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Day of opportunity

Day of opportunity

EU will never see things Britain's way

by Jack Wigglesworth in London

Tue 21 Jun 2016

It’s time the British recognise that the European Union can and will never see things their way.

This was evident in Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure at the beginning of the year when negotiating with Donald Tusk, president of the European council, for a better deal for Britain and a reformed EU.

Cameron returned from Brussels claiming success, justifying a vote to Remain, despite the insignificant changes he achieved. He could have returned admitting failure and, therefore, recommending Leave.

If he got practically no results then, despite making the threat that Britain could depart, how can he possibly expect anything better now if the UK decides, after all, to stay on Thursday?

The stark choice is this. Either the UK exits – which I favour. Or we stay, and become embroiled in agreeing further European treaties and driving to ever closer union, all part of the EU’s obsessive but impossible-to-fulfil desire to make the euro work.

The insistence of Cameron and George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, to pursue the referendum is likely irrevocably to split the Conservative party and leave the issue festering whatever the result.

The conduct of the campaign has been very poor. When the British people needed sober facts and analysis, they were instead treated to ill-tempered, contentious and unprofessionally worded harangues fired daily at them from both sides.

The blame lies primarily with Cameron and Osborne, the Remain leaders, who realise they have been fighting for their political lives and historical reputations. Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet secretary, should have controlled their excesses and stopped them from directing civil servants on a deeply political matter.

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, the Conservative politicians heading the Leave side, were not much better. It was classic lies, damn lies and statistics, some based on views reached by the Treasury and delivered by establishment figures at home and abroad, all persuaded by the prime minister to fight his cause.

The underlying weakness of the analysis and arguments is that they rely on forecasts highly likely to be wrong. We have been told 'Brexit' would produce a £4,300 per annum fall in average household incomes. Pension pots would decline £32,000. Property values would fall 18%.

The audience thought their leaders had lost their senses and went back to worrying about uncontrolled migration.

I remember when 364 economists signed a letter to The Times in 1981, predicting economic collapse from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's austerity budget. It was the beginning of a boom. Similarly, most of the ‘experts’ forecast sterling would plummet when, in 1979, Thatcher ended 40 years of exchange controls. It was the start of a significant rise in the pound.

At the heart of the matter is governance. In the UK, citizens vote directly to elect an accessible local MP, who joins others in a parliament where the majority party forms a government to propose legislation promised in the manifesto.

By contrast, in the EU legislation is proposed by unelected civil servants, the Commission, subject to amendment by the European council and by the European parliament – most of whose members are not known to the electors but who take as their duty to decide for the EU ahead of what the citizens might desire.

Since 1996 the UK has voted No to a measure 55 times but found that all those motions were passed by the European parliament, where we have only 9.7% of members. The number of policy areas where individual countries retain a veto has fallen, so British positions inside the EU cannot be safeguarded.

For all these reasons it’s time to leave. Thursday is the day of opportunity. We must take it.

Jack Wigglesworth is a founder and former Chairman of London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (Liffe) and a member of the OMFIF Advisory Board.

This is No.98b 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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