The most powerful trading bloc in the world today, the EU and the UK is in it but for how long? The UK’s relationship with the EU can be tetchy at times it has to be said, in fact its utterly hostile at times.
The EU in the UK is painted as the source of horror; out of control red tape, completely over the top human rights laws and to top the lot immigration (inward to the UK that is). Its these overstated negatives that have influenced the group think in the public at large moving towards a view that EU membership should be put to an in-out vote.
Public and popular concerns are often stated in terms of un-thinking rashness summed-up in a handy sound-bite. If its not short, punchy and to the point (often wide of the mark actually but you get the drift I’m sure) its not worth making it. Its actually the responsibility of Government, that would be from all parties, to put the benefit of membership and of the obvious self-interest of remaining a member. Grandstanding, sabre rattling, shouting about in-out referendums will bring nothing but contempt from our EU/EEA partners.
Bill Clinton put it as “it’s arithmetic!” A market that’s 500 million people with a GDP of around £11/€13 trn, no tariffs, customs duties and right next door has got to be the opportunity of a life-time, several life-times actually for jobs, business, prosperity and safety.
Around 3.5 million jobs are directly & indirectly linked to EU/EEA in the UK. So basically a massively compelling reason to stay put, not rocking any boats of any kind. The economic fortunes of the UK are undeniably linked to the EU/EEA.
Business has been absolutely consistent in supporting continued membership and really cannot understand the uncertainty created by the prospect of a referendum. Who in their right mind would want to invest in the UK knowing the prospect of trade with the EU/EEA is almost certain to get more difficult in the future I ask you? A No vote in 2017 and you can close the City of London; financial trading will move to Paris or Frankfurt.
We are already on the outskirts having passed on the Euro and the Schengen Agreement. We have an opt-out on the Working Time Directive and point blank refused to sign-up to the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights or the presently proposed Banking Union.
No-wonder then that our European partners are frosty sometimes. They must be exhausted with our constant hedging of bets. Change is best effected from within, we all know this but we stand firmly outside staring in, complaining bitterly that its not they way we would do things; childish tantrums. As a position of influence its doomed to failure, often does fail as well.
And what happens after we’ve left? the next day? who would be our partners then?
The US has made it more than clear that we are only important in the EU. Any perceived ‘special relationship’ over, immediately. The Americans have questioned the exit strategy and found it wanting.
So what about the Commonwealth? Lord Howell of Guilford, father-in-law of George Osborne recently said “The Europeans are our neighbors, the Americans our friends, but the Commonwealth is our family.” Regrettably he was looking out over the Commonwealth wearing his very special rose coloured glasses. And how do I know this? Well India is buying £12/€14.5 bn worth of French fighter jets instead of the UK (Commonwealth partner) jets despite the millions of pounds of aid that the UK has continued to contribute to one of the fastest growing economies on the planet. I don’t get a sense of family here!
No, the Commonwealth is the place that Brits go for a better way of life; Austrailia, Canada, New Zealand… But I don’t see too many going to India, South Africa or Pakistan, just not appealing.
I’m quite sure that the EU/EEA isn’t perfect and much change is needed, this will be on-going. But standing squarely up to the EU/EEA and demanding change or off we go probably isn’t the best way of going about getting what you want, what’s important. What ever the differences are, no matter how strongly held opinions are consensus is ultimately in the best interests of all; EU/EEA and UK.