November 22, 2006

Reasons to leave the EU

Via The Serf I find Sinclair's Musings has a well argued peice on reasons for not leaving the EU. Personally I don't find it convincing and will try to answer his points here.

First, the descriptions of vast amounts that the EU costs us are based upon it hurting free trade.
No there is also the cost of the red tape spewed out from Brussels. Even the Commission estimates this to be a far greater drag on the economy than any trade benefits of being in the EU could make up for, but onwards.

This relies first on the EU, which would be our largest trading partner by some margin, not putting tariffs against us because it wouldn't be in their interests (as they sell more to us than we sell to them) but a eurosceptic arguing on the basis of the European Union's strict rationality and an enlightened French trade policy cannot be convincing.
This does not matter for three reasons.

1. There are maximum tariff levels set by the WTO that the EU is unlikely to break.
2. As Ken said in the comments:
80% of our trade is internal, 11% is with non-EU nations, and only 9% is with the EU.
3. Most importantly it is imports that make you wealthy, not exports. As to be wealthy is to have the stuff that you want, imports. Exports are simply what you pay to get it. So long as we stick to our guns as free traders their tariffs would not matter much. The EU's subsidies would in fact finally be to our advantage once we are outside it. As it would finally be the rest of the EU subsidising us for what we want rather than the other way around as has been the case ever since we joined.

Second, it relies on predictions that we could secure a more liberal trade policy from the United States as they really love us as good little War on Terror buddies. Anyone who knows much about American political history or culture can tell you they're unreliable free traders at best. Look at the Joint Strike Fighter Project where they are holding up the release of basic information to us.
Again there are several reasons why these worries are not convincing arguments as the the EU being a good thing.

1. The US did offer us a free trade agreement in 2003 that we had to turn down because we where in the EU and therefore not allowed to make any trade deals ourselves.
2. The US has been reluctant to give us access to the software of the Joint Strike Fighter (or Lightning II as it is now known) because we are in the EU and can therefore offer no assurances that the information will not find it's way into France and thence China.
3. Why just America? Why not aim at China? Or Brazil? Or India? Or in fact the whole of the world? Outside the EU we can trade freely with everybody, inside only other members of the EU. And remember it does not have to reciprical to get the benefits (though reciprical is better) as it is imports that make us rich.

Finally, it relies on the idea that we would be unilateral free traders; this sounds credible initially but we are a fallible political culture like every other and if, for example, farmers started to commit suicide under the pressure of losing the CAP are the euronihilists really confident a tariff couldn't pass?
Yes it is perfectly possible that some stupid politicians may decide to screw everybody over to protect some electorally sensitive industry. But that happens now in the EU, it happens alot, and we have absolutely no ability to stop it as we would where we outside the EU and it a British policy. It is also very rarely British industries that recieve this protection so we end up with all of the negitive effects and none of the positives.

The second argument that the euronihilists rely upon and which does not stand up to scrutiny is that the EU cannot be reformed. "We've been trying for decades" is usually the response to anyone claiming the EU can be improved. The problem is that things have changed and our past record of failure might not imply failure in the future.
It is however a very good indicator. Especially as there is no indication that the reforms that the EU needs, decentralisation and taking the concept of subsidiarity seriously, are ever going to happen as the EU continues in presisely the oppersite direction now looking to take over matters of criminal justice. Centralisation is too deep in it's institutional DNA, you are about as likely to get a properly reformed EU as a barking cat.

The rejection of the constitution before it even came to us is an early sign that the integration train has been derailed.
Perhaps integration should have been derailed when Ireland rejected the Nice Treaty, but is wasn't. They where simply told to vote again until the correct answer was given. Or when Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty, and where told to vote again until the correct answer was given. Especially as despite being rejected the constitution is being implemented anyway, completely ignoring the 'no' votes in France and Holland.

Finally, the euronihilist case relies upon the argument that nothing significant and positive has been achieved by the EU. Enlargement is, again, the reason this argument does not hold. Just as the Marshall Plan created economic incentives to a liberal economic development and softened the blow of adopting such a system the European Union did the same for creating relatively stable political societies and would appear to have played an important role in the remarkable success story of Eastern Europe over the last decade and a half. This is a remarkable, significant and positive achievement of the European Union.
Except for the riots caused by the EU forcing Eastern European politicians to tell lies morning noon and night. The current sucsess of Eastern Europe has much more to do with their adoption of Laisse-faire economics inspired by America, the country that freed them by breaking the Soviet Empire. This is exactly the type of economic policy that the EU rejects.

There is however somethings that we can agree on:
The CAP is truly disgusting, there is massive corruption and a growing burden of regulation
So I would urge anybody that hasn't already signed to join the petition for a referendum on our membership of the EU.


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