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Real gains in leaving the EU

June 10th, 1996

A letter to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph which was published on 10th June 1996.

In his attempt to prove the impossible, namely that Britain benefits from membership of the European Union, the CBI deputy President, Sir Bryan Nicholson (Saturday), calls in aid the canard that “surveys of business opinion have consistently shown overwhelming majorities in favour”.

Actually the Federation of Small Businesses which has over 90,000 members, many more than the CBI, has voted to leave the EU.  The CBI’s poll on the currency issue, on which it bases its views about business opinion, obtained only 212 responses, less than 3% of its membership.  Of this number only 28%, i.e. 59 responses, favoured abolishing our currency.

However much its chairmen may approve of “Europe” in their off-duty lunches at the CBI, British business is investing globally.  In 1995 ICI, for instance, authorized capital expenditure of over £550 Million in Asia Pacific, three times its commitment to Continental Europe.  Membership of the EU entails costs which are certain and massive while the gains, if any, are marginal and uncertain.  No rational individual or properly managed business would arrange their affairs on such a basis.

In fact the advantages of EU membership are as illusory as the King’s new suit in the Hans Andersen fairy tale.  But for the British people, leaving the EU will bring real gains including: an end to payments to the EU of around £8 billion gross, £3.5 billion net (equivalent to 2 pence on income tax); recovery of control of 60-70% of North Sea fishing grounds; an end to agricultural quotas which reserve portions of the British market for Continental producers; recovery of our right to negotiate world-wide trading agreements; removal of the power of the EU to impose a world-wide ban on British products, or to order the British Government to pay huge sums to pregnant service women, and to remove constraints on suspected IRA terrorists, in the name of the “Single Market”.

The “Single Market” so often invoked by Europhiles as a means of assuring common standards is simply a cloak for federalist ambitions.  As a market there is nothing special about it.  The international standards system (ISO) written in English is the preferred standard for the world outside the EU with its own quaint CEN system written in French.  Japan sells its products into the EU without paying the EU £3.5 billion for the privilege. Lucas won its recent contract to supply Volkswagen with diesel injectors because it had the best product in the world, not because it was in the EU.

And that’s the real point: it’s Britain’s ability to produce world-class products which will determine its future and secure the employment of its people.  Membership of the EU simply gets in the way.