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Leave Argument: The future of the EU – Why Britain might want to take a leap in the dark

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In a recent parliamentary address the British Prime Minister David Cameron described a vote to leave the European Union as a ‘leap in the dark’. His point was that the future of the UK outside the EU is full of unknowns and that we are better sticking with what we know. This raises the question about what we know about the EU, where it is headed, and whether it is really worth sticking with it.

The UK in the European Union

The UK joined the European Union in 1973 as one of only 9 members. Since then the EU has grown to include 28 countries, and has continually progressed toward further economic and political integration. This has meant members increasingly giving up their abilities to veto EU policies as the power of the EU has shifted from national governments to EU institutions.

During this time the UK has secured more opt-outs from EU law than any other member state. The UK is not a member of the Schengen Area and so, along with Ireland, has maintained its border controls. The UK is the only country to have completely opted out of economic and monetary union and it is, along with Denmark, not obliged to adopt the euro. The UK also secured opt-outs from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and areas of security and justice policy. These opt-outs, along with Cameron’s newly negotiated deal, show that the UK is already a very reluctant member of the EU. The so-called ‘special status’ awarded to the UK will only result in isolating us from the main body of the EU.

The two main reforms giving the UK special status are firstly, an exemption from further integration and secondly, now members of the eurozone can outvote members of non-eurozone countries on most EU issues, the power to call meetings to discuss and challenge changes if new eurozone rules might threaten the UK economy.

These agreed changes provide the first insight into Britain’s future in Europe if we do not leave. They reflect a shift towards an EU that is happy to leave one of its biggest members on the sidelines as other members press on with reforms. If the EU continues pushing its reform agenda and continues unbound towards ever closer union, the UK will find itself having decreasing influence in the EU, and contrary to claims by those campaigning to remain, we will find membership of the EU ever weakens our hand on the international stage.

The Five Presidents’ Report published by European Commission in 2015 gives a strong indication of how the EU plans to develop over the next ten years. It shows the focus for the EU will be completing the economic and monetary union and states that the eurozone must create further economic, financial, fiscal and political union. This reform agenda states that the coming changes will ‘inevitably involve sharing more sovereignty over time.’ If this is the case, and the UK votes to stay in the EU, Britain will find itself increasingly isolated as it continues to opt out of monetary union and increasingly uninfluential as the rest of the EU, which will have adopted the euro, works to create a more unified organisation based a common goal which the UK does not share.

The report also outlines the creation of two more EU institutions, a European Fiscal Board and eventually a euro area treasury. These will be accountable at a European level, not to national governments. It shows the EU is still planning to create an ever-larger system of European government. This drive towards further centralisation in Europe will continue to erode the powers of EU national governments and should worry the UK, as most changes can be implemented without UK agreement and with only a promise that other countries will listen when it has concerns. Even if changes require a new treaty it is likely that they will go ahead with the UK once gain agreeing to them in return for opt-outs.

This becomes more serious when you consider the fact the UK, as a member of the EU, must rely on it to make trade deals and to represent it at a number of international organisations. An EU where most members are committed to a goal different to that of the UK cannot possibly be expected to act in the best interests of the British people. It will continue to act in the interests of the other 27 member states that have not felt the need to negotiate a new special status.

The presidents’ report, along with the UK’s continuing need to differentiate itself from the rest of the EU, reflects a fundamental rift between the UK and the EU. This rift was further highlighted in an article written by Emmanuel Macron, France’s Minister of the Economy, and Sigmar Gabriel, the German Vice-Chancellor, which accused the UK of challenging the ‘European ideal’  and called for France and Germany to lead the way ‘because Europe cannot wait any longer’ for the creation of greater political and social union. If the UK chooses to remain, it will seal its fate as a minor player in the greater European project. The future of the EU is not a welcoming one for the UK.

The future in the EU will be dominated by other interests and remaining will mean a continuous struggle to represent British interests. The UK will to be shackled to the euro economy as part of the single market, which has been ineffective in reaching trade deals with the world’s fastest growing economies and unable to develop significant trade deals designed to boost services which are vital to the UK economy.

Britain should instead take a ‘stride into the light’ and leave the EU, free of the behemoth that is the European Union. As an independent nation state, the UK can rebuild its relationships across the globe, working to achieve deals with the biggest and fastest growing economies, without the burden of an ever more complex relationship with the European Union.

Leaving does not represent an end of our relationship with Europe or a leap in the dark. It represents a new start. A chance for the UK to get things right and build on its status as one of the world’s most successful economies. The Remain campaign will argue that it is not worth the risk of things going wrong. They are under the illusion that Britain’s success is the result of EU membership and they do not credit one of the world’s most successful, well connected and influential countries with the ability to succeed outside the union. The real risk is that those campaigning to remain will let the UK knowingly head into irrelevance as the EU becomes the centre of political power in Europe.

  • Justin Protts