A pamphlet published this week by David Campbell Bannerman, a Tory MEP, seeks to argue (against party policy) the contrary. Its title says it all: ‘The Ultimate Plan B: A Positive Vision Of An Independent Britain Outside The European Union.’
Coinciding as it does with the ICM poll findings, his thesis deserves to be studied carefully. Firstly we need to break out of the mindset that anyone who tries to make the case for Britain leaving the EU is mad — or, to judge from the contempt in which such a view is treated on certain BBC programmes, downright evil.
Mr Campbell Bannerman’s strongest argument is that there would be no economic downside to our departure. As the EU sells more to us than we do to it, it would be very much in its interests to enact a free trade agreement with us were we to leave. In 2009, our trade deficit — the excess of what we bought over what we sold — in manufactured goods with the EU was a shade under £35 billion.
Better than that — and here, at last, there is something to be said for the 2007 Lisbon Treaty — such a free trade agreement would not be a matter of conjecture. Article 50 of Lisbon requires the EU to make a trade arrangement with any nation deciding to leave it.
So the claim that there would be inevitable and large job losses is cast into doubt. He also argues that — with the ascent of China, India and Brazil — Britain would do well to leave a trading bloc whose share of world GDP is forecast to fall to 15 per cent in 2020, down from 36 per cent in 1980.
Just as the EU took no account of its role in a post-Soviet world, it seems incapable of understanding how to remain competitive in relation to rising powers such as China.
Britain also enjoys trading relationships elsewhere in the world that are not shared by other EU countries. We send 18 per cent of our exports to the U.S.: Germany sends only 7 per cent. And the biggest external investor in Britain is America.
Mr Campbell Bannerman rests much of his case for leaving the EU on the liberation it would bring from over-regulation of every aspect of our lives — one of the reasons for the EU’s poor competitiveness. He says that more than 100,000 regulations and directives have been imposed upon us since we joined the EU in 1973.
For example, the working-time directive — designed to limit the number of hours we can work, and which is estimated to cost £11.9 billion a year in lost productivity — would go if we left the EU. So, too, would a host of environmental orders such as the EU renewables directive, which insists we derive 20 per cent of our energy from renewables such as wind power, at an estimated £22 billion a year.
The Open Europe think tank reported last year that EU regulations had cost Britain £124 billion since 1998. This figure is not a partisan invention, but based on the Government’s assessments