Soapbox: Brexit isn’t about cutting ourselves off from the world….

Sammy Morrison is a TUV Press Officer and an assistant to Jim Allister. Here he challenges Ferdinand Mount’s cautionary tale about the motivations of Brexiteers, and argues that Brexit could liberate the UK to fulfil its potential in the world in Europe – and beyond.

Ferdinand Mount cannot hide his contempt for those campaigning for Brexit telling us that it is “tempting to regard ‘Brexosis’ as a mental disorder”.

He repeats David Cameron’s warning that Brexit could lead to World War III and echoes William Hague’s claim that the Vandals will break up the UK into the bargain.

But while Mr Mount can make such confident predictions about the consequences of EU exit Leavers don’t have a clue about what will happen after Brexit.

Unless you count that time when Michael Gove admitted that Brexit would leave us as “Greater Albanian” in a speech on 19th April.

Except he didn’t.

In his essay Gove only mentioned Albania once and it wasn’t with a view to aspiring to be like her.

Mount’s caricature of Gove’s argument is typical of how he distorts the Brexit position.

Consider these couple of sentences:

“It won’t really do either to sneer at the EU as undemocratic, still less anti-democratic. Is Germany – with its PR system, its Basic Law and its finely articulated structure of Länder – so much less democratic than the UK?”

No one is claiming Germany is “less democratic than the UK”.

It is, however, a fact that both UK and German citizens are subject to the EU Commission which is not only the EU’s “government” but also the only body which, in most policy areas, can propose legislation.

It has 28 members – none of whom are elected. That compromises both British and German democracy. The problem is with an EU which has repeatedly shown contempt for the ballot box, not Germany.

The Republic had to vote again when its citizens dared to give the wrong answer on Lisbon while democratically elected prime ministers in Greece and Italy have been removed and replaced by Brussel’s placemen.

Tellingly for someone who claims Eurosceptics call the democratic credentials of Germany into question Mount moves on to warn that a danger of Brexit could be that other governments in the EU may face calls for referendums on membership!

But what of his central claim – that Brexit would amount to the UK cutting itself off and becoming the Millwall FC of the world chanting “No one likes us, we don’t care” at the rest of the globe?

As Daniel Hannan argues in Why Vote Leave EU membership is actually limiting in terms of international trade and influence. In 1980 the EU had 30% of the world economy. Today it is 17%. He observes:

“Back in the 1950s, regional trade blocks looked like the future. Freight costs were high, refrigeration expensive, and exporters tended to look to their nearest neighbours.”

But now:

In the internet age, a company in Luton can as easily do business with a firm in Ludhiana, India, as with one in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Indeed, more easily. The Indian company, unlike the Slovenian one, will be English-speaking.

It will share the British company’s accountancy methods and unwritten business etiquette. If there is a dispute between the two parties, it will be arbitrated according to common-law norms with which both are familiar”.

However, EU membership inhibits this. While the UK is the third largest investor in India with many British firms such as JCB having big commitments there:

“JCB cannot sell its machinery tariff-free from India to the UK. Why? Because commerce is controlled by the European Commission. … The Common External Tariff was imposed in stages, artificially restricting British trade from global to European markets”.

While other countries have their own voice at the top table of the World Trade Organisation the UK is represented by the EU – an EU which has been especially slow to negotiate trade deals with the UK’s major trade partners.

Of the UK’s top 10 non-EU markets Brussels has trade agreements in place with just two. Hannan points out:

“Of course, having no trade agreement doesn’t mean having no trade. It means, rather, that trade is restricted, subject to various forms of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Despite these barriers, though, British trade with non-EU states in surplus and growing, while her trade with the EU is in deficit and shrinking.”

Brexit isn’t about cutting ourselves off from the world.

Of course taking control as a free and independent nation is an important factor for those arguing for Brexit. But it’s also about freeing ourselves from the narrow confines of the EU and opening ourselves up to the world.

You can watch Dan Hannan make the positive case for Brexit here. Better still come to hear him in person on Saturday 4th June at 11am in the Des Allen suite, Showgrounds Ballymena.

