To Be, or Not to Be (in the EU)? That is the question
At last we have a definitive timeline to determine our future. Do we want to be ruled by a Germanic invasion of Europe for the third attempt in a hundred years, or do we rely on our historic past and save Europe from a model that was broke the day the Euro was introduced?
Having not yet analysed in full the proposed deal agreed by David Cameron last week, I can only comment on what he says he has achieved, having twice listened to his claims. The first alarm bell was the excessive use of Aristotle pathos during the Andrew Marr interview Sunday morning. Invariably a sign of a weak argument.
Let us quickly deal with benefits as this is only window dressing at just £30m or thereabouts per year. The UK net membership contribution is some five times this amount per week – some £2 per head of every man, woman and child in the UK. And what about the money sent to support families in places such as Africa, India and Pakistan every year. Add to this people from places such as Switzerland who come here to retire to take advantage of our NHS, our subsidised travel costs for pensioners, and our substantially lower cost of living – what have they contributed to our country? I would argue that child credits should be paid to every worker at the same level assuming they are paying UK taxes. The fact that their children are in another country should be seen as a saving as they receive their education and healthcare outside of our system. If these children lived in the UK then they would not only receive child credit but also incur costs for education and healthcare. This would amount to considerably more Government support than £21 per week. People who come here only to sponge on our benefits system, or even our NHS, should most certainly be refused entry.
His scaremongering essentially revolves around trade and defence. I found it bizarre that he puts our membership of the EU on the same context as our membership to the UN, NATO, G7, etc. This is comparing apples and bananas. We sit at the top table at the UN, NATO, G7, etc whereas we are a secondary player in the EU, tolerated primarily because of our historic influence in the world, and our substantial contribution in membership fees (without which the EU is likely to collapse). Last week the German Foreign Minister, speaking on Radio 4, clearly stated that the UK leaving will substantially reduce the influence of the EU in the world. He recognised that the UK is a primary driver in global influence of the EU, and we would most certainly retain our influence. We are the fifth largest economy in the world, and we benefit from an historic trans-global approach to the world. I find the EU extremely introspective. Ask someone in China where is Brussels, and then where is London – the easiest example to support my argument.
As for trade, we constantly hear from politicians wishing to stay within the EU that the EU is our largest trading partner, and indeed some claim that the EU is the largest trading bloc in the world. Rubbish and rubbish. We import some £300 billion per annum in goods and services from the EU – about two months worth of our overall trade. We sell considerably less to the EU. Our largest investment market is the USA, and we would be far better served in exports by nurturing our Commonwealth nations who constitute some 1.85 billion people as against some 340 million people in the EU. Politicians in the EU would impose trade barriers against the UK at their peril – of their own corporate leaders. Ask the USA, whose corporates are still trying to recover from the ill-considered trade barriers set by the USA in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Our finance sector is another scaremonger tactic. I found the statement, purportedly from HSBC, that should the UK leave the EU then they will have to establish investment banking activities in Paris as ludicrous as moving their headquarters back to Hong Kong. They might decide, as is normal practice in banking, to establish themselves within a market – but Paris? I also do not expect Deutschebank to reduce its presence in the City of London any time soon as the EU will need the capital raising capability of the City.
What Cameron did not achieve is any real movement in our sovereignty, as it is referred to, and the primary reason declared for Boris Johnson electing for the out of Europe campaign. Our legal system is considered as one of the best in the world, especially for trade and finance – and thus the dominance of the City of London. Its strength is that it grew with the market, and continues to rapidly evolve as is required to meet new challenges – and it is trusted. The continuing imposition of EU law can only impede our ability to retain this dominant position, and thus the dominance of the City – as has been attempted twice during my life as a banker. Germany has never been trans-global in its finance policy, and is invariably behind the curve on matters economic. For example, they dithered for some 3 years about quantitative easing meaning everyone within the Euro suffered.
The only applause to Cameron is for forcing the EU to agree a new deal in time for the referendum to occur whilst Angela Merkel is still in her final weeks of office. Politically well played – that is until Merkel’s response to the refugee crisis went sour. Had Merkel not lost her support within Germany she would have done whatever necessary to avoid the EU collapsing on her watch. There are now whispers that two other net contributor countries are considering following our lead out of the EU. Will the unelected grey suits in Brussels get the message? Today my vote is for Rule Britannia.
More to follow as the detail evolves.