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Analysis
Better outside the EU

Better outside the EU

UK will still be great trading partner, friend and ally

by John Redwood in London

Mon 13 Jun 2016

The likelihood of the UK voting for ‘Brexit’ has increased the longer the campaign has gone on. This comes as no surprise. The Remain campaign has revolved around an increasingly shrill series of doom-laden, silly forecasts – depicting Britain’s partners as vengeful and unpleasant countries who will want to damage their own trade and economies to harm us, should we dare to leave.

The Leave campaign, by contrast, has been upbeat, optimistic and global. We think the UK will still be a great trading partner, friend and ally of other European Union states outside the formal treaties.

We do not expect new tariffs or barriers to trade when we leave: the rest of the EU sells Britain so much more than we sell them, and you do not normally try to harm your customers. Both the UK and the rest of the EU will be members of the World Trade Organisation in any case, limiting most tariffs to low levels now in place.

Nor do we Leavers expect any kind of banking collapse, a sudden surge in interest rates or other economic damage. The Remain campaign forecasts a fall in the pound, which would make the UK a bit more competitive.

US interest rates and the strength of the dollar are likely to have a bigger impact on sterling and the euro than Brexit. Since February, as the polls have narrowed, the pound has gone up a bit and the costs of state borrowing have fallen considerably.

So why do so many UK people wish to leave? We think Britons will be better Europeans if we accept we do not want what much of the EU wants. We do not want to join the euro or the common frontiers, central features of the modern EU. We do not wish to join the wild ride to political union, as set out in last year’s ‘five presidents’ report.

From inside the EU, Britain will find it increasingly difficult to insulate itself from the political and financial consequences of the euro. It would be wrong for the UK to block or delay the political centralisation the euro needs to succeed.

Britain will not be leaving Europe. It is and remains our continent, and we will wish to be active and engaged, doing so in a range of agreements with the EU and individual European countries. It means we can spend at home the £10bn net contribution the UK makes each year to the rest of the EU, creating jobs and boosting public services and incomes.

It means we can set up a fair system of migration control with the same rules for the EU and the rest of the world. Everyone legally settled in the UK prior to Brexit will be free to stay. We anticipate the same will be true for UK citizens living abroad, whom international law also protects from eviction.

Brexit would mean the UK can regain control of British taxes. The UK was always told that tax remained a national responsibility, but finds it cannot abolish a 5% tax on women's sanitary products.

Above all it means Britain can restore democracy. To us, living in a democracy means electing those who govern us. We can lobby and influence them between elections. We know who they are and they have to answer us directly. If they fail or cease to please, we can kick them out at the next election.

The UK’s membership of the EU is like joining a football club, only to announce to the other members you do not wish to play or watch football and think the club subscription is too high. You would be better concluding the club is always going to annoy you and appear expensive, as you do not like its main purposes. It is better and more polite to leave.

John Redwood is MP for Wokingham, Chairman of the Conservative Economic Affairs Committee and a former Secretary of State for Wales. This is No.91 in the series – the 100th article will appear on 23 June.

OMFIF’s series on the UK EU referendum presents a wide variety of perspectives from Britain and around the world ahead of the 23 June poll. We are assuring a balance between many different points of view, in line with OMFIF’s overall neutral stance on the issue.

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