EU Referendum

If tiny Guernsey thrives outside the EU, why can’t we – the world’s fifth largest economy? Concluding his definitive series, EU MP DAN HANNAN says forget the Remain camp’s Project Fear. The real risk lies with staying in…

Yesterday in his insider’s account of the EU, Euro MP Daniel Hannan exposed Britain’s impotence in trying to deal with Brussels. Here, in the final part of his powerful series, he insists that our future could be very bright indeed — as long as we vote to leave… 

Euro enthusiasts love to sneer at Brexiters like me: ‘So what’s your alternative? D’you want Britain to be like Norway? All cold and empty?

‘Or like Switzerland? Making chocolate? And cuckoo clocks? That’s what you want, is it? Eh?’

It’s tempting simply to answer that, if you’re in a structurally unsafe building, the obvious alternative to remaining is walking out.

And with the migration and euro crises deepening, the EU is just that — structurally unsafe. So much so that staying in is a greater risk than leaving.

But I know, too, that fear of change is deep in people’s genomes, and we tend to vote accordingly.

Guernsey is an English-speaking, common law, parliamentary democracy. Its currency is the pound. Its head of state is the Queen, but remains outside of the EU 

Given the chance to win something of greater value by staking something of lesser value, we tend to make the mathematically irrational decision to stick with what we’ve got.

Euro MEP Daniel Hannan lays out his case for leaving the EU 
Euro MEP Daniel Hannan lays out his case for leaving the EU

As Remain campaigners are well aware, referendums the world over tend to be won by whichever side is opposing change. And they can hardly be blamed for making change-aversion their key argument.

They don’t want to get drawn into arguments about democracy, or sovereignty, or the EU’s declining share of the world economy, or border control, or Britain’s budget contributions. They’d much rather conjure up unspecific, inchoate fears about change.

Fear of the unknown has become the mainstay of their case.

One pro-EU friend, a Conservative MP, put it to me: ‘It’s like banks. Everyone moans about their bank. But how many people take their accounts elsewhere?’

To which I reply: Well, you’d move your account pretty sharpish if you thought the bank might fail. In my view, the EU is now so rickety that sticking with it can hardly be called risk-averse. Voting to leave is now the safer option.

What people need to understand before they choose which box to tick is that there is no status quo in this referendum. What we face, rather, is a choice between two futures, both of which we can sketch with some confidence.

One future involves being part of the continuing political amalgamation of the EU, a process that has been rumbling along since 1956, but in which we will cede control over the larger questions of foreign affairs, economics, security, human rights and citizenship to Brussels institutions.

The other involves a new relationship based on a common market, not a common government.

A vote to leave will result in a trade-only deal with the EU. We will remain part of the European free trade zone that stretches from non-EU Iceland to non-EU Turkey.

No one in Brussels argues that Britain would leave that common market if it left the EU. Given that every non-EU territory from the Faroe Islands to Montenegro has access to the European free trade area, it would be preposterous to claim that the UK, uniquely, would be denied full market access.

This is obvious when we consider that the balance of UK-EU trade is very much in our favour. The UK market is worth £289 billion, so the EU is hardly likely to turn its back on us.

Indeed, it needs our market more than we need theirs, so it is absurd to claim that non-participation in the various political structures in Brussels would mean trade coming to a halt.

We will keep our trade links and, like every other independent state, we will negotiate our own deal on departure, tailored to suit our own conditions and needs.

Will it be the Swiss, Norwegian or Icelandic model? No, none of these. It will be one especially for us.

Referendums the world over tend to be won by whichever side is opposing change - like the Remain campaign

A vote to leave will result in a trade-only deal with the EU, but we will leave EU government

In terms of trade, Norway gets a better deal than Britain currently does, and Switzerland a better deal than Norway.

But a post-EU Britain, with 65 million people compared to Switzerland’s eight million and Norway’s five million, could expect something better yet.

But won’t we still have to conform to huge chunks of EU rules when we are outside, just as Norway and Iceland do?

Gasping and swooning with all the theatricality of Victorian matrons, EU supporters have claimed this as a clincher in their case. Yet that issue has proved to be more a problem in theory than in practice. Between 2000 and 2013, the EU generated 52,183 legal instruments, of which Norway and Iceland adopted fewer than 10 per cent (and the Swiss none at all).

