Thursday 27 August 2015

Brexit is the opportunity of a lifetime

In deciding whether we want to be part of the EU we have to first look at the EU and understand what it is, and where it wants to go. For all the talk of building a federalist superstate with its own army and foreign policy, well that's very much out of the window. The Euro has expanded as far is it probably ever will, and it's an absolute certainty that Britain will never join. Similarly, it is unlikely to want to bring the Balkans all the way in - and it's venture in Ukraine may never reach its full conclusion.

Consequently the next step for the EU is to consolidate what it is, to give it the powers it needs to manage its own currency effectively. To all intents and purposes, the Eurozone will be that half finished superstate. What we will likely see in the next treaty is a tidy up of the concentric circles that make up the rest of the single market, bringing some kind of uniformity in how it relates to Efta and associate states.

This formalises and cleans up the supposed two tier Europe that exists now. In actuality, it's not a two tier Europe. There are several different configurations in how nations relate to the EU depending on when they joined and what the EU's own ambitions for them are. To say the EU is a genuine single market isn't strictly true.

Looking at the shortcomings in the proposed EU alternatives and how Norway and Switzerland relate to the EU, we can see that a bit of housekeeping actually wouldn't go amiss. It is likely that any new treaty would seek to tempt Efta nations in closer, putting them on parity with the UK as a developed non-euro members. On paper, there's a lot to be said for it.

That said, in practice, that essentially makes us a fringe concern. In the EU, and told what to do by the EU in a dynamic where it puts the concerns of Euro members first, and the leading concern is the survivability and vitality of the Euro. In other words, we become a second rate nation which can and will be overruled not for the common good, but for the good of the Eurozone. That's when I ask, what is in it for us?

Put that question to the EU enthusiasts and they will speak of trade and co-operation. By definition, being told what to do is not co-operation. It's subjugation. Where trade is concerned, the important factor is less the border tariffs as ensuring everybody is working to the same rules and standards. That is what facilitates trade and makes trade faster, more efficient and less complex. Consequently, regulation is no bad thing in practice.

But this is not the twentieth century. As China has grown and modernised, it is starting to make assertions of its own in the world as to what standards and regulations look like - and in so doing it is adopting much of what is already EU law because, with the exception of the handful of rules that make the headlines, many are wholly sensible and necessary fro running a modern developed economy. This obviously means that the role of global regulatory agencies is set only to increase and in terms of improving trade, the real conversation is not between the established economies of Europe, but between Europe and Africa and the Far East.

With that in mind, we need our voice to be heard directly at the top table rather than as a stifled voice in the EU bloc. We don't want to be lumped in as a second tier concern of the greater EU. We want our voice to matter. The global convergence is the creation of a genuine global single market much bigger and more powerful than the EU alone and we want to be active participants rather than the Eurozone EU doing the talking for us. 

We are not talking about disengaging from Europe, nor are we talking about ending co-operation with the EU. Since we share many commonalities, they are still our partners, and the global refugee crisis shows us that their problems are our problems too and we have a vested interest in working together. That will necessarily mean contributing to EU budgets to achieve that which cannot be affected directly or unilaterally - and it's never going to be in our interests to put up barriers to the EU - but that does not mean we want to be subjugated by it, nor does it mean we want to be considered on par with Norway or Switzerland. We are in a different league.

This nonsense about being two small to "go it alone" is as absurd as it is offensive. We are in the top ten of global economies, we are a large dynamic market exporting cutting edge technology and services and when it comes to knowing how to regulate things - nobody does bureaucracy better than us Brits. Exporting good governance is something we have done for all of time. We are a largely more diverse economy than Australia, and they need not be subsumed into a second tier of EU government. By way of free trade and mutual recognition agreements they are at liberty to trade with the EU but also forge their own agreements in the pacific circle.

You don't hear anybody saying that New Zealand needs to pay second fiddle to Australia because of it's geographic proximity to Australia, and nobody says their economies are too small to go it alone. If the reality is that we are never going to join the Euro, and we continue good relations and free trade with the EU, why do we want to be a protectorate province of it? Our economy and population is larger than that of Canada. Canada is dwarfed by the USA too. Is that grounds for them losing their votes at all the top tables? Certainly not. So why is this a serious proposition for Britain?

This coming referendum is not about severing connections with Europe or the EU. It's about whether our destination is the same as the EU. It isn't. We're of Europe, but we're different and we have different ideas and different approaches that the world could benefit from - not just this little corner of Europe. It's not about whether we stay in the EU as it is now. The EU is going to change and consolidate into something else. We can wish it well and we can be the best of friends, and as ever maintain our commitment to mutual defence through NATO - but we don't have suppress ourselves.

Ultimately this is a question about the future. The EU was created with a mind to building a federal Europe with all that comes with such a proposition. It failed. It failed not least because it was a bad idea forged of a fear that without it we would again be at war. A house built on intellectual sand. Moreover, it done without consent. It has only ever progressed through deception by masquerading as a customs union. Nothing like that can ever survive without the consent of its peoples. Now it must admit defeat and focus on discovering what it is now and where it's own destiny lies.

Whatever the EU decides it now is and what it wants to be, we really don't want to wait for it to finish navel gazing. There is a real and genuine global single market developing and we're not even invited to the party. However that develops will be a settlement that lasts for the next century at least. We should be in there at the top helping to design it because that is what we will ultimately have to live with. It's too important to delegate to the EU and we have some things of our own to say. Brexit is our invitation to the global party and it's an opportunity of a lifetime. We'd be mugs to turn it down.

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