Against everyone’s advice

Posted by European Movement on 15/01/13

(first published in the European Council on Foreign Relations blog)

The closer europhobes think Britain is getting to an EU exit the bigger the body of evidence and the number of people advising against it becomes.

You cannot blame them for feeling the ground disappearing under their feet. For far too long they claimed that the belief that Britain must remain firmly committed to its membership of the EU was limited among eurofanatics/eurofederalists/traitors (delete as appropriate).

But the debate is shifting rapidly and Europhobes are running out of arguments fast. Central to their discourse has been the argument that membership of the EU harms British business. But all of the sudden business is stepping forward en mass to argue that Britain’s future and commercial interests lay within the European Union.

Lord Carr, the President of the CBI, recently said “Europe is the bedrock of our international trade. It should be viewed as the launch-pad from which our global trade can expand not the landmass from which we retreat. And if we are to avoid an exit vote in any referendum it is essential that the voice of British business is loud and clear in extolling the virtues of future engagement not as a reluctant participant but as the lynchpin of our wider global trade ambitions.

He is not the only one feeling that way. Richard Branson expressed a similar sentiment in his new year’s blog. He said “The UK must not become a peripheral country on the edge of Europe. This will be damaging to long-term prospects of British business and also in the country’s ability to attract new international companies to set up and employ people in the country.”

The financial services industry, through TheCityUK, the City’s lobby group, has also been making some powerful pro-membership statements. Their Chairman said in a speech late last year “It is really poppycock to believe that the City can survive in its present form if it is not an integral part of the European financial services framework.” He added, “We know that London benefits from attracting firms that want easy access to the Single Market. Those firms arrive here and create jobs across the UK as their operations develop.”

They all came together and were joined by many others to sign a letter to the Financial Times arguing in favour of continuing and complete membership of the EU and against attempts to re-negotiate a minimalistic, and as a result ineffectual, relationship with our European partners.

But that is not the only shift under the ground of Europhobes’ thesis against EU membership. They have been arguing that Britain does not need the EU because it has the “special relationship” to fall back to. But it looks like that the special relationship will not be that “special” if Britain was to leave the EU. Before Christmas it was leaked by the White House that, in a conversation with David Cameron, US President Barack Obama raised the issue of Britain’s membership of the EU. It was reported that the White House is baffled by notions entertained by some Europhobes that the “special relationship” would be strengthened if Britain was to leave the EU. Their argument being that Britain has more gravitas, and as a result is a more valuable ally to the US, as a full member of the EU. Such statements were coupled by a rare public intervention from a senior US official. Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary for European affairs in the State Department, said while on a trip to London, “We have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU. That is in America’s interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it.” An unambiguous indication of US beliefs that Britain is of little use to them as a small island adrift in the middle of the Atlantic.

These voices from the business community and across Atlantic are coming to join Britain’s European partners who for a while now have been advising against tendencies of isolationism and nebulous concepts of renegotiating the UK’s membership of the EU. Ireland, one of Britain’s closest allies, recently took over the Presidency of the EU Council and its Prime Minister, Mr Enda Kenny, was quick to stress that he does not expect the re-opening of EU Treaties just to suit a certain Member State. He was joined by his Deputy Prime Minister who argued that “27 or 28 different categories of membership won’t work” and that terms of membership have to be the same for all EU member states. They are not the only ones who think so. Mr Radek Sikorski, the Prime Minister of Poland, one of the most successful EU Member States and a long standing UK ally, highlighted the benefits of EU membership and warned in a speech delivered in Oxford that the UK should not expect to be successful if it tried to negotiate a special kind of EU membership for itself. He went even further to outline that the UK would lose massively if it was to leave the EU altogether. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s influential Finance Minister, was even more explicit in his warning. He said that even though he wanted Britain to remain in the EU, it should not think that it will be able to blackmail its partners in an effort to change EU Treaties and abandon its membership commitments.

So Europhobes are finding themselves deprived of one more argument, that we can take advantage of the process of EU reform by threatening our way towards a new settlement, one where Britain can reap all the benefits of EU membership but opt-out of all its responsibilities. An ill-advised and clearly not available strategy.

So Europhobes cling on to the one thing they have left. They quote opinion polls that seem to show that a majority of the British people would like the UK to leave the EU. Not surprisingly, after decades of anti-EU bias in the political discourse and across the tabloid press, the British people have only had the opportunity to listen the euromyth-infused anti-EU arguments. As a result their attitude towards EU membership is one-dimensional. But with more and more voices speaking out and explaining the benefits of EU membership and the dangers of an EU exit, public opinion will finally be objectively informed about what it really means to be a member of the EU.