We will keep our trade links and, like every other independent state, we will negotiate our own deal on departure, tailored to suit our own conditions and needs - with Brussels 

In that same period, Britain, by contrast, had to apply 100 per cent of EU regulations to its economy. So even if we had to settle for a Norway or an Iceland-style agreement — which we won’t — we would be far better off out.

The very fact of mentioning Norway and Switzerland will lead to more scoffing from the pro-EU campaign. ‘How can you possibly compare us to those countries?’ they will ask. ‘Britain is very different.’

So, if Norway and Switzerland are too exotic for a true comparison, how about Guernsey in the Channel Islands? Guernsey is an English-speaking, common law, parliamentary democracy. Its currency is the pound. Its head of state is the Queen.

It is, for certain purposes, in political union with the UK. Its political system resembles ours in every way.

Except one. Guernsey is outside the EU. Essentially, it opts into the economic aspects of EU membership, but opts out of everything else.

The Channel Islands are outside the Common Fisheries Policy, outside the Common Agricultural Policy (except for import duties on non-EU produce) and outside the common rules on justice, home affairs, foreign policy, employment law and environmental regulation.

The Swiss (above, Geneva) adopted none of the EU’s 52,183 legal instruments generated between 2000 andThe Swiss (above, Geneva) adopted none of the EU's 52,183 legal instruments generated between 2000 and 2013 2013

Guernsey is part of a free-movement area with the UK and Ireland, but controls immigration from the rest of the EU. Indeed, startlingly to British eyes, it really does have an immigration policy: its legislators vote on whom to admit, on what terms and in what numbers.

They set an annual population target, and issue their residence permits accordingly, mainly taking in temporary workers from Latvia and Madeira.

They are currently debating how many Syrian refugees they might take in.

Parliamentary sovereignty evidently suits the people of Guernsey. Their economy has been growing steadily at around 3 per cent a year, their GDP per capita is one of the highest in the world, unemployment is in the hundreds and crime is virtually non-existent.

Ah, say EU supporters, but Guernsey is a tax haven — that’s why it is doing so well.

If, by that, they mean there are lower taxes in Guernsey because — unfettered by Brussels — they can run their own affairs efficiently and attract investment, this is surely an argument for leaving.

Guernsey is part of a free-movement area with the UK and Ireland, but controls immigration from the rest of the EU. Above, Oslo, who also enjoys a trade-only relationship with the EU

‘But you can’t compare us to Guernsey,’ the scoffers will then cry. ‘It’s tiny!’ But are we seriously supposed to think that small nations can thrive outside the EU, but large ones can’t?

It’s extraordinary how quickly EU supporters switch from ‘Britain has to be part of a bigger bloc’ to ‘You can’t compare us to small countries’. Apparently, we’re simultaneously too large and too small to prosper.

The Chief Minister of Guernsey is a hugely impressive man called Jonathan Le Tocq, one of the last islanders to have been brought up speaking the local Norman French dialect.

He studied in Paris and feels very European. But what he prizes above all is the sense of accountability intrinsic in the island’s parliamentary system.

‘People know that they’re in control,’ he told me. ‘If they don’t like a policy, they can get it changed’. Extraordinary, really, that such a thing should need saying.

Extraordinary, too, that Britain, which developed and exported the sublime idea that laws should not be passed, nor taxes raised, except by elected representatives, should now look enviously at its Crown possessions off the Normandy coast.

WHY Vote Leave by Daniel Hannan is published by Head of Zeus at £9.99. Offer price £7.99 (20 per cent discount) until April 20, 2016. Call 0844 571 0640 or visit P&P free on orders over £12. 

Our pessimism about our country’s ability is staggering

Please imagine that you are on a bus whose destination — a federalist United States of Europe — is clearly marked on the front.

Just in case any passengers have missed the point, the driver keeps calling out the stops ahead: common European taxation, a unified welfare system, an EU army. If you don’t want to go to any of those stops, let alone the final destination, what should you do?

Should you remain motionless in your seat as the bus purrs along its route? Or should you politely get off and wave it on its way?

Yes, it takes nerve to do so, and Remainers play on our anxiety about change. The EU might be remote, they say, it might be self-serving, frustrating and arrogant and expensive and wasteful and corrupt, but can we be sure that the alternative won’t be even worse?

