There is an alternative
Unlike politicians, ordinary people have never been keen on the European project. In a 1997 poll, the first descriptions that came to mind were ‘bureaucratic’ or ‘interfering’, but only a minority favoured withdrawal.(Survey for the Foreign Office carried out by Philip Gould, December 1997).
A sea change of opinion has been taking place. A 2001 poll recorded that of those expressing a view, 52% wanted independence, versus 48% (42%-39% with 19% "don’t knows"; shifting to 47%-34% "if free trade could be assured").(MORI poll for British Democracy Campaign, early 2001)
So what if Britain decided to make a clean break with the EU? We wouldn't be the first - Greenland left in 1985 without any ill-feeling.
We would just need to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act (and 5 later amendments). Many believe - with solid evidence - that joining the EEC was against the constitution, and so could simply be declared invalid.(See specialist webpage)
Let's take Britain's international trade as a whole (visibles plus invisibles). Over 50% is with the rest of the world outside the EU, and it's profitable. (e.g.1997 figures were roughly 50:50 but the EU figure was swelled artificially by goods registered as going to the ports of Antwerp & Rotterdam; these goods were in fact in transit to other destinations). (Eurofacts supplement, November 1998. About 4% of trade can be attributed to being "in the Single Market". 7% of goods recorded as going to the EU are in transit to other locations. Nicknamed loosely "the Rotterdam effect".)
Much of our trade with the EU is simply due to geographical closeness - in previous centuries over 70% was with our neighbours. Over 85% of our economy is trade within the UK or with non-EU countries.(Lord Pearson recently quoted Global Britain Briefing Note 22, December 2002, that 9% of our economy (GDP) is exported within the EU, 11% is exported to non-EU countries, 80% remains within the UK).
If we left the EU, we would be protected by WTO (World Trade Organisation, 'GATT') agreements, which have been bringing trade barriers down for over forty years. (The beef ban showed how little protection EU membership gave).
Where trade tariffs have not been abolished, import duties are typically around 2-3% - studies have found that even 5% does not affect trade.(Viscount D'Avignon studied trade patterns for the European Commission - see 1992, Europe Relaunched, auth:Colchester & Buchan. Note also that far from being 'committed' to free markets, the EU banned the UK from producing more than 85% of its milk needs, therefore creating the need to import. Daily Mail, 26.11.94 & European Parliament News, 24.10.94)
ATTRACTIVE TO INVESTORS
A Department of Trade & Industry Report listed twelve factors as to why we were the favourite target in Europe for foreign investment. Membership of the EU was not considered worth a mention.
Outside the EU, we would benefit from assets such as the English language, the City of London, advanced telecommunications, a skilled workforce, our favourable time zone at 'the heart of the world economy', relatively light regulation and honest institutions. (1994)
Switzerland has prospered without ever being in the EU. Like her, or Israel or Mexico (which are not in the EU), we could negotiate a free-trade agreement with the EU. The cash-strapped continental economies would not cut off one of their largest markets, especially as they have a trade surplus with us.(NB also, article 73c of the Maastricht treaty committed to "free movement of capital between Member States and third countries to the greatest extent possible")
Far from being "too small to survive", we recently overtook France to become the world’s fourth largest economy. No-one tells the Canadians to become the 51st state of the USA as their economy is "too small".
As a free nation, Britain would have a lot more influence than if it were straight-jacketed by treaties. For instance we would no longer be bound not to oppose the foreign policy 'Europe' wants if it's not suitable for us.(NB see article 11.2 of the Amsterdam treaty)
Britain is a member of NATO, the Commonwealth, the WTO and G8 - that's hardly isolation? We are also permanent members of the UN Security Council.
AT THE HEART OF 'THE WORLD'
Then there's centuries of world trading links, not least with the City of London. And the English language and historic institutions give us valuable scientific, educational and cultural links.
Our defences are secured by what are accepted to be the best fighting forces in the world. They are bolstered by NATO which keeps the British Government in charge of its own decisions. And as a final resort, we have an independent nuclear deterrent.(NB see article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, 1949)
Freed from the shackles of Europe, a sovereign Parliament can make laws for the benefit of the British people not Brussels.
We could have the standards of animal welfare we want and ban chemical testing on animals. We could repeal any costly or cumbersome EU legislation.
At the very least we would regain our ability to vote out unpopular lawmakers.
Don't forget we governed our own affairs for centuries before we joined the EEC.
FREE TO CO-OPERATE
We could co-operate with the rest of the world - but from a position of strength. (Oddly, current EU agreements only favour co-operation between governments in some areas as a last resort, and even then it has to be under the interfering eyes of the European Commission).(NB see articles 11, 43-45 of the Amsterdam treaty)
Under rules brought in by the Maastricht Treaty, Britain is committed to run its economy for the benefit of the EU as a whole - and not the British people. We have no power to veto punitive and costly 'Single Market' legislation.(NB see articles 98, 99 of the Amsterdam treaty)
We are bound not to do anything that jeopardizes the objectives of the EU treaties – which include economic & monetary union (EMU) in fact, legally the British government is committed to the eventual goal of a single currency and the abolition of the Pound. As our opt-out is only temporary, the European Commission laughingly refers to us as a "pre-in". It is only by leaving the EU that we stand to keep our currency and regain the ability to choose an economic policy that is best for our people.(NB see articles 2, 3, 4, 10 of the Amsterdam treaty. Commission quote: The Independent, 2.4.96)
In the Balance: 30 years of EU membership examined
The Unwanted Euro - Tip of the Iceberg
"A Country Called Europe"
30:30 Vision: articles index
For a wider subject index