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!