The tide is shifting and with it will public attitudes towards the EU. There is a silent majority in Britain, eurosceptic because it never heard the other side of the argument, which is keen to finally listen to and be part of an honest, fact-based, holistic conversation on Britain’s membership of the EU. The facts are on the side of the pro-membership camp and so is business, trade unions, academia and Britain’s European and global partners. It is about time Europhobes listen to everyone’s advice and accept that a strong, confident Britain belongs in and stands to benefit from a strong, confident EU.

Petros Fassoulas, Chairman of the European Movement UK

 

2 Responses to Against everyone’s advice »»

  1. Comment by Iwantout | 2013/02/14 at 00:08:50

    It is laughable to suggest that the ‘europhobes’ are running out of arguments. Please let me help you in that regard.

    You quote Lord Carr of the CBI, here is what John Cridland the Director General of the CBI said immediately after Cameron’s speech (23/01/13) “The EU single market is fundamental to Britain’s future economic success, but the closer union of the eurozone is not for us.” So no hope at all there for the UK joining further integration. It is instructive that you did not mention the British Chamber of Commerce report (July 2012) showing 9% of their members want closer integration, 12% want to leave the EU entirely and 47% want a much looser engagement. There is simply not a single business view of EU membership. But there is a clear statement from the most pro EU business organisation (CBI) that the UK can go absolutely no further than it has already travelled. Do you want matters to stay permanently as they are now?

    TheCityUK estimate UK Government tax revenue from finance at £61bn. They say £35 – £41bn of this revenue would be unable to leave the UK, £17 – 22bn could but would find it difficult, £3bn would find leaving easy and would be likely to leave quickly. (Please remember it is estimated the CAP alone costs the UK and it’s consumers £10bn per annum) Undoubtedly the City would rather stay in the EU but either way the EU is currently extremely hostile to this industry and in or out the UK will not be able to change this after the new QMV voting weights agreed in the Lisbon Treaty come into force in 2014. (EZ countries will have a permanent majority in any QMV matter from that date.)

    With regards to the US, as you say Mr Gordon said that it is in the interest of the US to have a strong UK in a strong EU, nowhere does he mention it being in the interest of wither the UK or the EU. So for instance the US wants Turkey to remain westward looking. The Turks want to join the EU. The only major country supporting this is the UK. Thus it is in the interest of the US to have the UK in the EU campaigning for Turkey, is it in the interests of the EU ? The ‘Special Relationship’, if it exists at all, is purely a defence / intelligence matter. Given that the UK is one of only two military powers worth the name in the EU and given our similar World views the UK and the US are likely to continue to cooperate regardless of membership or otherwise of the EU.

    We have all heard the call about the benefits of EU membership for the UK. Please could you be a little more specific,

    • Is that the very significant amounts of money we are allowed to donate each year to the EU?
    • The significant trade deficit we run with the EU whilst running a surplus with the rest of the World?
    • Membership of the single market which contributes (by UK Govt estimates 2011) 0.2 – 0.3% of our GDP? (Not allowing for the costs see below) Let’s not forget that the completion of the single market into services (the centre of the UK economy) is frustrated by France and Germany amongst others.
    • The 6% admin costs on the £4bn of our own money that was returned to us in 2011 in regional funds etc?
    • The cost of the working time directive of £9.2 – 11.9bn pa (Open Europe 2009)?
    • The £2.8bn cost of the Pregnant Workers Directive ? (EP FEMM committee impact assessment)
    • Cost of EU over regulation to UK – 6% GDP ? (Treasury Study, author Gordon Brown)

    And so it goes on, so many many benefits.

    Of course if we agreed a trade deal with the EU similar to the one signed in July 2011 with Korea then both sides would be happy. We could trade and you could go and build your political project regardless of the fact that there does not seem to be any popular mandate for it.

    You talk about the anti EU press, May I draw your attention then to the fact that two independent reports (one by the MORI polling organisation) into alleged pro EU bias within the BBC discovered what they termed ‘cultural and unintentional bias’. The attached link (apologies about the length) may be of interest to you. http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust… This is the BBC that is arguably the biggest player in terms of broadcast / internet media in the UK and therefore very influential. Also I suspect that the Guardian, Independent, Observer and many periodicals will be surprised to hear that they are not putting out a pro EU message.

    Those voices speaking out for the EU, would that be Ken Clarke, Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair, Nick Clegg, Michael Heseltine, Paddy Ashdown etc, people who told us that if we didn’t join the euro we would be doomed ? Please consider the weight that these people carry in the public view given their track record.