This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.

  • Paul Hagan

    Interesting take on this, on trade I think this continues to be the battlegorund. EU membership hasn’t artificially diverted much trade away from other countries: the Treasury has estimated it diverted only 4% of our trade with non-EU countries. What’s more, the EU’s trade-weighted tariff barrier is a mere 1%. in 2014 UK sales to the Brazil, Russia, India and China were only 7.2% of our total exports. Even if these were to it still wouldn’t make up for the loss of less than a third of our EU exports. If we were to regain our WTO membership that wouldn’t be a panacea our any trade ills, for it would not guarantee the UK anything more than third-tier access to the single market. British goods would have to penetrate the EU’s tariff barrier, which is still important in areas such as agriculture and cars. In the eyes of many trade experts the WTO is no longer key to world trade, the big news is in bilateral agreements between big countries or blocs, with TTIP being a case in point. The importance on the free trade deals with the EU-US and Canada (both on-going) is that they have the potential to influence global trade policy and harmonise domestic regulatory standards, that’s why they take a long time. It was probably not wise of Obama to say we’d be at the back of the queue for a bilateral UK-US deal but given that such a deal would likely only benefit the US, I for one would hope to be as least as far away as that.

  • WindowLean


  • Oriel27

    Amazingly you never once mentioned the South. And you from Fermanagh who’s natural hinterland is Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal. Is your brand of Unionism that backward, you would love a return of a hard border?.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Unless you count that time when Michael Gove admitted that Brexit would leave us as “Greater Albanian” in a speech on 19th April.

    Greater Albion or Greater Albanian?

  • Michael Harkin

    Let’s be honest, the Norn Irish Tory “Little Englanders”, ie DUP/UUP/TUV are a puzzle to us all. They don’t like foreigners, they don’t believe in social cohesion. Apart from the “Loyal” Orders, they don’t believe in organisations of working people, like trade unions, never mind European unions.

  • Msiegnaro

    If I could I’d build a wall around old Donegal……

  • Msiegnaro

    Native Irish such as yourself are also a puzzle Michael, you “love foreigners” except the British including those Unionists born in NI whom you still refer to as either foreigners or planters.

  • Teddybear

    Kinda makes sense

  • terence patrick hewett

    Much of the increasingly visceral invective aimed at Brexit is simply old fashioned snobbery, both intellectual and social. The perceptive article by John Harris of the Guardian introduces a little sanity to the asylum.

    Whatever happens in this referendum, England’s disquiet is set to get a whole lot worse

    The Gradgrinds that believe that the ability to read a balance sheet is the highest form of intellect and indulge themselves in an orgy of social engineering regardless of history, culture or the nature of humanity are going to be in for a big shock.

    They have an attitude that is almost totalitarian in its cruelty:

    ‘I believe,’ said Nietzsche, ‘that the mob, the mass, the herd, will always be despicable’

    Or as Ortega y Gasset put it:

    “the inert matter of the historical process.”

    As a Catholic I believe that one soul is of infinate value: for one person to be subsumed into some lumpen proleteriat to be manipulated and disposed of at the will of, quite frankly, evil people: is a very great sin indeed.

  • Chingford Man

    Did you pluck that red herring from the Shannon-Erne waterway?

  • Oriel27

    and how is it not, my parish as home is half in Fermanagh and half in Monaghan.

  • Chingford Man

    Since it is not in the interests of the UK and the Republic to impede cross-border trade, why would the countries choose to do so? Was there any “hard border” prior to 1 January 1973? Geneva is not in the EU but its suburbs are: no “hard border” there.

    Maybe we need an EU quota on the over-fishing of red herrings.

  • Katyusha

    It is a bit of a shame that this referendum is being held on the EU as a whole, rather than curtailment of the powers of the European Commission.