The implicit pessimism here, the low opinion of Britain and her capabilities, is staggering.

Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the European Federation has compared Britain and the EU to Hong Kong and China
Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the European Federation has compared Britain and the EU to Hong Kong and China

Japan is not applying to join China. But people don’t hector the Japanese for being nostalgic Sinosceptics who simply can’t get over the loss of their empire.

Self-government is the normal condition for a modern democracy. What we need is the self-confidence to grasp it while we can.

Are we prepared to use our faculty for reason, rather than be swayed by instinctive risk aversion? Are we prepared to aim, calmly and reasonably, for an economics-based deal that would suit both sides better than the current rancour?

Because, if not, the alternative is too awful to contemplate.

What, then, of a vote to leave? Where will that take us?

I have a very clear vision of what it will be like in an independent Britain if we’re bold and determined. Just think ahead a few years.

It is 2020, and the UK is flourishing outside the EU. The rump EU, now a united bloc and known officially as the European Federation, continues its genteel decline, but Britain has become the most successful and competitive knowledge-based economy in the region.

Our universities attract the world’s brightest students.

We lead the way in software, biotech, law, finance and the audio-visual sector. We have forged a distinctive foreign policy, allied to Europe, but giving due weight to the U.S., India and other common law, Anglophone democracies.

More intangibly, but no less significantly, we have recovered our self-belief.

As Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the European Federation, crossly puts it: ‘In economic terms, Britain is Hong Kong to Europe’s China, Singapore to our Indonesia.’

We remain full members of the EU’s common market, covered by free movement of goods, services and capital, but we have also made a slew of free-trade agreements with the rest of the world, including the U.S., India and Australia.

Non-EU trade matters more than ever.

Since 2010, every region in the world has experienced significant economic growth, except Europe. The prosperity of distant continents has spilled over into Britain. Our Atlantic ports, above all Glasgow and Liverpool, are entering a second golden age.

London, too, is booming. Eurocrats never had much sympathy for financial services. As their regulations took effect in Frankfurt, Paris and Milan — a financial transactions tax, a ban on short selling, restrictions on clearing, a bonus cap, windfall levies, micro-regulation of funds — waves of young financiers brought their talents to the City instead.

Our farmers, freed from the Common Agricultural Policy, are world-beating.

Our fisheries are, once again, a great renewable resource. Breaking free from the EU’s rules on data management made Hoxton in East London the global capital for software design.

Scrapping EU rules on clinical trials has allowed Britain to recover its place as a world leader in medical research.

Universities no longer waste their time on Kafkaesque EU grant applications. Now, they compete on quality, attracting talent from every continent and charging accordingly.

Immigration is keenly debated. Every year, Parliament votes on how many permits to make available for students, medical workers and refugees.

Every would-be migrant can compete on an equal basis: the rules that privileged Europeans over Commonwealth citizens, often with family links to Britain, were dropped immediately after independence.

Brand power: Without the EU, the UK would still attract brand power across the world with Wimbledon to Manchester United, from the Duchess of Cambridge to Downton Abbey

Unsurprisingly, other European states have opted for a similar deal to ours, including Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey and Georgia.

The result is that the United Kingdom leads a 21-state bloc that forms a common market with the remaining members of the European Federation, but is outside its political structures.

Meanwhile, the 25 countries of the Federation have pushed ahead with full integration, including a European army and police force and harmonised taxes, prompting Ireland and the Netherlands to announce referendums on whether to follow Britain.

Best of all, we have cast off the pessimism that infected us during our EU years, the sense that we were too small to make a difference.

We are the fifth largest economy on Earth, the fourth military power, a leading member of the G7, a permanent seat-holder on the UN Security Council. We are home to the world’s greatest city and most widely spoken language.

Our brands, from Wimbledon to Manchester United, from the Duchess of Cambridge to Downton Abbey, are recognised around the world.

We used to think of ourselves — in the phrase once used by the veteran actress Emma Thompson as an argument for staying in — as a ‘tiny little island’. But not any more.

And, from our position of independence, we know we have plenty more to give.

This brave new world I have outlined here is within our grasp, if we bite the bullet and vote to leave the EU at the referendum in June.

Two futures beckon. Neither can be foreknown with total certainty. But there is one thing we know in our bones: a confident country does not fear to follow her own path. As the poet Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

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