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Irrelevance of the EU

September 23rd, 2006

A letter to the Spectator magazine which was published on 23rd September 2006.

Your contributor David Rennie (‘It’s funny what you can pick up in Iceland’, 16th September) greatly overcomplicates the basic issues surrounding Britain’s possible withdrawal from the EU with his talk of rejoining the European Free Trade Area (Efta).  What most long-term opponents of Britain’s membership of the EU actually wish is for the UK to be in the same relationship with the EU for economic purposes as are the USA, Canada and Australia, whose aggregate trade with the EU is about the same as Britain’s, and for which they pay the EU absolutely nothing.  The constant reiteration of the phrase ‘access to the Single Market’ as the benefit for which Britain pays about £10 billion gross is thus totally misleading.  The EU’s external trade is regulated by its membership of the World Trade Organisation in which, after withdrawal from the EU, the UK would resume its place as a fully independent member.  World trade in goods is in any case practically tariff-free, while since 1995 the WTO has systematically extended transparency to the trade in services.

From a global trade policy and regulation point of view the EU, like EFTA, is now to all intents and purposes irrelevant.