Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions about the EU Referendum, and what would happen when Britain leaves the European Union. Every effort has been made to answer them as accurately and factually correct as possible. During the course of the referendum campaign further questions will no doubt arise and updated versions of this document will be published.
Gerard Batten MEP
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Would leaving the EU endanger jobs and trade, and could the EU put up trade barriers against the UK?
When we leave the EU it cannot put up arbitrary trade barriers against the UK as that would against World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which all EU countries agree to and which govern world trade. And even if they could why would they want to? We have a massive trade deficit with the EU – they sell us far more than we sell them.
Britain currently exports goods and services to the EU to the value of £228.9 billion, whereas their exports to us amount to £290.6 billion: therefore we have a trade deficit with the EU of £61.7 billion. Germany, Spain, France and Italy etc.will still want to sell us their cars, wine and holidays etc. Trade will continue as normal. [i]
And remember, Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world and we are a world trading nation: and while we have a trade deficit with the EU we have a trade surplus with the rest of the world. Our trading success lies in four hundred years of experience; English being the international language of business and science; and the trust that foreign companies put in the English legal system and contract law.
2) OK, but what about the EU’s Common External Tariffs?
The EU was formed as a Customs Union, not a Free Trade Area; it erected certain trade barriers against non-EU countries known as the Common External Tariffs. However, the World Trade Organisation has been negotiating down trade barriers internationally for many years, and these are now generally low. The pro-EU organisation British Influence states that “UK exporters would still have to pay 15% on average for food and 10% on cars to trade with the EU”, [ii] but this just scaremongering. Since the EU sells Britain far more than we buy from them it would not be in its interests to impose these tariffs even if they could, since we could impose the same tariffs on the goods they sell us.
The ‘Eurosceptic’ organization Business for Britain issued a report that says that the tariffs borne by British exporters if we were outside the EU on exports to the EU itself (even if they were applied) would only be an average of 4.3%. Business for Britain calculates that the total costs to business would be lower than the current UK net contribution to the EU budget (which is of course is rising). Outside the EU it would be cheaper for the British government to pay exporters’ tariffs for them than rather than paying into the EU budget. Even so, it would not be in the EU’s interests to impose the Common External Tariffs on UK exports since it if we did the same thing it would damage their trade more than ours.
3) Would leaving the EU exclude Britain from the Single Market?
The EU and the Single Market are not the same thing. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the Single Market but not the EU. The EU has 28 members, the Single Market has 31. But even so, we don’t need to be in the EU or the Single Market in order to trade with it. Many countries trade with the EU without finding it necessary to join the EU or the Single Market, for example China, India, Japan, the USA, the list is endless. World Trade Organisation rules prevent the erecting or arbitrary or unilateral trade barriers. Outside the EU Britain could negotiate a trade deal with the EU from a position of strength.
4) But what about the international trade deals that the EU has negotiated with the rest of the world – would we not be excluded?
Britain is the fifth biggest economy in the world, and a major trading nation. Outside the EU those countries who signed the trade deals with the EU would surely want to continue mutually beneficial trading arrangements with the UK. They would have a great incentive to quickly agreeing a continuation of trade on the same terms. When Britain regains her seat on the WTO and control of our own international trade policy we could also no doubt negotiate better trade deals for ourselves – as we did it for hundreds of years or more before we joined the EU.
5) But isn’t 50% of our trade with the EU?
No. This figure is exaggerated: it only refers to international trade: exports and imports. According to the Government’s Pink Book [iii] (2014) 44.4% of our total exports in goods and services were to EU countries. This figure is reduced when we take into account the so-called ‘Rotterdam effect’. Exports first landing in Rotterdam are counted as exports to Europe even when they are destined to pass on to other countries outside the EU such as China. Even a conservative estimate says the Rotterdam effect reduces the total figure to about 42.8%. So it is fairer to say that just under 43% of our international trade is with the EU.
Office of National Statistics figures show that only 15.6% of UK businesses are concerned with exports and imports. Of these no more than 5% trade with the EU. [iv] While approximately 20% of our economy is concerned with international trade approximately 80% of the economy is purely domestic within the UK. Of the 20% concerned with exports only approximately half of that goes to EU countries – and yet 100% of our businesses have to comply with EU laws and regulations.
Britain’s trade with the EU has been declining over the last twenty-five years. In 1999 54.7% of our international trade was with the EU. By 2014 that had reduced to 42.8%. And again, to repeat, while this trade is important to Britain it would not be endangered when we leave the EU as it cannot put up arbitrary trade barriers against the UK.
