Großbritannien und EU

21.6.2016 | Von:
Harry Aldridge

We can still be friends

The EU was a 1950s solution to a 1950s problem, says Harry Aldridge. Britain should leave this unhappy marriage and lead the way into a looser, more lightweight and more democratic Europe.

The EU is an outdated construct, says Harry Aldridge.The EU is an outdated construct, says Harry Aldridge. (© flickr/Derek Bridges)

The EU is an outdated construct, says Harry Aldridge.Britain’s Euroscepticism, I believe, derives from our view of the EU as primarily a common market centred around free trade and, therefore, good for business and good for prosperity. Never in public debate do politicians speak of a "European Project" as politicians do in other countries. It is a balance sheet of advantages. British public opinion has never been behind projects like the Euro, which is seen as an unacceptable loss of sovereignty, and primarily political.

I have supported Brexit since I became politically aware as a teenager some 15 years ago, primarily for reasons of sovereignty and democracy: I simply believe that power should be closer to the people, that national parliaments and politicians are more accountable and that international cooperation is better than supra-national nation building. However, the economics’ argument for remaining in the EU has, in my view, diminished dramatically too.

In the 1970s, tariffs were high and international trade small compared to today. For a stagnant British economy, the prospect of a tariff-free common market with relatively wealthy neighbouring countries was tantalising. The advantages of common rules and regulations to facilitate trade and boost business was widely seen as desirable.

Today, over a third of EU laws are technical standards, yet these common standards are now decided at a global level. For example, many of the EU’s food standards are created by Codex Alimentarius which sits under the FAO and the World Health Organisation banner and the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, which sets vehicle standards, sits under the United Nations Economic Commission Europe. The EU has been superseded by global internationalism.

Remain supporters warn of risks to trade from being unable to secure a free trade deal with the EU and hence facing the Common External Tariff. However, the tariff has fallen significantly in recent years and the UK would face a trade-weighted tariff of just 3 per cent at worst for most products. Even so, Britain’s share of trade with the EU has fallen by 16.4 percent since 1999 as world markets thrive, while the EU’s share of global GDP shrinks each year.

Outside the common tariff some goods may also be cheaper: according to Patrick Minford, Professor of Applied Economics at Cardiff University, the cost of electrical machinery is 24 per cent, cars 22 per cent and furniture 54 per cent above average world prices. Moreover, the common tariff impoverishes developing countries, preventing them moving up the value chain by favouring raw materials and penalising processed goods. Not in my name, thank you!

We are told that trade deals secured as a bloc are better than Britain could secure alone. However, taking TTIP as an example: at the insistence of France, audio-visual services were excluded from negotiations and yet the UK has a thriving audio-visual sector. The difficulty of satisfying 28 vested interests slows negotiations and results in skewed deals that may not be better for Britain.

Fundamentally, the EU was a 1950s solution to a 1950s problem, and has been superseded. I run an export business, shipping goods all over the world. I contract software developers in the Far East and employ marketing specialists in the USA. Never before has trade been so easy nor did proximity matter less.

I hope Britain will lead the way into a looser, more lightweight and more democratic Europe of independent nations trading freely and cooperating on a case by case basis. Let us recognise that we want different things from this relationship, leave an unhappy marriage and once again be good friends.

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