|What can we do about a problem like the EU?
|Brexit – IN or OUT or Shake it all about
Our Prime Minister went to Brussels and asked for negotiations on the United Kingdom’s Terms within the EU. He got them and has now called a
referendum for June 23rd – the news and papers are full of it, so what’s happening, what’s it all about?
In 2009 Member Nations met in Lisbon to agree new working practices that were necessary within the EU following its expansion to include the former
communist states of eastern Europe. For the first time they considered the possibility of a member state being allowed to leave. Article 50 of the Lisbon
Treaty states “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” For the first time
withdrawal from the EU was an option.
Within the UK this raised the debate on the exit of the UK from the EU to a National Level and made it a prime subject at the 2015 and 2010 General
Many make comparisons are made between the “Scottish Referendum” and “Brexit”; NO they are very, very different. The Scottish referendum was an “IN
or OUT” vote - a complete break with no half measures: “Brexit” is an “IN or Something Else”. The issue is that “Something Else” has not been defined - I
attempt to here.
Come the 24th June (the day after the Referendum) NOTHING will change either one way or the other. If we agree to stay IN nothing changes immediately,
but the EU Commission will continue to favour a federal approach to the EU and will push ahead with that concept with Britain, as usual, standing as a
bastion to this onward march – but with very, very much less teeth and conviction. If the result is OUT then again nothing will change. Britain has to
formally negotiate exit terms with the 27 EU States - the most optimistic estimates put the negotiations at two years before anything would change and
possibly up to 10 years in total!! Any severance terms would then have to be ratified both by the European Council and the Parliament in Strasbourg.
Contemporaneously Britain would need to negotiate new trading agreements with other foreign non-EU countries – China, India, US, Brazil etc.
This may seem very long and arduous but there are already two templates in place - Switzerland and Norway - both strong European players but not within
the EU yet with all the benefits of the EEC that I voted for in 1975.
The Norwegian model:- Britain leaves the EU and joins the European Economic Area, giving it access to the single market, with the exception of some
financial services, but freeing it from EU rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs
The Swiss model:- Britain emulates Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU but negotiates trade treaties on a sector-by-sector basis
The UK model:- The UK could seek to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU, similar to the Swiss model or Norwegian models but
with better access for financial services and more say over how rules and standards are implemented.
So how much does it cost the UK to be a member of the EU? Surprisingly not an easy factual sum to find that is irrefutable. According to the latest Treasury
figures, the UK's net contribution for 2014/15 was £8.8bn - nearly double what it was in 2009/10. This includes an annual rebate that was negotiated by
Margaret Thatcher and money back, in the form of regional development grants and payments to farmers, which added up to £4.6bn in 2014/15.
To put that in context, it is about £24m a day or about 1.4% of total public annual spending. Gross figures suggests the UK sends £55m a day (£20,075bn per
year) to the EU but that is based on gross figures, which is a fair approximation of the UK's "membership fee" but does not take rebates and money back into
So the answer is that our net cost is £8.8bn a year or £24m per day or £142 per person per year. At an annual gross cost this amounts to £32,370 per person
The reason one MUST quote the exorbitant gross cost is that one has to question whether all expense within the EU is made wisely.
What I want is a Free Trade Agreement which would not involve the UK accepting the supremacy of EU law, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice,
the free movement of people or the requirement to pay significant amounts into the EU budget. Given the fact that there is already full regulatory
compliance between the UK and EU, they say it would be easier to negotiate than past trade deals.
As stated Norway and Switzerland have extensive trade agreements with the EU in line with the above – this must be our prime objective from 24th June
2016 (once free of the EU bureaucracy). Look at the following GDPs for our template countries:-
Country Period Average % Max % Min%
Switzerland 1980 to 2015 0.42 2.1 -1.9
Norway 1978 to 2015 0.65 4.0 -2.7
Britain 1975 to 2105 -1.5 5.9 - 4.3
These figures demonstrate that it is easily possible to trade with the EU from a position outside of its policies – we just need common trade agreements.