6) Is it true that 3 million jobs depend on trade with the EU?
This old chestnut continues to raise its head despite being discredited long ago. It arose from a study by the National Institute of Economic & Social Affairs in 1999. The report calculated that ‘three million jobs’ are associated with trade with the EU.
This report has been repeatedly misrepresented by various people, including former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP, who said that three million jobs are “at risk” if we left the EU. The Institute’s Director, Martin Weale, has repudiated the claim describing the misuse of the report for propaganda purposes as “pure Goebbels”. [v] These jobs depend on the continuation of trade, not on continued EU membership.
Using similar assumptions that arrived at the figure three million jobs in the UK being associated with EU trade we can arrive at a figure of 5 to 6.5 million jobs in the EU being associated with trade with the UK. [vi] Millions of jobs elsewhere also depend upon trade with Europe, for example in China, India and Japan, but those countries do not find it necessary to join the EU in order to trade with Europe.
7) Outside of the EU what would happen to UK citizens living in Europe, could they be deported?
About 1.3 million British citizens live in EU countries, while about 3 million EU nationals live in the UK. The top ten locations for Britons living on the continent are:
Spain 319,144 * Ireland 249,392 * France 171,346 * Germany 99,909 * Italy 65,975 * Netherlands 47,297 * Cyprus 38,844 * Poland 35,829 * Belgium 24,915 * Sweden 20,839 [vii]
Most British people living in Europe are usually working in skilled jobs, or often property owners and retirees living on their pensions. People who are established and living legally in a country are not going to be expelled; least of all because many retired British people are living in European countries that are either poor or suffering from the Euro-zone’s austerity policies (for example 18,067 living in Greece) and the income they provide is highly valued. People with an established legal residency are not going to be expelled. This prospect is just another example of the scaremongering by the Remain side.
8) But if I own a property in an EU member state will it be safe?
When Britain leaves the EU its member states will still have to respect the property rights of individuals living there. This is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights. The governments of countries cannot take some kind of revenge on British property owners out of pique at a British decision to exit the EU. And of course, there are millions of Europeans who own property in the UK.
9) Outside of the EU would I lose free access to their health services when I travel to Europe?
Britain has reciprocal health benefits with those European countries that have comparable national health services, e.g. Germany, France, Holland etc. There is no reason why such reciprocal arrangements could not be continued on a bilateral basis when we leave the EU. Many other European countries simply do not have a comparable public health service; to use their health services British citizens either have to pay or have private health insurance.
The current system does not work in Britain’s favour anyway. Department of Health figures published recently show that while Britain paid European countries more than £674 million for treating British citizens abroad received only £50 million back in payments for European citizens treated here. For example: France received £150 million but paid Britain £6.7 million, Spain received £223 million but paid Britain only £3.4 million, while Germany was paid £25.9 million and paid Britain only £2.2 million. Labour MP John Mann said, “Sorting this scandal out would transform the financial situation of the NHS”. [viii]
10) Hasn’t the EU helped to keep the peace in Europe?
This is pure mythology. From 1945-1949 peace was kept in Europe by the British and US armies stationed in Germany; and from 1949 onwards by NATO and the continued presence of predominantly US and British troops to counter the threat of the Soviet bloc. France left NATO in 1959 and did not fully rejoin until 2009. The disintegration of the old Soviet Union in 1991 removed the main military threat to Europe but new risks have arisen. These can best be countered by NATO and co-operation between democratic nation states, not by European political and economic integration.
Democratic nations tend to settle their differences by diplomacy not war. The biggest threat to peace in Europe is posed by the creation of an undemocratic centralised ‘United States of Europe’ and the removal of democratic accountability and control from its citizens. The EU intends to create its own armed forces by merging those of its member states’ in order to enforce its Common Foreign and Security Policy. The safest future for Europe lies in democratic nation states co-operating with each other and in an alliance of independent states such as NATO to counter external threats. Abdicating control of four foreign, security and defence policy to the EU will be unpredictable to say the least and a recipe for potential disaster.
11) Are we not we stronger on the world stage as part of the EU, and would we lose influence outside it?
The opposite is actually true. The more centralised the EU becomes and the more power we surrender and the less influential we become in the world. Britain still has a seat on the UN Security Council, and we still have a seat on over 100 international organisations. However, we lost our independent seat on the World Trade Organisation in 1973 when we surrendered it to the EU. The EU’s ambition is to have a seat in its own right on the UN Security Council, taking over those of Britain & France. Being a part of the EU makes Britain less influential not more so.
