimate their standing and underestimate ours. The UK has the 5th largest world economy, is one of 5 permanent members on the UN Security Council, are one of 8 known countries (much to my dismay) to possess nuclear weapons, spend the 5th largest amount on defence in the world and hold the financial capital of the world upon our shores, the City of London. We are already powerful. We are already a leading voice on the world stage. If anything, the EU undermines that. Instead of being a leading voice, we are simply thrown under the banner of the EU and when we complain we have to travel across Europe and humiliatingly beg other member states to give us a better deal. And even then they give us an agreement which I can personally only describe as piteous.

In exchange for all of the above, we lose our sovereignty and £350m each week. Now, for me, this is the key issue. I embrace immigration to this country and I embrace the fact that the UK has become a multi-ethnic and diverse nation. I welcome the fact that almost 13% of our population are ‘ethnic minorities’.

It’s sovereignty that gets me.

It’s the fact that on 55 occasions British Ministers, who the British people have democratically elected, have said they will object to an EU directive and that on 55 occasions they have been over ruled by EU bureaucrats. We need change. Britain is quite capable of self-governance. We are quite capable of setting our own VAT rates and fishery quotas. We are essentially paying them to tell us what to do. The Supreme Court is capable of making the final decisions on cases without the European Court of Justice watching over, ready to sanction us. If our Supreme Court is no longer supreme, what is the point? We joined an ‘European Economic Community’. What is this that we find ourselves in?

We don’t need reform, Mr Cameron, we need out.

A £350m membership fee is huge. £350m per week plus extras should our economy grow is gargantuan. Britain was told back in October 2015 that by the end of November 2015 it was to pay an extra €2.1bn (£1.7bn) into the EU budget because the UK economy was doing better relative to other European economies. They don’t promote growth, they penalise it.

Now I know that for many people, it’s not the economic side of the EU that they are most worried with, it’s immigration.

Well how much more worried would you be if I told you that Turkey, a country of which 3% lies within Europe and the other 97% in Asia, is being fast tracked EU membership? Turkey shares a border with Syria, Iraq and Iran amongst others. You would literally be able to walk from Syria (and beyond) to France without a single passport check (as Turkey has a notably porous border with Syria). This is not the time for the EU’s ideological expansion, it’s time for security.

I think that on the issue of the renegotiation, the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg put it best:

‘This is pretty thin gruel, much less than the people had come to expect from the government. It takes a few words out of the preamble but does nothing about the substance of the treaties. It deals with competition for which the European commission itself has a proposal. It fails to restore control of our borders. it seems to me that its whole aim is to make Harold Wilson’s renegotiation look respectable. It needs to do more.’

There are many other issues which people raise, and I am restricted (due to space) to dealing with just two more.

People say that ‘this is no time to cast economic uncertainty’ and ‘businesses are only just regaining the confidence to invest in Britain’. They couldn’t be more wrong. The world economy is already and always will be uncertain. Now is the time for decisiveness. By taking charge we will be best suited to tackle whatever the world economy throws at us. I have also had one person raise the issue of climate change with me. They say that there is no point the EU meeting to discuss collective action if the UK is doing its own thing. I say invite us to the negotiating table, let’s shape policy together. It is by working together that we succeed; the difference being that working together and political union are separate things.

Now it truly is up to you. On June 23rd, will you go to the ballot box and vote with your head and leave? Or will you vote to go down with this uneconomical, insecure and rapidly declining European Union?

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