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.

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