12) But would Britain be ‘isolated’ outside the EU?
Do you mean isolated like countries such as the USA, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Singapore, Japan, Mexico,Brazil, and all the other countries not members of the EU that we could name? There are almost 200 sovereign counties in the world but only 28 are members of the EU. Are all the others isolated? No. But do they make their own laws, trade and prosper outside the EU? Obviously they do.
13) Should we remain in the EU in order to influence its decisions?
If you think that then consider these facts. In 1973 Britain had 2 of the 13 EU Commissioners or 15.4%, this has now reduced to 1 out of 28 or 3.6%.
In 1979 Britain had 81 out of 410 Members of the European Parliament or 19.8%. We now have 73 MEPs out of 751 or 9.7%. Most decisions in the Parliament are made by a simple majority vote. Even if all the UK MEPs of all parties were to agree (which never happens) we can be outvoted: British MEPs cannot ultimately protect Britain’s interests.
In 1973 we had 17% of the vote in the European Council (Heads of Government) this has now reduced to 8.2% (29 out of 352 votes). Each Member State is allocated votes according to the size of its population. Most areas of domestic policy are now under the control of the EU and are decided by in the Council by a Qualified Majority Vote. Again, we are outvoted when trying to protect our national interest.
The Lisbon Treaty introduced a revised system of QMV. A qualified majority is reached if 55% of member states vote in favour (in practice 16 out of 28), and if the proposal is supported by member states representing 65% of the total EU population. This so-called ‘double majority’ is obligatory as from 1st April 2017. A ‘blocking majority’ must include four Council members representing more than 35% of the EU’s population. Under this system we are forced to accept laws we don’t want because we are outvoted.
If you still think Britain has the ability to influence decisions or to protect our own interests then consider this fact: since 1996 when records began Britain has objected to 55 new laws in the Council of Ministers – we have been defeated 55 times and the offending measures have become law. [ix] If that is ‘being stronger in Europe’, and ‘defending our national interests’, then it obviously not effective.
14) Why do more countries want to join the EU, such as Turkey for example?
The six countries that set up the European Economic Community in 1957 were Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. These were countries that had been devastated by the Second World War and the driving force was the need for an economic and political pact between Germany and France, historical the main instigators of European wars.
Since then 22 more countries have joined, many for less idealistic reasons. Only about three or four countries are net contributors to the EU budget in any given year. Germany is always the top contributor with UK usually in second or third place. Apart from the top three or four contributors to the EU budget most countries take far more out than they put in.
To illustrate the point, 2004 saw an accession of ten smaller, mostly poor Eastern European, countries to the EU. They joined for the financial and other benefits they could get. And the same is true of those countries waiting to join such as Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
The countries lining up to join are certainly not doing so in the hope of making massive donations to the EU budget. They want cash handouts, and to be able to export their excess populations and unemployed to Europe. Turkey for instance is not even geographically part of Europe. It has a population of 77 million, and if it joins it will be the second most populous and the poorest country in the EU. You can work the rest out for yourself.
15) But if we left we would we not lose millions in EU grants?
Firstly, there is no such thing as EU money. There is only taxpayers’ money, and the UK is always a net contributor to the EU budget – we pay in far more than we get out. Germany always pays the most with Britain usually in the top four. The only year we got more out than we paid in was 1975 – coincidentally the last time we had a referendum on EU membership.
The European Union’s own figures [x] show that out of the 37 British regions (as classified under the EU’s system for Regional Aid), 35 are net contributors to the fund. Only two regions, West Wales and Cornwall were net beneficiaries. In total the UK gets back £1 for every £3.55 we pay in. Over the budgetary period 2007-2013 the UK paid in about £29.5 billion but received only £8.7 billion. Some of Britain’s poorest and most deprived regions are subsidising regions of other EU member states.
Neither is this money well spent: between 2007-2013 the European Regional Development Funds payments to Wales totaled £2 billion, yet the effect on unemployment in Wales was insignificant. We would be better off not giving the money to the EU but deciding how to spend British tax-payers’ money ourselves to best effect.
16) How much does EU membership cost?
