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August 28, 2005

Why Not Leave the EU?

Regular readers will know that I think that the EU should not exist at all. If it does, we should not be a part of it. Leave aside my euronihilist prejudices for a moment and think purely about the actual calculations of membership. As Daniel Hannan says:

Consider, as an example, the members of the European Free Trade Area (Efta): Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein. Each of these countries has struck its own particular deal with Brussels, but the main elements are the same. They participate fully in the four freedoms of the single market - free movement of goods, services, people and capital. But they are outside the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, they control their own borders and human rights questions, they are free to negotiate trade accords with non-EU countries and they pay only a token sum to the EU budget.

Unsurprisingly, they are much richer than the EU members. According to the OECD, per capita GDP in the four Efta countries is double that in the EU. Euro-apologists are, naturally, quick with their explanations. "You can't compare us to Iceland," they say, "Iceland has fish." So, of course would Britain, but for the ecological calamity of the CFP. "We're nothing like Norway," they go on, "Norway has oil." Indeed; and Britain is the only net exporter of oil in the EU. Then my particular favourite: "But Switzerland has all those banks." Yes. And London is the world's premier financial centre - although it is, admittedly, being slowly asphyxiated by EU financial regulation.

I am not arguing that Britain should precisely replicate the terms struck by these Efta nations. On the contrary, we could do far better. We are a larger country for one thing, and, unlike the Efta states, we run a massive trade deficit with the EU. Indeed, the easiest way to answer Tony Blair's claim about the millions of jobs that depend on the EU is to point to the astonishing fact that the Efta nations export more per head to the EU from outside than does Britain from the inside. Efta stands as a living, thriving refutation of the assertion that we must choose between assimilation and isolation.

Well, why not? We get the four freedoms and we don’t have to pay for or subject ourselves to the crap. Patrick Minford has pointed out that being outside the EU tariff barriers would be worth an extra 3% to our economy. So let’s get on with it, eh?

August 28, 2005 in European Union | Permalink


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Your comments and the article should be read in Ankara as well.

Posted by: George Adair | Aug 28, 2005 8:55:27 AM

Switzerland and Norway were richer than Britain in 1970. Indeed more so, so Hannan could as easily argue its the EU that saved us.

Lichenstein and Iceland data is hard to come by, but at least in the case of the former you might as well note Luxembourg is the richest country in the world for all the GDP statistics mean anything.

Posted by: Matthew | Aug 28, 2005 10:56:07 AM

And, of course, by being outside the EU Norway has the benefit of, erm, having no say in the imposition of import duties. And look, its economy's doing grand!

Sorry - I never buy those arguments about EFTA nations having the best of both worlds. It might be the case if the EU suddenly ceased to exist, but as long as Brussels continues to be able to fiddle around with things we're better off in than out.

Posted by: Nosemonkey | Aug 28, 2005 11:20:58 AM

Well, the reason why we shouldn't leave is that once we're out Item 1 on the agenda of every single EU committee meeting, conference, parliamentary session, plenary gathering, and council reunion will be How Can We Best Stick It To The Brits. There is no way that the EU could allow Britain to leave, and for Britain to be allowed to prosper thereby.

Tim adds: And the difference between that and the current situation is what?

Posted by: Martin Adamson | Aug 29, 2005 4:32:10 PM

Bear in mind that EFTA countries have to imp[loment EU policies (such as the recent copyright directive) without being able to influence them. Best of both worlds? Worst more like.

Posted by: Phil Hunt | Aug 30, 2005 12:46:19 AM