These are already in place for Switzerland for most fiscal institutions and manufacturing arrangements. Norway picks up on oil and fishing which are both
alien to Switzerland. By usingn their templates most of the work is already done.
Britain has introduced a “Supreme Court” to improve the whole legal process. We do not need to cow tow to an EU court. There is a “Declaration of Human
Rights” to guide our Supreme Court and also a “European Court of Human Rights” to which our Supreme Court may take some guidance, but the head of our
legislature must be answerable to Parliament and ultimately therefore The People.
Switzerland has some of the most stringent environmental legislation in the World. They do not need the EU to dictate to them. Travel to Greece, Spain or
Portugal to see how EU environmental legislation is ignored.
The Common Agricultural Policy and EU Common Fishery Policy 1983 are just two policies we would be able to drop. The former was introduced to appease
the French farmers and actively encourages farmers to set aside land to do nothing – at huge cost. The Fisheries Policy has decimated not only our fishing
fleets but also our fishing grounds and in many cases the support industries behind them in Devon, Cornwall, the North East and Scotland – in favour of the
French and Spanish. Some of the policies are completely mad; fish below a certain size have to be put back into the sea, but because of their size they are
damaged in the nets and die! The larger fish are retained for sale yet over about 2lbs they are too big for a single portion on the plate and are in their prime
UK fishing statistics 1975 2013
Total Fishermen (full & part-time) 22,134 12,152
Fishing Boats c12,000 6,339
Tonnage landed in UK 842,000 451,000
foreign boats into our main ports.
Let me say at the outset I do not and cannot condone some of the actions of our banks in the 1980’s. That said their contribution to our economy was and
still is (but to a much lesser extent) immense. For many centauries Britain’s Balance of Trade has been supported by “Invisible Earnings” that is the service
of the banks and insurance institutions within the City of London rather than the direct sale of goods abroad. We cannot afford to lose this income stream
and expertise within our economy. Yes they must be monitored and sometimes curbed but the Internet makes their bases more easily moved to other capital
cities. We need to encourage financial enterprise in the City – and if we need a Template – look no further than Switzerland!!
European Immigration Policy and Law is a mess. EU Laws permit free travel and work between member nations. This is just too lax since it also has to cover
and allow for the payment of a number of benefits and has no regard to jobs and job-types being available. I have no problem whatsoever with Poles,
Slovaks, Greeks or any other members of Eastern European states coming here to work – in my experience they do a first class job of work. Indeed our
building industry would not exist without Polish Plumbers, Bricklayers and Electricians, and we would have no health service. We do however need a sieve
to ensure that they do come to a job and therefore benefit our economy.
This applies more so to the many young male Arabs queuing up to come to our country. Sweden and Germany have had an open door policy for many years
and are now facing the huge backlash of caused by imbalance of races and sexes in certain cities. Countries must b e able to control this issue in their own
What I signed up for
In 1975 I voted for an agreement to join a European Economic Community (now the EEA) and thus sever ties with our traditional Commonwealth trade
partners. This was good commercial sense, but since then we have moved from a common trade agreement to a European Federation of Nations with a
central Parliament, Judiciary and Administration. These are the basic requirements for a governance structure but all without the endorsement off the British
via a Referendum. We have been frog marched towards a European Federalism.
I want that 1975 position back. I want Europe as a trading partner and I want to act with Europe as a body against oppression within the World – but I also
want British Sovereignty to prevail and I want to live with laws that have been passed by a British Parliament without being dictated by Europe. Our
Parliamentary system may not be perfect and it may well be improved upon, but it is what I have grown up with, one I understand, one I want to keep – and,
make no mistake about it, one my father and grandfather and many others fought and died for in two world wars. European Federalism has no place in my
This referendum is not about IN or OUT but rather IN or UKMODEL – we need to sieze this opportunity for Britain – do not be afraid of coming out and into a
UK Model – be more afraid of the march towards a Federal EU.
Cllr Rob Longhurst
Woodbury and Lympstone
East Devon District Council
7th March 2016
See also :-
Transparency, Honesty & Accountability