A simple question which unfortunately has a complex answer: even the British government doesn’t quite seem to know exactly how much it hands over to the EU each year. The Government’s current forecast for payments to the EU Budget for 2016-2017 is:
- £19.228 billion gross contribution to the budget
- £4.444 billion is held back as the British Rebate
- £4.606 billion is spent in the UK by the EU
- This gives an estimated a net contribution of about £10.178 billion
However, bear in mind that the gross contribution is rising, the rebate is declining (thanks to Tony Blair’s ‘renegotiations’ of 2006) and that the EU spends £4.6 billion of our own money in our own country on projects they deem fit. A British government should be able to make better decisions on how to spend tax-payers money than the EU.
The indirect costs on the economy are much higher. These include the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, and over regulation on business, to name just three. Professor Tim Congdon has calculated that the direct and indirect costs on the economy for 2015 to be 12% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or £190 billion per annum. [xi]
17) How many of our laws are made by the EU?
Most areas of domestic policy are now under the control of the EU and legislation takes two main forms: Directives and Regulations. Directives must be transposed into UK Acts of Parliament. The British Parliament has no choice in the matter, even if they may tinker with the details in some instances. Regulations automatically become law without our Parliament even debating them.
The amount of law coming from the EU will vary year to year. In 2006 the German Parliament carried out a study under former President Roman Hertzog that put the figure at 84%. When he was Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry in 2005 that “European regulations account for 50% of new rules for business”. In the European Parliament, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding said that “70% of British laws are made in the EU”. So a reasonable estimate in any given year is anything between 50% to 80% in any particular year.
The rate of legislation passing through the European Parliament has slowed down somewhat in the last eighteen months, and it is believed that a large amount of legislation is being kept back by the Commission awaiting the result of the British referendum. If we vote to remain in the EU then the legislative floodgates will open once again.
18) But other sources, like Nick Clegg MP, say that a much smaller number of our laws come from the EU. What is the truth?
You will sometimes see the figure of only 9% or perhaps 13% of our laws coming from the EU. That is a misrepresentation of a House of Commons Briefing Paper that said about 13.2% of our laws come from the EU. But the paper warns that the figure does not take into account the large number of EU Regulations that automatically pass into UK law. The 13.2% figure refers to Acts of Parliament required to transpose EU Directives in to law. Taking Regulations into account the recalculated figure looked more like 65%. That is within the range described under item 14 and which would be 50% to 80% in any given year – depending on the EU’s legislative output.
19) Haven’t measures such as the European Arrest Warrant made us safer from criminals and terrorists?
The simple answer is, no it has not. The European Arrest Warrant is just one part of an EU system of criminal justice being created which supersedes the English legal system. Britain was one of the first countries to pass an Extradition Act back in 1870. That Act required prima facie evidence to be presented to the English extradition court for it to satisfy itself that there was sufficient evidence against the accused person to justify their surrender to a foreign judicial system.
The 1870 Act worked well until the then Conservative Government replaced it with the Extradition Act of 1989, the small print of which allowed the European Convention on Extradition to be ratified in 1990. This removed the requirement for primate facie evidence to be presented to the English extradition court.
The Extradition Act 2003 removed any further safeguards for the accused person. Under the Act ‘extradition’ became ‘judicial surrender’. It allows a British citizen to be removed to any other EU member states purely on the strength of a form completed by the relevant foreign authority; this can be purely on ‘suspicion’. No prima facie evidence is presented to the English court, and indeed they have no power to prevent ‘judicial surrender’. This goes entirely against the centuries old English legal protection enshrined in Habeas Corpus which prevented anyone being imprisoned without evidence against them and without a charge being laid for a specific offence in English law.
This is because of the EU doctrine of ‘mutual recognition’ which says all EU legal, judicial, and penal systems are of equal standing – which is palpably not so. British citizens can be sent abroad purely at the request of a foreign examining magistrate and locked up for months or years while investigations take place; whereas, the British police cannot request extradition of a suspect unless they have fully investigated and amassed sufficient evidence for a charge to be laid against them.
This highlights the fundamental difference between continental legal systems and the English legal systems: under continental legal systems people may be imprisoned for long periods while accusations are investigated, whereas under the English system people may only be imprisoned (on remand) after a specific criminal offence has been fully investigated and charges laid. The English legal system evolved over 800 years as much to project the innocent as to convict the guilty and those principles are being sacrificed in favour of an EU system of criminal law.
20) But I have heard that the courts can prevent extradition if the accused person’s human rights are at risk?