    Finally just consider one question from me, have you ever seen any evidence, anywhere, ever indicating that the UK electorate want to be part of a political entity with one currency, a centrally determined fiscal policy, a common legal system, one foreign policy, standard social policy etc ? No me neither, so when and if it comes to a vote that is what you have to sell. Although I suspect in the finest traditions of the EU a vote is the very last thing you want.

  2. Comment by Iwantout | 2013/02/14 at 00:09:20

    It is laughable to suggest that the ‘europhobes’ are running out of arguments. Please let me help you in that regard.

    You quote Lord Carr of the CBI, here is what John Cridland the Director General of the CBI said immediately after Cameron’s speech (23/01/13) “The EU single market is fundamental to Britain’s future economic success, but the closer union of the eurozone is not for us.” So no hope at all there for the UK joining further integration. It is instructive that you did not mention the British Chamber of Commerce report (July 2012) showing 9% of their members want closer integration, 12% want to leave the EU entirely and 47% want a much looser engagement. There is simply not a single business view of EU membership. But there is a clear statement from the most pro EU business organisation (CBI) that the UK can go absolutely no further than it has already travelled. Do you want matters to stay permanently as they are now?

    TheCityUK estimate UK Government tax revenue from finance at £61bn. They say £35 – £41bn of this revenue would be unable to leave the UK, £17 – 22bn could but would find it difficult, £3bn would find leaving easy and would be likely to leave quickly. (Please remember it is estimated the CAP alone costs the UK and it’s consumers £10bn per annum) Undoubtedly the City would rather stay in the EU but either way the EU is currently extremely hostile to this industry and in or out the UK will not be able to change this after the new QMV voting weights agreed in the Lisbon Treaty come into force in 2014. (EZ countries will have a permanent majority in any QMV matter from that date.)

    With regards to the US, as you say Mr Gordon said that it is in the interest of the US to have a strong UK in a strong EU, nowhere does he mention it being in the interest of wither the UK or the EU. So for instance the US wants Turkey to remain westward looking. The Turks want to join the EU. The only major country supporting this is the UK. Thus it is in the interest of the US to have the UK in the EU campaigning for Turkey, is it in the interests of the EU ? The ‘Special Relationship’, if it exists at all, is purely a defence / intelligence matter. Given that the UK is one of only two military powers worth the name in the EU and given our similar World views the UK and the US are likely to continue to cooperate regardless of membership or otherwise of the EU.

    We have all heard the call about the benefits of EU membership for the UK. Please could you be a little more specific,

    • Is that the very significant amounts of money we are allowed to donate each year to the EU?
    • The significant trade deficit we run with the EU whilst running a surplus with the rest of the World?
    • Membership of the single market which contributes (by UK Govt estimates 2011) 0.2 – 0.3% of our GDP? (Not allowing for the costs see below) Let’s not forget that the completion of the single market into services (the centre of the UK economy) is frustrated by France and Germany amongst others.
    • The 6% admin costs on the £4bn of our own money that was returned to us in 2011 in regional funds etc?
    • The cost of the working time directive of £9.2 – 11.9bn pa (Open Europe 2009)?
    • The £2.8bn cost of the Pregnant Workers Directive ? (EP FEMM committee impact assessment)
    • Cost of EU over regulation to UK – 6% GDP ? (Treasury Study, author Gordon Brown)

    And so it goes on, so many many benefits.

    Of course if we agreed a trade deal with the EU similar to the one signed in July 2011 with Korea then both sides would be happy. We could trade and you could go and build your political project regardless of the fact that there does not seem to be any popular mandate for it.

    You talk about the anti EU press, May I draw your attention then to the fact that two independent reports (one by the MORI polling organisation) into alleged pro EU bias within the BBC discovered what they termed ‘cultural and unintentional bias’. The attached link (apologies about the length) may be of interest to you. http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust… This is the BBC that is arguably the biggest player in terms of broadcast / internet media in the UK and therefore very influential. Also I suspect that the Guardian, Independent, Observer and many periodicals will be surprised to hear that they are not putting out a pro EU message.

    Those voices speaking out for the EU, would that be Ken Clarke, Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair, Nick Clegg, Michael Heseltine, Paddy Ashdown etc, people who told us that if we didn’t join the euro we would be doomed ? Please consider the weight that these people carry in the public view given their track record.

    Finally just consider one question from me, have you ever seen any evidence, anywhere, ever indicating that the UK electorate want to be part of a political entity with one currency, a centrally determined fiscal policy, a common legal system, one foreign policy, standard social policy etc ? No me neither, so when and if it comes to a vote that is what you have to sell. Although I suspect in the finest traditions of the EU a vote is the very last thing you want.


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