    European integration is at its heart a very positive development. The problem is that too much power has been concentrated in unelected EC bodies (and I say that as someone with a soft spot for technocracy). Isn’t the right thing to do to try and move power back towards the European Parliament and national legislatures? Would such a move not find widespread public support throughout Europe? Leaving the European Union as a whole is a nuclear solution to a finely balanced and heavily technical issue.

    This is what the British should have been negotiating on, rather than child benefit payments for immigrants.

    The EU is very similar to the Soviet Union it its attempts to create a technocratic superstructure over a large number of independent states. It suffers from exactly the same problems as the Soviet system in that a) such a structure needs to somehow be more democratic even than our current national parliaments in order to have legitimacy, and b) the EU has made no effort to craft a common European identity for its citizens. Rallying to the national cause, our own symbols and culture and history, is a surefire way to get the people behind a cause. We have a lot of common culture to be proud of as Europeans, especially when you cast us against the rest of the world, but who would rally behind the EU? It’s a bland, dull, faceless organisation, concerned more with technical accounting and impenetrable regulations than any of the hopes or desires or aspirations of its citizens.

    On that front, at least, a common European armed forces, or a European alliance, would be a very good thing. I would definitely support such a formation over membership of NATO any day.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Of the UK’s top 10 non-EU markets Brussels has trade agreements in place with just two. Hannan points out:

    This does make one assumption, a reluctance to trade agreement with the EU is going to lead to an incentive to have a trade agreement with a UK free from the EU.

    There is no evidence that a reluctance to trade agreement with the EU is going to lead to an incentive to have a trade agreement with a UK free from the EU.

    What is the other country (the non-EU one) is the one reluctant to have these deals?

  • Surveyor

    Nigel Lawson the Chairman of the Leave Campaign no less says border controls will be inevitable in the event of a Brexit victory.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Tally Ho! Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities. So pull up your socks and chase the fox,
    a hunting we will go.

  • Zig70
  • Thomas Barber

    Msiegnaro is Harkin not a Scottish surname ?

    The only people who see or believe Unionists and Loyalists as different than the rest of the people in Ireland is themselves. They are seen as being fellow Irishmen by everyone else we were all born on the Island of Ireland.

  • Angry Mob

    Nigel Lawson has no mandate nor does Vote Leave.

  • Msiegnaro

    We’re continually called inbred racist, sectarian xenophobes. Lacking in culture or history and generally poorly educated – that doesn’t sound welcoming to me.

  • Surveyor

    What if they win though, then they’ll have one surely?

  • Sammy Morrison

    The article is a response to Mount who didn’t address the issue of the border with the Republic.

  • Angry Mob

    UK referendums are advisory, not legally binding and the question is to leave the EU; not as to how we would go about it.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Opinion pieces in all western newspapers, TV, and any mainstream media are directed to produce anti brexit articles. The globalist elite want a single world government under their control. They control all western media to further this aim. A single EU state and single government is the first step towards this goal. If you still don’t understand that all mainstream media is controlled by these globalist elite, think about how the migrant crisis coming into Europe has been dropped by all TV and newspaper media prior to the brexit vote. Everything is being done to fool the masses into thinking that EU membership is best for them, even though it results in no national control and uncontrolled inward migration by people hostile to western values.
    Vote leave to control your own country.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I think the decline and decadence of western society is a direct result of the decline of the wooden ruler. And of course its associates: blotting paper, ink wells and dip-in-pens. The wooden ruler to the inky shining faced schoolboy going unwillingly to school makes a delightful twang when played off the desk. They make great ballistae to project inky missiles upon enemies and friends alike. And the gentle administrations of the Christian Brothers when we were caught taught us that life was not fair.

    Our wooden rulers had their faults but the plastic rulers which have replaced them break so easily.

  • ted hagan

    Define native Irish please?

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Here’s me… whaaaa?

  • terence patrick hewett

    No big deal Sir Rants: When I was doing some research at the British Library I went into their shop and encountered a wooden ruler: I have it by me at this very moment and it represented my lost youth and the fun we had with that device and mourn what it represented: plastic really isn’t the same.

  • No, it will be the government implementing Brexit not Vote Leave