Theoretically that may be the case but in practice it does not work. All EU Member States have signed the European Convention on Human Rights. The English court will take the view that because EU member states have signed the Convention then under the doctrine of ‘mutual recognition’ they cannot then be deemed to be in breach of it – even if all the known facts contradict this.
For example it is well known that countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and others, are frequently in breach of the Convention, because of their institutionalised corruption or because of the conditions in their prisons; nevertheless suspects will be ‘judicially surrendered’ in spite of this. The author has been present in the English appeal court where such judgements have been made.
21) Don’t we need to be in the European Union to help protect us from organized crime and terrorists?
The EU’s open borders policy has put us at more risk from criminals and terrorists. Open borders has meant that Europe’s criminals have migrated to where they think they can most lucratively operate, and that means countries like Britain. The EU’s Freedom of Movement Directive (Directive 2004/38. Article 27 (2)) says that ‘previous criminal convictions are not enough to justify exclusion’. So even if we know someone to be a criminal we have no power to prevent their entry to our country. We have seen previously convicted murderers, rapists and paedophiles come from Europe to the UK and commit more appalling crimes.
Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe revealed recently that 29% of the Met Police 250,000 arrests in a year were of foreign nationals (not all being EU citizens admittedly), but of these only 13% resulted in a charge or summons. [xii] The excuse for not being able to bring them to justice was because it was not possible to check their DNA, fingerprints or previous convictions, and they were released.
Open borders also aids terrorists. We have seen terrorist attacks in a number of European capitals made by terrorists who can easily cross borders under the EU’s Schengen open borders system. Britain is not in Schengen but any EU citizen has the right to come to Britain if they wish. Europe has plenty of its own home-grown terrorists who have free access to the UK, but we also saw how in the Paris attacks of November 2015 at last one of the terrorists was operating on a forged passport. Whenever these terrorist attacks occur the EU uses it as an excuse to call for more power over police and judicial matters and to create the EU’s own security and intelligence services.
Writing in the magazine Prospect, a former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove (1999-2004),has said Britain would be safer outside of the EU. He said that leaving the EU would make it easier to deport terrorists and control our borders. He added that Europe would not turn its back on Britain because our intelligence services because, “Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters give much more than they get in return”. [xiii]
Outside the EU the organized crime and terrorist threat will not go away but we would be free to control our own borders, and we can continue, as we always have done, to share our intelligence with our allies, but allowing our intelligence services to be merged with an EU intelligence service would be a tremendous mistake.
22) Why does President Obama want Britain to stay in the EU?
Back in the 1970s Henry Kissinger is reported to have said, “When I want to speak to Europe whom should I call”? The story may be apocryphal but it highlights the fact that USA foreign policy wants to deal with one central authority in Europe rather than have the inconvenience of dealing with individual independent nation states.
After the Second World War the USA funded the European Movement (which secretly worked towards creating a United States of Europe) to the tune of millions of dollars. The release of declassified documents in 2000 showed that that the American Committee for a United Europe was in fact a front organisation for the CIA. The USA wanted a bulwark against the Soviet threat, and as stated above, the convenience of dealing with one central political power in Europe. There is evidence that the CIA also clandestinely funded the ‘remain’ side in the 1975 British referendum. [xiv]
America is concerned with its perceived national interests not Britain’s. We know that the USA has interfered in the domestic politics of many nations around the world so why would they not interfere with ours? We should also recall that President Obama has called for Turkey to become a member of the European Union, which would invite another 77 million potential migrants to come to Britain if they wish. That is not in the British national interest.
23) But why are big businesses calling for Britain to remain in the EU?
Some big business are, some aren’t. In February 2016 representatives of 36 FTSE 100 companies signed a letter for the Times calling for Britain to remain in the EU. But that means 64 of the FTSE 100 companies did not sign. About 200 companies have committed to the Remain campaign but that is a miniscule proportion of the 5.4 million companies in the UK.
Some big businesses like the EU because they want to deal with one central regulatory. They can lobby for the kind of regulation they want and can comply with but which their smaller competitors cannot. They also like the endless waves of cheap migrant labour that EU open borders bring.
