Time to tell Merkel the truth and quit the E.U

Well, if Angela Merkel thought she would convince us by telling us we couldn’t make a go of things outside the EU, then she badly misread the British character.

Shortly before her meeting with David Cameron on Wednesday, the German Chancellor told MEPs: ‘Being alone in a global population of seven billion isn’t good for Britain. You can be happy on an island, but you can’t be happy on your own.’

I suspect a fair number of us, hearing those remarks, will have muttered: ‘We’ll be the judges of what makes us happy, thank you, Frau Merkel. We managed perfectly well before the EU existed — and we’ll decide for ourselves whether to remain part of it.’

The idea that Britain is too small to survive on its own is wrong on several levels. First, it simply isn’t true that you need to be big to prosper. If it were, then China would be wealthier per capita than Hong Kong, Indonesia than Singapore — and the EU, for that matter, than Switzerland.

What matters in the modern world is having a competitive regulatory regime and tax system.
In general, small countries do these things well — which is why the places with the highest per capita income tend to be microstates: the Channel Islands, the United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein and so on.

The EU, alas, is going in the opposite direction, piling on the regulations and constantly seeking to expand its budget (which is what Mr Cameron and Mrs Merkel were meeting  to discuss).

Second, we are not, by any definition, a small island.

We are the seventh largest economy in the world, the fourth military power, a member of the G8 and one of five permanent seat-holders on the UN Security Council. We are a leading member of Nato and the Commonwealth, and our language is spoken all over the Earth.

Do we need to be part of a European state in order to sell to, and buy from, our neighbours? Neither Norway nor Switzerland is a member of the EU, but both are, in slightly different forms, full participants in the European single market.

Last year, Norway exported two-and-a-half times as much per head to the EU as we did, and Switzerland four-and-a-half times as much.

Both countries are covered by the four freedoms of the single market — that is, free movement of goods, services, people and capital — but remain outside the EU’s political structures, outside the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and, critically, outside the Common External Tariff, levied on all goods imported into the EU.

In other words, they can negotiate a free-trade deal with, say, China. We cannot, having abandoned our trade policy to Brussels on the day that we joined.

I can’t help noticing that Norway and Switzerland enjoy the highest standards of living in Europe. Four million Norwegians and seven million Swiss are evidently able not just to survive, but massively to outperform the EU as independent states.

Does Mrs Merkel expect us to believe that 62 million Britons are too few?

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