I briefly visited the UK last month and met with Mannkal’s partner think tanks who are campaigning for Britain to “Brexit”, i.e. leave the EU. Most in the liberty movement hope that Britain finally breaks the shackles of this outdated 1960s-style customs union designed, to quote its supporters, to create “ever closer union” with the goal of eroding nation-states and creating a United States of Europe.
Britons voted in 1975 to join the European Economic Community (EEC) under the impression that they were joining a free trade zone. Since then, the EEC has evolved to the EU with Treaties, Constitutions, three Parliaments in Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg, countless Commissions and Councils, a flag, an anthem, four current Presidents of the EU (don’t ask me how this works), a Euro currency doomed from the outset, and deep and broad economic stagnation. One of the next projects is an EU Army. Much more than just a free trade area!
From every perspective, I see no good reason for Britain to remain in the EU. “Shared sovereignty” is no sovereignty at all, as British MPs in the European Parliament cannot vote laws in or out; legislation is the role of the EU commission, where it is debated in secret and enforced without recourse to voters. The EU is fundamentally anti-democratic. On law, the EU courts can overrule Britain’s Parliament and courts. This has infamously seen deportations of convicted foreign terrorists and murderers quashed on the grounds that they had a “human right to family life” in the UK, in one case, on the basis that the offender owned a cat. The free movement of people in the EU opens Britain to 500 million potential migrants. If Turkey joins the EU, which the EU is working towards, the entire Islamic world will have easy access to live and receive welfare in Europe.
On economics, there is no sense in Britain tying itself to the slowest-growing part of the world and paying a net contribution of over £9 billion per annum for that right. The only continent without a growing economy is Europe – even Antarctica has a higher growth rate (the research station gets new equipment and buildings from time to time – something is better than Europe’s nothing!) Even Iceland has negotiated a free trade agreement with China, but Britain hasn’t – it isn’t free to do so outside the EU, which has failed thus far. Regulations strangle industry, from the petty (bananas can’t be too bendy, bottled water can’t be said to help hydration) to the serious (forced closure of British gas power plants for EU targets). Common standards apply to all yet suit no-one. Britain’s fisheries are now plundered by foreign fleets that pay quota rights to the EU and the British are excluded from fishing!
Still on economics, protectionism in favour of ailing European firms has seen internal tariffs charged on British imports and exports, causing higher prices for consumers and the loss of valuable export markets – the story of just one British sugar firm losing €90m per year is told in this video. The City of London financial centre suffers constant attack from EU bureaucrats who would prefer Frankfurt or Paris. Some mistakenly claim that Britain’s trade with Europe will suffer if not within the EU – this ignores the fact that Britain buys more from the EU than the EU buys from Britain. The big German automakers have already put the German Chancellor on notice that they will not accept being prevented from selling Audis and BMWs to one of their biggest markets. You don’t need political union to trade – no-one suggests that Australia needs political union with Japan or China to sell our LNG or iron ore. And what sticks in the craw is the constant sneering from privileged European bureaucrats (11,000 of them earn more than the British Prime Minister – 11,000!) about “Anglo-Saxon values” and “Anglo-Saxon capitalism”. They don’t seem to mind taking the 9 billion “Anglo-Saxon” quid per year!
The EU works for highly-paid bureaucrats, for the political activists driving it (they’re on the gravy train too) and for failed politicians who, once kicked out by their voters, go to the EU (Barroso, Juncker, Schulz, Kinnock). It’s even better for rent-seekers who want special favours and subsidies – it is easier to ask an unaccountable EU bureaucrat for money from Europe-wide pooled funds than to ask a British MP for money from the very Britons who elect him. The more distant government is from the people, the better it is for the rent-seekers. No wonder the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have contributed over £1 million to the Remain campaign to stay in the EU.
When I lived in the UK as an EU (Irish) citizen and worked on industrial projects complicated and, in some cases, stopped entirely by changing EU regulations, I found it extraordinary how the British put up with the overbearing, expensive and anti-democratic EU that Australians, Americans and previous British generations– The Victorians and The Few of WWII come to mind – would no doubt reject outright. Indeed, those just a couple of generations ago who fought to save Europe from itself and the UK from Europe would be perplexed and saddened that many today fear Britain could not make it in the world without Europe. Better to be independent and excellent than in a large but unworkable collective that levels all members down to the lowest common denominator. Britain once led the world – without the EU. It can do it again.