Other representatives of big businesses are equally vocal on wanting Britain to leave the EU. For example Peter Hargreaves co-founder of FTSE 100 company Hargreaves Lansdown. Writing in the Daily Mail on 25th February 2016 Mr. Hargreaves said, “(EU) red tape and regulations have stifled enterprise in the UK, not helped.” And that Britain should be, “forging trading links with nations that have fast growth rates and dynamic economies. While we are in the EU we must wait on unmotivated, overpaid Eurocrats”. He concluded by hoping that the electorate would, “decide to leave this disastrous and stifling union”. [xv]
Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMEs) are even less enthusiastic about the EU. 200 bosses of SMEs signed a letter calling for Britain to leave the EU because of a “constant diet of unnecessary regulations” from Brussels that raise costs, cut profits and force up prices. The letter concluded that, “We believe that our economy can do better without being held back by the EU, thus we should vote to leave”. The establishment is desperate to stifle any dissent – in March the British Chamber of Commerce’s Director General John Longworth was forced to resign for stating his personal opinion that we should leave. No one has so far been forced out of a job for saying we should say in.
24) Haven’t some big businesses threatened to leave the UK if we leave the EU?
In February 2016, 36 of Britain’s top companies signed a letter to the Times arguing for Britain to stay in the EU. But two thirds of the 100 top companies did not sign. Those that declined to sign included, Barclays, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Other companies, Toyota, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen, Airbus, Jaguar, Land Rover, Honda and Ford, have all stated their ongoing commitment to UK manufacturing, whatever the result of the Referendum. John Mills the millionaire Labour donor and founder of John Mills Ltd (JML) supporting Brexit, along with Joe Foster and John Caudwell the founders of Reebok and Phones 4U.
On 17th February 2016, 80 business leaders, including Pasha Khandaker, President of the UK Bangladesh Caterers Association, Moni Varma, owner of rice suppliers Veetee, and Tariq Usmani, CEO of Henley Homes, wrote to the Prime Minister saying that Britain’s ‘was damaging trade with the rest of the world’. They continued, “As long as Britain’s trade policy is controlled by the EU, we cannot sign bilateral free trade agreements with Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, or for that matter any other non-EU state”. They added, “Vested interests on the continent sustain a relatively protectionist policy. We have apply the EU’s common external tariff to exports to Commonwealth countries – hurting customers and consumers here”.
Aircraft maker Boeing chose Britain for its new European headquarters in March 2016. Sir Michael Arthur the President of Boeing UK and Ireland said that “The prosperous partnership between our country and our company goes from strength to strength”. Boeing employs 2,000 staff in the UK and has invested £1.8 billion.
Interestingly in 2013 Jim O’Neill, the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs’ asset management business said, “We should not be scared of leaving it [the EU] and exploring a world without it. The opportunities that arise from a dramatically changing world are huge and I don’t think that a lot people in our area, never mind in Brussels, are that interested or understand it”.
25) Haven’t senior members of the British armed forces said we would be safer in the EU?
A letter orchestrated by 10 Downing Street in February 2016 was signed by a number of senior former members of the armed forces: however it spectacularly backfired when it turned out that one of the signatories had not in fact signed at all. General Sir Michael Rose had not only not given his permission to be included but said that, “sovereignty and security are intrinsically linked and in the recent years we’ve seen the EU erode our sovereignty”. [xvi] No. 10 was forced to issue a humiliating apology to Sir Michael.
Other respected figures have come out in favour of leaving the EU, including Colonel Richard Kemp, former Army Commander in Afghanistan who wrote an article in the Sunday Express (28th February 2016) that, “NATO is our military alliance not the EU. By leaving the EU we will gain far greater control of our borders and better confront those challenges that have the potential to undermine the fabric of our society.”
26) Some say that if we leave the EU we would be like Norway and Switzerland who have to obey most EU laws, pay a contribution to the EU budget, and have open borders. Is this true?
No. When Britain leaves the EU it is not obliged to follow the so-called ‘Norwegian’ or ‘Swiss’ models. The Norwegians chose to be members of the European Economic Area [xvii], and Switzerland had agreed over 100 bilateral treaties which mean adopting most EU law without being members of the EEA or the EU.
No genuine advocate of BREXIT would suggest this outcome is desirable. Instead we should adopt the ‘Canadian’, ‘Japanese’ or ‘Singaporean’ models: independent, nation states that trade and co-operate without being members of the EU. In reality we want a British Model which would mean we do not obey their laws, pay them any money, or have open borders. We would be in a very strong position to negotiate our own trade deal with the EU – and indeed trade deals with the rest of the world.
Interestingly the Swiss Parliament recently voted to withdraw its 24 year-old application to join the EU because the costs of EU membership are too high. In 2006 the Swiss Federal Government carried out a study that calculated that full membership of the EU would cost up to six times that of their existing bilateral arrangements with the EU.
