Who seriously believes David Cameron’s “renegotiation” substantially changes our relationship with the EU?

It does little to repatriate powers from Brussels. It does nothing to protect our borders. It fails to shield business from more irksome regulation. And it certainly doesn’t enhance democratic accountability.

Shame on the SNP for falling in behind David Cameron.

The June referendum is about much more than EU-UK trade and economic pros and cons. But the “Vote Remain” camp is at pains to narrow the debate to perceived threats and dangers.

Yet even here the case for staying in is flawed.

Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. “Europe” is not the be-all and end-all of our existence. Global trade patterns have been shifting – and continue to do so. Figures for 2105 confirm the trend shift in Britain’s trade from the relatively slow-growing EU to the faster growing economies elsewhere.

The EU share of our total goods exports, nearly 59 per cent in 2004, had fallen to 49.7 per cent by 2014 and 47.0 per cent by 2015.

And its share of Britain’s overall exports of goods and services in 2014 was already less than half our global export total, at 44.8 per cent.

Britain’s exports, driven by this world-wide shift, are being realigned by this invisible hand from the slow-growing EU towards the more buoyant parts of the world economy.

New trade deals tailor made to capitalise on Britain’s trading strengths outside the EU would give a boost to export performance.

Could these trade deals not be pursued within our EU membership? We would not be in control: as a member of the EU’s Customs Union, Britain is reliant on the EU to negotiate all the trade deals that apply to EU Members.

These deals are far from comprehensive and tend to be subject to delay and dilution. The Economist, for example, has commented that “…trying to satisfy all 28 of its members means that the EU often takes years to negotiate free-trade agreements”.

Now consider inward investment where the UK, being one of the most open economies in the world, continues to act as a magnet. We are second only to the USA in terms of the stock of outward investment (investment abroad) and inward investment (foreign investment in the UK).

The US, not the EU, is the UK’s most important partner for both outward and inward investment. And the UK is almost certainly the US’s most important partner for both outward and inward investment.

UK outward investment (stock) has weakened in recent years, reflecting disinvestment in Europe. But UK inward investment is thriving.

For years, apologists for our EU membership have trundled out all manner of scare stories.

Back in the late 1990s we were warned by the CBI and large sections of the political establishment that failure to join the Euro would put us at a grave disadvantage.

But for most of the subsequent period the UK economy has outperformed the Euro Zone. And our unemployment rate at 5.1 per cent is markedly lower than that for the Euro zone (10.3 per cent).

We were warned of a major loss of investment. This proved untrue. And above all, we were warned that “over 3 million UK jobs are linked to our trade with the EU”.

It is a staggeringly dishonest scare, based on the false notion that we would suddenly stop trading with the EU. The economist from whose work the figure was taken, Dr Martin Weale, has called the claim “pure Goebbels”, adding: “In many years of academic research, I cannot recall such a wilful distortion of the facts.”

Sadly, I suspect we will see many more of those before Referendum Day.

Focus on the big picture…and vote Leave!


  Comments: 7

  1. Norman Springford

    So I’m one of the don’t knows at present – Bill Jamieson’s “leave” article was clear and easily understood. Peter Jones on the other hand, may well be right, but I struggled to pick up the key points from the message to “stay”.

    Can we have this devate between you both every couple of weeks please – it’s helpful

  2. What happened Bill to “E U Jimmy” ?

  3. Talking Big Picture, Mr Putin will be rubbing his hands in glee at Bill Jamieson and his ilk, who can not see beyond their long Pinocchio noses that the U.K leaving the EU will be a massive destabiliser, just as Europe and the world are faced with major geo-political crises, potentially matching 1914 and 1939, in the Middle East and Ukraine. Moving to more mundane matters, should I take a chance on prosperity and jobs for my children and grandchildren in the fond but unproven hope that we can match the EU’s market and economy with a begging bowl outstretched to problematic BRICS and Big Uncle Sam all of whom are begging us to Remain in the EU. The EU has been a force for our peace and prosperity for, yes, 70 years, and contrary to the untruths spread by the Europhobes it is fully democratic in its legislative process (the elected parliament and nationally elccted Council of Ministers rule on everything). Instead of sitting on the sidelines self-absorbed and carping, we should be in there leading Europe to yet more peace and prosperity. Big and small picture scream REMAIN!.
    John Purvis,
    Brigton. St Andrews, Fife KY16 8NB.

  4. Bill, you’re right to look at the big picture. Like the Independence debate, the subject here is a very long term one, much more so that an election.

    However, the figures you use to support your argument that the EU is becoming less relevant as a market are very short term.

    Different parts of the world grow economically at different rates; a bumper year for one continent may be famine for another. Over the past 3 or 4 years you quote, Europe was certainly having a rough time, while China and the BRICS continued to grow impressively. However, there are already signs that China’s growth is slacking, and Brazil too is looking increasingly fragile. In 5 or 10 years a decision to pull out of Europe on the premise that our economic future is outside Europe may look very foolish.

    Cameron’s “renegotiation” is of course irrelevant. It was cosmetic. The fact that an exercise that was clearly always cosmetic turns out to be cosmetic is no grounds for making a decision to vote either in or out.

