Tilting At Windmills

 

My new book, Tilting at Windmills – Seeking Reason in the EU Debate, is now available via Amazon.  Click here for the print version, or here for the Kindle version.

The summary and conclusions are below.  The facts and argument, all 12,000 words of them, are in the book (well, pamphlet really) and you’ll have to download it via the link. There is a small charge (set to the minimum Amazon permits).  Enjoy.

SUMMARY

The EU is a stagnant economic zone with a troubled currency.  The majority of its member countries have very different economies to the UK.  The production of EU law is less accountable than the production of UK law, and the accountability of the EU executive to the EU Parliament is less direct that the UK equivalents.  Similarly, MEPs are less accountable to or in touch with their constituents.

The right to trade in this zone cost the UK sovereignty in the areas of the EU competencies and around £9 billion cash per year.  The UK generates 16% of EU GDP and has just 10% of the votes in the EU parliament.  If and when more countries join the EU the proportion of votes owned by the UK will fall.

If the UK votes to leave it is both in the UK and EU interest that trade between the EU and UK continues to be tariff free.  Brexit would allow the UK to pursue free trade agreements with other non EU nations as it saw fit.

Leaving the EU will have no effect on the security of the UK or the EU as it will not make one jot of difference to NATO or any of the security arrangements.  Direct control of UK residence rights reduces the possibility of terrorist who hold an EU passport having a right of residence.

Brexit would simplify the UK legal system though the removal of the ECJ as a further court of appeal. This will have no effect on the current rights of UK citizens, nor will it have any effect on UK membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.  It would also simplify legislation and remove any democratic deficit arising from the EU legislative procedures and voting methods.

The status of UK citizens domiciled within EU countries following Brexit is not clear, although they would still be within the territorial jurisdiction of the ECJ.  The UK would be free to change the status of EU citizens resident and working in the UK, although it is hard to see any benefit from upsetting the status quo.

Dealing with the fallout from a UK withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy might take some time, although the legal position would be crystal clear from day one.  In economic terms for the UK at least this is a side show.

There is no guarantee that the UK and EU members would be able to reach agreement on terms to continue tariff free trading, although reaching such an agreement is in both sides interests.  The failure to do so would potentially hurt the EU more than the UK.

Simplifying financial regulation in the UK would enable London to continue as the world’s financial hub.  The EU would still do business there, not least due to a lack of alternatives.

The impact on Sterling is likely to be a period of volatility (which we are already in) followed by it finding its proper level in the usual way.  The Euro is likely to suffer similar volatility.

 

CONCLUSION

On anything other than economic grounds there is no obvious downside to Brexit.  There are also significant potential benefits.  Whether these benefits are worthwhile depends upon the economic cost of leaving.

That cost hinges upon whether the UK and EU can quickly agree sensible terms following a vote to leave. If they can then the effect of Brexit on the UK can only be beneficial.  If they can’t then the UK economy will take a hit (of indeterminable size) as will the short term economies of those EU members who export significantly to us.  If they take too long to agree exchange rate volatility will cause problems of varying, unforeseeable magnitude of EU economies and corporations as well as to the UK.

Up until the moment of the vote Brexit is not in the best interest of other EU members and therefore all sorts of problems are being found.  However, in the event of a vote to leave, a protracted and acrimonious negotiation is absolutely not in the best interest of the other EU members either.  It is therefore likely that solutions will be found quickly.  This is the fundamental point: close, fair and equitable commercial relationships between UK and the EU remain in everyone’s interest if we vote for Brexit.

Of course, politics, particularly international politics, is littered with agreements and treaties that have produced what turned out to be a wrong answer in spite of everyone’s best intentions.  However, the fundamental issues involved in Brexit are simple and practical rather than philosophical.  Much as I malign politicians I think that given the opportunity they will get it right.

If they do so, the UK will be wealthier following Brexit that it would be if it stayed in.  For that reason, my brain is happy to follow my gut instinct.  OUT.

The thoughts, rants, insights and dissertations of a British man in his fifties.

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