27) Even so, surely we would still have to comply with EU rules in order to trade with member states?
Any country that trades with another country has to comply with its rules for exporting goods or services. For example, when we export goods and services to the USA we have to comply with their internal rules on specifications and laws. That is true of any country wishing to trade with another. And as has been said already, the rules governing trade are agreed under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation. The WTO strives to bring trade barriers down internationally.
28) But outside the EU would we not lose our Human Rights?
After the atrocities on the Continent in the Second World War the European Convention on Human Rights was proposed by Winston Churchill. It was modelled on the protections enshrined for centuries under the English Common Law. We had perfectly good human rights under our own laws before we joined the EU and we will after we leave.
Under Tony Blair’s Labour Government the Convention was incorporated into UK law by means of the Human Rights Act (1998). This has subsequently led to all kinds of abuses which led to it being described as a ‘criminals and terrorists charter’ because of numerous decisions by the European Court of Justice. The British courts have found themselves powerless to deport foreign terrorists, murderers, rapists and paedophiles because the European Court of Human Rights has decided that it might infringe their ‘human rights’ to do so.
In fact, leaving the European Union would not actually make any difference to our situation regarding the Convention or the ECHR. However, if a British Parliament decided to repeal the Human Rights Act, and remove our country from the jurisdiction of the ECHR, then we could return final power to Parliament and legal jurisdiction to our own Supreme Court, but that is a separate issue.
29) Hasn’t David Cameron ‘renegotiated our membership of the EU’ to deal with all these problems?
Mr. Cameron’s ‘deal’ is in fact ‘no deal’ at all. There is not sufficient space here to address each one of his ‘reforms’ but in summary, they do not amount to very much and they do not return any significant powers to the UK Parliament – despite Cameron’s previous promises to do so.
The ‘reforms’ will require either changes to the EU Treaty (requiring the unanimous consent of all the other 27 member states), and amendments to existing Directives, which first have to be voted on by the European Parliament, as well as requiring the consent of the European Council (heads of the 27 other member states) by Qualified Majority Voting.
Martin Schulz MEP the President of the European Parliament has made it plain that how the Parliament votes cannot be guaranteed and that MEPs may decide to change the substance of the reforms. Likewise the European Council might decide to reject the changes and the proposed treaty changes. We simply do not know what will happen because although the Referendum will be on 23rd June 2016 the changes to the treaty and the directives will not happen until months or years afterwards. Mr. Cameron is trying to sell the British electorate a pig in a poke.
30) Aren’t the Conservative and Labour parties both in favour of EU membership?
Not quite so. In fact both the Conservative and Labour parties are riven with conflict on this issue, and they have been since we joined in 1973. In the Referendum of 1975 major politicians from both parties campaigned on either side of the argument.
At least 165 (50%) Conservative MPs have already declared themselves as ‘Leavers’ in the coming referendum, with many more expected to follow. These include six cabinet ministers, and major figures such as Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith. Approximately two-thirds of Conservative Party members are believed to be in favour of Brexit.
The Labour Party is similarly conflicted, although they are not discussing it as openly. A number of Labour MPs have declared in favour of Brexit: Kate Hoey MP, Graham Stringer MP, and Kelvin Hopkins MP. A major Labour donor millionaire John Mills heads up the Labour Leave campaign group. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was opposed to EU membership throughout his career but now nominally backs the Remain campaign. While a majority of Labour MPs are in favour of remaining this does not reflect the feeling of a very large numbers of their members. Even Andy Burnham MP, a Europhile and a former contender for the Labour Leadership had to admit despite campaigning to stay in the EU that, “If I was to lay money on it…I would bet that Brexit is going to win”. [xviii]
Even the usually Europhile Scottish National Party are not united on this issue. Jim Sillars, a major figure in the SNP and a former Deputy Leader has written an excellent pamphlet arguing why Scotland should vote to leave the EU. Mr. Sillars sums the issue up succinctly when he writes, “Should the Parliament we directly elect make our laws? If the answer is Yes, the coming out of the EU is a must. If the answer is No, then you must accept having laws imposed on your society with which your elected government does not agree”.
31) Has any other country ever left the EU?
Yes, one, Greenland left in 1985. Greenland had joined the European Economic Community along with Denmark on 1st January 1973, the same time as Britain. However Greenland’s politicians soon realized that the Common Fisheries Policy was destroying their country’s fishing industry. In the 1985 referendum 53% of Greenlanders voted to leave, which the subsequently did on 1st January 1986. The Greenland Treaty formalised its exit.