    On security – we’ll still been NATO if we Brexit, but we won’t have the same level of cooperation between police, intelligence and judicial systems. Hence I would think it would be ISIS more than Putin that will be rubbing their hands. Although he probably would be pretty happy.

  5. Malcolm Parkin

    The Brexit arguments have the same feel and sound to them as the Scottish independence argument had, in that they ignore the consequences, and assume the benefits will be immediate, and that any co-operation needed by Britain will be given without question.
    The consequences are unknown because this has never happened before.
    Exit will be acrimonious. Make no mistake.
    The main consequence being the destabilisation of the EU to heaven knows what effect on Britain.
    France will ban British farm products. Germany will attempt to become the financial hub in opposition to the City of London.
    Revenge will be huge.
    Outside the EU Britain will have no power to alter diktats that may adversely affect Britain.
    The net contribution of between £6bn and £12bn depending on who you believe is cheap insurance.
    If the EU project fails we just walk away and will be in the same boat anyway.
    The obvious is to stay.

  6. richard Simpson

    Why if the argument for BREXIT is so clear are the substantial majority of businesses in favour of remaining?
    Of course we can renegotiate the 50 treaties that we will need.
    But the leavers are not homogeneous in their intent. For some it is to rid ourselves of the ‘workers right’ gained under Maastricht. For some it is mainly control of the fee movement of labour. For some it is a yearning for a reurn of Empire. There is little cohesive or comprehensive view of what might be the objective. Some even suggest an exit vote would allow a tougher renegotiation.
    Meant BREXITERs believe we could continue to access a free market without subscribing in any way to that markets common regulations. This is pie in the sky.
    Whilst the EU is far from perfect to leave at a time of heightened tension in Ukraine and facing a resurgent imperial Russia is dangerous isolationism.
    Political integration will proceed faster without our providing a strong brake.

  7. This is a very basic argument that I had before I researched the European Union debate. I don’t think you are looking at the big picture, in fact, you are looking at a very small portion and neglecting key facts.

    Firstly, using David Cameron’s blatant ignorance as an excuse to leave the EU is not an argument. Nor is it appropriate for me to pin my opinions on Boris Johnson’s excuse for leaving the EU. Which is, vote to leave so we can have a better deal for staying in. This is a truly illogical position.

    Looking at your first argument you stated that “The EU share of our total goods exports, nearly 59 per cent in 2004, had fallen to 49.7 per cent by 2014 and 47.0 per cent by 2015,” implying that trade is continuously falling. As 2004 was before the crisis it is unfair to compare 2004 to 2014, especially when some countries have only just recovered fully from the huge recession. Secondly, if you look at the recent figure for 2016 it still holds at 47 per cent.

    You also say 44.8 per cent like it means nothing, that is nearly half of all trade in the UK with the EU.

    You then go on to use knowledge from Adam Smith saying that individual goals to obtain wealth are moving trade to the east.

    The term invisible hand was only ever used once by Adam Smith in his original wealth of nations and didn’t have the same meaning as it has today. It was coined by a textbook written in 1948. Furthermore, to assume increased trading with the non-EU countries and creating trade agreements with the east and other nations would not come with their own set of rules and regulations is naive.

    We have already seen how the state of China expects a lot in return when signing a trade agreement. What would we have to sacrifice then?

    You make a very good point that there are 28 different states and it is very hard to find decisions that satisfy all countries and are beneficial. Surely, this is the fault of the political system and not the idea behind the EU and NATO.

    You then go to compare the UK to the rest of the EU on unemployment and investment. When you aggregate the countries these conclusions are true. But If we look at individual nations: Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Luxemburg and Sweden. They all outperform us on many levels.

    There are still important points to argue here.

    There are a number of human rights law and regulations enforced by the EU that are socially key. For example, taking time off work after having a child. Do you think all the industrialist and financiers of the No campaign are planning on replacing human rights law with the UK’s own versions? No, they want us to take a step back and violate our basic rights.

    Britain is neither hindered or stopped by the EU and there is huge evidence to suggest that.

    Freedom of trade and movement between nations is a gift we should not take for granted. The right to go live anywhere in the EU, study anywhere, trade anywhere.

    I am reminded time of what our grandfathers sacrificed for us to be here. But we will chuck it out in one swift vote.

    The position if you want to leave the EU, but still trade, means we would still have to stick to the same rules, but would no longer have a say in how the rules are made.

    I am by no means saying the EU is perfect.

    EU has shamed and treated Greece appallingly, almost bullying them, something John McGurk has pointed out. The refugee crisis. The war in Syria. The European Union council of ministers is mainly right wing and policies lean to the right. I also disagree with a number of policies and laws in place. There are restrictions but we signed up for it.

    However, let us not forget why the EU was put in place. For peace. It was created so that alliances can be formed and there would be peace throughout Europe.

    The EU has drifted from its ideals. That does not mean we should tear it apart but means we should influence the laws put in place and vote for better leaders, not leave.

    A European Union with human rights, rule of law and a diverse and inclusive population, with solidarity between different nations and its 500 million citizens would be much stronger than an independent UK

    I was able to get a clearer understanding by listening to the LSE podcast on The EU: friend or foe and looking at more statistics.

    Josh McGurk,3rd year Economics student, Edinburgh.

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