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EU Referendum

We must vote Leave to create a Britain fit for the future

UK Parliament
The EU belongs to the past. We believe our future lies in global trade and an assertion of our democratic liberties. CREDIT: PA


Thursday’s referendum marks a pivotal moment in this country’s history – a moment of choosing between Brexit and continued membership of the European Union. The final days of the campaign have inevitably been subdued by the tragic murder of Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen; and there have been times in recent weeks when the level of debate has sunk well below the elevated level many had hoped for.

On balance, however, we believe the Leave campaign has articulated an ambitious vision for Britain as an independent nation, once again free to make its own decisions. Remain, by contrast, has resorted to grim pessimism. Without the EU, they imply, the UK would be diminished and a diplomatic pariah, scrabbling to put together trade agreements while our economy flounders.

George Osborne has threatened an emergency Budget to impose tax rises and spending cuts; unconscionable threats have been made to the elderly about the impact on their pensions; dire predictions have been made about the difficulties of renewing trade agreements; house prices would fall; the pound would crash.

It is hardly surprising, faced with such an unremitting tide of gloom, that voters are worried about the impact a vote to Leave would have on them and their families. But what is even more surprising is how many have ignored Project Fear. Some polls now put the Leave campaign on an equal footing with Remain, or even ahead.

Since a referendum campaign is a binary choice, the fact that Remain has lost ground is a clear sign that they have also been losing the argument. So why have they failed to champion the merits of EU membership? Because the case for staying is too weak to sell.

For something that was supposed to be beneficial to the British economy, membership has proved to be extremely expensive and increasingly detrimental to job creation.

An air of perpetual crisis grips an institution ostensibly established to bring peace, security and democracy to a continent ravaged by 20th-century wars. For something that was supposed to be beneficial to the British economy, membership has proved to be extremely expensive and increasingly detrimental to job creation. Leave aside the sums we pay directly into the Commission’s coffers, it has been estimated that the annual cost to UK businesses and the public sector of EU social policy is more than £9 billion.

Perhaps the biggest concern among those still unsure how to vote is the impact on trade. From the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England to the CBI and the IMF, we have been warned that our ability to trade will be impaired. But why should this be so? Many countries trade with the EU without being members of it.

David Cameron meets Jeremy Clarkson and James May during an EU Referendum related visit to W. Chump & Sons Ltd TV studio in west London, June 16, 2016.
David Cameron meets Jeremy Clarkson and James May during an EU Referendum related visit to W. Chump & Sons Ltd TV studio in west London, June 16, 2016. CREDIT:REUTERS

Moreover, the idea that we benefit from membership is belied by the fact that the UK is currently running the biggest trade deficit in its history with the Eurozone nations, and especially with Germany. The fact is, we do not need a trade deal in order to sell and buy goods; and the contention that we will spend the next 10 years in some sort of economic limbo while we negotiate a new relationship with our neighbours is simply risible.

Another problem with the EU has been its propensity to regulate and legislate. About 50 per cent of our laws and 70 per cent of our regulations originate in Brussels, according to most experts, which means that the EU’s regulatory powers far exceed those of the British government. There are more than 17,000 EU Acts in force in 20 areas of competence. If the regulatory burdens were lifted only marginally, businesses would be liberated to create thousands of new jobs.

About 50 per cent of our laws and 70 per cent of our regulations originate in Brussels, according to most experts, which means that the EU’s regulatory powers far exceed those of the British government.

Most problematic is how the EU has sought to turn itself increasingly into a single political entity, with its own currency, a central bank, no internal frontiers, a supreme court, a parliament, a civil service in the shape of the Commission, and an embryonic police and judicial system. We were always assured that the aggrandising ambitions of the EU were either a myth or would be contained; yet it now has all the trappings of a superstate, albeit that the UK has opted out of some of them.

The European dreamers want to go further. There will be moves after the referendum to forge closer economic and political integration in the Eurozone and to give the EU the ultimate symbol of statehood: an army.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on at the opening of the 2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2016) at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on at the opening of the 2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2016) at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre. CREDIT: TASS


This is a dangerous approach. In creating its own foreign policy and military forces the EU risks undermining the body that has actually kept the peace in Europe for 60 years, namely Nato. Furthermore, whenever the EU has sought to exert its diplomatic influence, as in the Balkans and, more recently, Ukraine, its meddling has been calamitous. The EU’s clumsy overtures to Ukraine, with the offer of an “association agreement”, gave President Putin added incentive to intervene militarily.

On immigration, too, decisions taken by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, last year precipitated a crisis that has only abated after promises were made to Turkey about future membership and vast sums were pledged to Ankara to stop the flow of refugees into Europe.

There is a world beyond Europe that the Remain camp simply ignores. A world that offers enormous opportunities for Britain to be a global player once more.

Even David Cameron and other leaders of Remain concede that the EU is a flawed project: hence that intense round of negotiations last February for a new relationship between the UK and the EU that, frankly, reaped nothing. Mr Cameron now holds out the prospect of further reforms without any evidence that they will ever be forthcoming. And if we vote to stay, why would they be?

Remain relies, therefore, on the fear of what Brexit might bring. Yet why should we fear it? Once we have left and are no longer subject to the free movement of labour, popular worries about immigration will become a matter for the British government and for Parliament. This does not mean there will be no immigration; quite the contrary. People will be welcome to come and work in the country and visitors and tourists will flock here as they always have.

But we will control our own borders; we will let in who we want to come and contribute to our economy. And if the country does not like the way the Government is conducting its immigration policy then it can turf it out. As things stand, there is nothing that can be done.

Leaving the EU does not mean leaving Europe. A vote for Brexit on Thursday will not change our geography. Just as our island story has been intertwined with that of the Continent, often with bloody and tragic consequences, it will continue to be so.

One of the principal ambitions behind the original Common Market was to forge a political system in Europe that would prevent a repeat of the dreadful world wars. Those conflicts involved dictatorships. Democracies do not go to war with each other; and there is no reason why an independent Britain cannot maintain alliances and harmonious relations with our neighbours. Indeed, it is essential that we do so.

But there is a world beyond Europe that the Remain camp simply ignores. A world that offers enormous opportunities for Britain to be a global player once more.

The case for Leaving is not negative and jingoistic. It is optimistic and hopeful. It is the case for a strong, independent and outward-looking Britain. Just as in 1973, when we joined the Common Market, we are at a crossroads in our history. The path we took then offered much but led us into a cul-de-sac, hemmed in by a sclerotic, hide-bound, rules-obsessed, inward‑looking institution.

The EU belongs to the past. On Thursday we hope the country chooses the future – and votes to leave.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/06/18/we-must-vote-leave-to-create-a-britain-fit-for-the-future/

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