Conventional wisdom might say that Greenland is too small to survive on its own, and that it ought to be grateful to depend on EU handouts. Reality is different. Greenland has a workforce of only 28,000 and fish provide 82% of its exports; but it had the courage to leave and free itself of EU red-tape, regulation, and from surrendering its fishing grounds to the Common Fisheries Policy. The average income of Greenlanders is higher than those of Britain, Germany and France. If may be cold in Greenland but life is sunnier than in the EU. [xix]
32) When we do leave, how can it be done? What is Article 50?
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty laid out, for the first time, the means whereby a Member State could leave the EU; however, were we to try and leave using Article 50 we might find it never actually happens. Under Article 50 there is a two year negotiation period which could be prolonged indefinitely by mutual agreement of all the Member States. Even if we did leave using Article 50 we could find ourselves with a ‘deal’ that still required us to pay contributions to the EU budget, having to accept a proportion of EU laws, and with open borders to EU citizens. We simply do not know what the deal might be, in two or more years hence.
Another great danger is that the British government could delay the whole process beyond the next General Election in 2020. Whichever party wins that election they could then set aside the Referendum decision (which is not legally binding) if they so wish on the basis that a general election result trumps a referendum, and we might never leave.
The only sure way for Britain to leave the EU is for our Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. This would immediately return supremacy of law to our own Parliament and courts, and free us from control by the EU. Chaos would not ensue because all EU Directives, which have been transposed into Acts of Parliament, would remain in place. These could then be gradually repealed, leaving what laws we might need to remain in order to interact with the EU (if indeed it continues to exist). The difference between Article 50 and the simple repeal of the European Communities Act is that the repeal of the Act puts the British government and Parliament in control and not the EU. A full and detailed explanation of how this strategy would work has been outlined in a book by Gerard Batten MEP entitled The Road to Freedom. [xx]
33) But it’s all so complicated. I cannot make up my mind. How can I decide which way to vote?
You will indeed hear many arguments, facts and figures from the Remain and Leave sides in the referendum campaign. If you feel it is all a bit too much to take in then look at it another way. If we had never joined the European Economic Community (Common Market) in 1973 would you now choose to join the European Union knowing what it has now become?
Ask yourself this: do you want to live in a democratic, self-governing country where the electorate can sack the government and elect a new one? Or do you want to live in an undemocratic, and economically declining, ‘United States of Europe’ (in effect if not yet in name) where the government (the European Commission) is not elected and cannot be sacked? Looked at this way it is a simple choice.
[i] For a detailed explanation read Lord William Dartmouth MEP’s The Truth About Trade Beyond the EU.
[ii] BREXIT: What would happen if the UK voted to leave? British Influence.
[iii] United Kingdom Balance of Payments – The Pink Book: 2014. Showing inward and outward transactions, providing a net flow of transactions between the UK and the rest of the world and how that flow is funded.
[iv] Business for Britain. Change or go. How Britain would gain influence and prosper outside an unreformed EU. Pages 122-123
[v] Europe Doesn’t Work. By Professor Tim Congdon..
[vi] The EU Jobs Myth by Ryan Bourne March 2015. Institute of Economic Affairs.
[vii] Daily Telegraph. firstname.lastname@example.org Asa Bennett 2nd March 2016
[viii] The Metro newspaper. 3rd March 2016
[ix] Business for Britain, Measuring Britain’s influence in the Council of Ministers. Briefing Note 3
[x] European Commission, Eurostat, ECB, Open Europe calculations. The author of the report, Mats Persson is now an advisor to David Cameron.
[xi] How much does the European Union. 2015 Edition. Professor Tim Congdon
[xii] The Evening Standard Friday 18th March 2016.
[xiii] The Daily Mail. Article by James Slack and Tamara Cohen. 23rd March 2016
[xiv] The Hidden Hand. Britain, America and Cold War Secret Intelligence by Dr Richard J. Aldrich. Published by John Murray
[xv] The Daily Express. Friday 4th March 2016
[xvi] Daily Mail, 25th February 2016.
[xvii] The EEA (European Economic Area) comprises all EU member states plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway
[xviii] The Daily Express. 15th March 2016
[xix] Why is Greenland so rich these days? It said goodbye to the EU. Alex Singleton.. 28th November 2010
[xx] The Road to Freedom by Gerard Batten MEP, Research by Pavel Stroilov. Published by Betwalda Books Ltd.