Joined: 03 Jun 2005
|Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 3:34 pm Post subject: WE SHOULD BE WITH EUROPE, NOT OF IT, WINSTON CHURCHILL
|We should be with Europe, but not of it... linked but not combined. We have our own dream, our own task
By Gwyn Prins
Last updated at 3:50 PM on 16th October 2011
Vision: Churchill wanted us to be 'interested' in Europe but not absorbed
That was Winston Churchill's view in 1946. Now, as a historic Commons vote on Europe approaches, a leading historian says the time is right for a new deal
Every week, it seems, the eurozone leaders come up with another plan to solve their intractable sovereign debt crisis and every week, the markets have another heart attack.
The latest rescue attempt – a €440 billion (£385 billion) bailout fund – falls far short of the estimated €2 trillion (£1.75 trillion) of credible, not leveraged, money needed to stop contagion spreading from Greece to Spain and Italy.
Confidence that the fund will work is not high. But there is not – yet – political appetite for the only device that might save the day: a split into ‘hard’ EuroNord, with Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria, and a ‘soft’ EuroSud of the rest.
Europe’s leaders insist that there is no alternative to the EU as it is today. By doing so they risk making the coming crash even more explosive. There are no painless outcomes. The vital imperative is to find solutions that will avoid civil unrest in the South on a far greater scale than yet seen in Greece, or harsher nationalism in the North, outcomes that seem inevitable without a change of direction.
Surely the time is right to look analytically at Britain’s options? Should we walk away from the EU, as some of the more vocal Eurosceptics demand? Or – as the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary insist – is our economy so entwined with Europe’s that leaving would be economic suicide?
For Britain, the cost/benefit calculations are changing fast. Staying in the EU may give us the lazy bribe of the odd billion from EU subsidy to disadvantaged areas – £8.24billion of the EU total of £270billion between 2007 and 2013 – and a few more to landowners under the CAP.
More...World finance leaders pledge to tackle debt crisis before it engulfs Europe
But that is to be set against the £7.3billion net that we will hand over to the EU next year alone, following Tony Blair’s deal under which he gave up a large chunk of the UK rebate in return for nothing. Factor in the £12.32billion that the British taxpayer has spent so far on the efforts to save the euro and EU membership starts to look a lot more expensive.
That figure is made up of the £5.9billion deal that Chancellor Alistair Darling signed after Labour lost the last Election and which the Coalition failed to repudiate, £3.09billion via the IMF and £3.33billion in Mr Osborne’s ‘fraternal’ loan to the Irish.
Heavy price: Former Chancellor Alistair Darling (left) and his successor, George Osborne have signed off millions of pounds to the EU
EU membership also brings hidden costs as a result of Brussels meddling in almost every area of our national life – from the perversion of ‘human rights’ regulation, from energy bills inflated by EU ‘green regulations’, from subversion of the Common Law, to the tentacles of petty regulation that irritate people in daily life.
Today Brussels is trying to circumvent Britain’s veto to impose its Financial Transaction Tax on the City of London. It would be a disaster. At the moment, the City accounts for 70 per cent of financial services business in the EU area and about ten per cent of the UK’s economic output – £124billion compared with £140billion for all manufacturing in 2009, to give a sense of its importance.
Eurocrats like a tax to make bankers and Brits pay. But it would simply drive away business to less oppressive tax regimes in the U.S., Switzerland or Hong Kong. Eurocrats like a tax to make bankers and Brits pay. But it would simply drive away business to less oppressive tax regimes in the U.S., Switzerland or Hong Kong.
So should we walk away? We have some advantages. We are still a globally engaged economy, powerful especially in ideas, design, creative forces, shipping and finance. The City of London is a global force. Culturally, we look to the Anglosphere and former empire, not to the Continent, as patterns of outward migration, telephone calls and email traffic reveal.
Old patterns persist. Ireland does more trade with us than with the rest of the EU together – 21 per cent of its total. The British Embassy in Washington says the UK and U.S. remain each other’s single largest investor. Our instincts and core values are shared.
The figures also show 62 per cent of Brits speak no foreign language – the second-lowest figure in the EU after Ireland. Labour mobility remains small. A total of 800,000 Brits work on the Continent and 1,334,000 EU nationals work here. So we have weak structural and still less cultural attachment to the continental economies – and a strong basis on which to rebuild our power as a global entrepreneur.
Another positive is the major recent discovery of shale gas in Britain, which promises an unexpected second chance for affordable clean energy independence – without ugly, massively subsidised and unreliable windmills.
Unaccountable: Faceless bureaucrats at the European Commission in Brussels want to make Britain pay
But Cameron and Co are not entirely wrong. Being inside the tariff walls of the EU has distorted our economy. Currently 54 per cent of our export trade is within the EU – we have a substantial trade deficit (£43.5billion) with our EU partners. Membership also means we do far less trade with the rest of the world because of their tariff walls.
Also, much of our inward investment in manufacturing – in the car industry or consumer electronics, for example – comes to us as a ‘jump-off’ into the EU market. So we might lose the Japanese, the Indians and others if we withdrew from the EU.
The economic data points to a third solution that might please neither the ‘In’ nor the ‘Out’ camps but that is gaining support fast. Britain should stay inside the customs union – thus having access to the European single market – while being outside the political union. Membership of the European customs union is the only aspect of the EU project of ‘ever closer union’ to which the British people have ever freely assented. And the political reality is that if we wanted to construct a relationship to the EU more like that of Norway and Switzerland, two of Europe’s most prosperous nations, there is little the chronically weakened ‘more Europe’ crew could do to stop us.
The big issue is how to pull this off. It is not hard. Just brave. The eurozone now needs our agreement to solve its current crisis. So let us give it, but only at our price. Our price is to regain the right of our sovereign Parliament to assent or dissent from any and all EU regulation or law, past, present or future. Just that. Simple and safe.
No Parliament has power to bind its successors. So as the eurozone considers a new treaty without asking us, we need to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and replace it with a very simple one that reaffirms our membership of the customs union and also reaffirms the sovereign power of Parliament in all other areas of our national life.
This would enable us to become friends with our European trading partners again. Because, as Churchill famously and correctly said: ‘We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed.’
It has been Britain’s role to rescue Europe from its self-made disasters three times in 200 years. It is now our duty to save ourselves with this quiet but firm realignment so that once more we can give a clear British lead for our staunch friends like the Dutch and Scandinavians, as dark fires again flare up across the Channel. The rolling, terminal crisis of the ‘closer union’ project is England’s hour
What an excellent article, it deals with all the problems we have with the EU and in conclusion has a solution which would work and help us and European countries back to prosperity. Of course it will not happen with the current parliament and a government led by a man who nobody can trust. The only party that will carry out the course of action described above is The Imperial Party, we the people must demand that the current parliament is dissolved and a new election called. If we do not achieve this I can see this country going the same way as Greece and others. We do not normally have violent demonstrations here but wh3n injustice becomes law resistance becomes your duty.