David Davis writes for the Daily Mail: Exit from Europe is nothing to fear: David Davis becomes the most senior Tory yet to say quitting the EU would be good for Britain… and could spark a great national revival
As published in the Daily Mail:
Exit from Europe is nothing to fear: DAVID DAVIS becomes the most senior Tory yet to say quitting the EU would be good for Britain… and could spark a great national revival
It is not yet clear what effect the Nick Clegg versus Nigel Farage televised debates will have on their respective standings, but they have put Europe squarely in the centre of public debate. Is our country better off in or out? Can we even manage our own problems (such as immigration) within the EU? And can we negotiate a deal that eradicates these problems?
These are not just issues for the European Election in May, which everybody seems to be assuming UKIP will win anyway. They are critical to the Government’s strategy to renegotiate our relationship with the EU and the eventual referendum, if and when it happens.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already made it clear that she is not going to help David Cameron secure a deal that will remotely satisfy anyone. Of course she wants Britain in Europe. We add economic, political and cultural clout, without being a threat to Germany’s leadership role within the EU, and are a major export market.
But Mrs Merkel will not fundamentally alter the architecture she believes has given Germany peace, stability, power and prosperity, unless we give her strong and clear reasons to do so. And if Germany will not, neither will France, Italy, Spain, Poland, or any of the other big players. So we must press home our demands with coherence and clarity.
We have to start by recognising that leaving is a real possibility, and make our partners recognise that. This starts with realising exit from Europe is not something to be afraid of. It could be a huge opportunity, and is less risky than scaremongers would have you believe.
They say that, outside the EU, Britain would be isolated, European allies would refuse to trade with us, and it would be a one-way street to declining employment, waning influence and decreasing prosperity. They say it would endanger our security. Nonsense. A new relationship with Europe could trigger a bright new future for the UK.
We have always exerted clout far beyond Europe’s borders, with the world’s sixth largest economy and fourth largest military budget.
We are members of the G7 and G20. We are on the UN Security Council, belong to Nato, the OECD, the Commonwealth and the World Trade Organisation.
We have a global tradition and speak the most important global language. Our influence and reputation are greater than any nation of 60 million has a right to expect, and little, if any, depends on the EU.
Far from spelling the end of Britain’s international influence, EU exit could be the catalyst for an intellectual, economic and political liberation. It would give Britain the chance to forge new relationships, pursue a new strategy reflecting our historical connections and global standing, and exploit our language, law, scientific, cultural and commercial creativity, and even our time zone.
This would be a revolution of expectations and ambition. But if we are going to seize that chance, we have to decide what sort of Britain we want to create.
We need courage and confidence to deliver a low tax, low regulation, high growth economy. We must banish the idea of accepting terminal decline, slipping down league tables and becoming a quiet backwater. The qualities and characteristics that made us a global power are still present, and only need to be harnessed once again.
So before we consider how we would negotiate to stay in, just consider how we would negotiate our exit.
First, we should retain access to the EU single market. Many countries trade successfully with the EU without being members. In 2012, almost three-quarters of Norwegian exports went to EU member states. Per capita, Switzerland sold more than four-and-a-half times as much to the EU from outside it as British businesses did from inside.
The remaining EU members have a massive vested interest in ongoing free trade with the UK. If a British exit happened tomorrow, we would be the EU’s single biggest market, accounting for 21 per cent of its exports, so our negotiating clout would be enormous.
In the unlikely event the UK was denied access to the single market, being outside the EU would not present the economic difficulties it would have done when we joined. In 1973, the average tariff on world-traded goods was around ten per cent. Since then, trade barriers across the world have fallen.
In some industries, EU external tariffs would have a significant impact on British exports. For example, Cheddar cheese would face a tariff of (EURO)167 per 100kg. But in 2012 France exported 115,000 tons of cheese to the UK, so what goes for Cheddar would also apply to Camembert, and it would be easy to achieve a tariff-free trade in dairy, as Switzerland has.
Likewise, Britain has the second-biggest car market in Europe, with Volkswagen, BMW, Audi and Mercedes taking a quarter. No car producer in Europe could afford a tariff war with one of Europe’s biggest and fastest-growing markets.
There have been several failed attempts by the EU to curb the pre-eminence of the City of London. It is a unique critical mass of talent that owes little to the EU for its success, and is easily defended from outside, if necessary. There will be lots of sabre-rattling by the EU along the way. It used to be hostile to the Swiss, but Europe’s economic interest prevailed and forced a deal, as it would with us.
The free movement of people is one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms but was not designed to cope with the massive disparities of income engendered by the accession of poor Eastern European states. This is UKIP’s most powerful argument.
We should follow the Swiss, allowing EU citizens to take up residence in the UK (and vice versa) with the same employment rights, subject to having a job, health insurance and British immigration limits. Nor would an exit spell the end of cross-border action against drugs smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism. Interpol’s 190 members co-operate perfectly well without harmonising laws.
In short, we can get a good deal from the EU, and the EU knows it.
Exit is neither high risk nor frightening. Just as the ability to walk away means you can strike a better price for that house or car, so having an attractive alternative allows us to get a better deal in Europe. Any deal to stay in should be much more ambitious than anything the Government has so far suggested.
We should not sign up to the justice-undermining European Arrest Warrant or give the European Court a say in our justice system. We should revamp the EU regulatory machine to cut the thousands of rules that pour out of Brussels every year. And we should exempt every small and medium-sized business that does not sell to the EU from all single market regulations, freeing them to compete in China, Brazil and India.
Most important, we must win back control of our destiny and democracy – with a permanent right to opt out of EU proposals against our national interest.
The choice in the referendum should be between exit, which offers opportunities for growth greater than we currently enjoy, or a radically reformed Europe in which Britain can shed the job-destroying red tape while recovering control of matters vital to the very nature of our country. They are two attractive futures – both better than where we are now.