Dear Sir John,
I am sure you will remember the memorable night in Huntingdon — in 1978 I think — when I had the privilege of voting for you as the Conservative Candidate for the Huntingdon Constituency. I believe we have met once or twice since.
I have just read your piece in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, and it is such a litany of old, tired and discredited clichés, and slogans from years ago, that I really have to take issue with some of your points.
“Reckless to divorce ourselves from the world’s pre-eminent trading block”. Pre-eminent? The only major economic area in the world in long term relative decline? Shouldn’t we be looking outward to the rest of the world (including the Anglosphere and the Commonwealth) where the growth and the opportunities are? And who said “divorce”? We simply want to be good neighbours, not bad tenants. We want to be an independent, democratic, globally-engaged trading nation — not a province in a supranational structure, or a star on someone else’s flag.
“As a member state, the UK can and does influence on European policies”. Not very often, John. We are outvoted more than any other member state. Sometimes our diplomats sigh and vote in favour of what they disagree with, just to avoid emphasising our isolation. Again and again the British Government tries to object, but has to back down. As an MEP for 17 years, I speak of what I know. Mind you Cameron can get a concession on the tampon tax a few weeks ahead of the Referendum (in an evidently choreographed move). But don’t expect more concessions if we vote to remain.
“On issues such as environment and climate change the UK can best progress …. with the Europeans”. You have perhaps not noticed that EU energy and climate policies, with their obsessive reliance on intermittent and expensive renewables, are creating “an industrial massacre in Europe” (to quote former Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani’s telling phrase). We are driving energy-intensive industries out of the EU altogether, taking their jobs and their investment with them, and arguably increasing global emissions in the process.
“In the EU, the UK is better able to face up to the aggressive policies of other nations” — and later you cite Putin’s Russia. Please John, stop singing off the old song sheet and try looking around you. In which foreign conflicts has the EU helped us? Of course Russia is to blame for its Ukraine invasion, but many would argue that the EU provoked the Bear by cosying up to Ukraine — then turned and ran when the Bear roared. Look at the pathetic failure of the EU to address the migrant crisis. Our security depends on NATO, not the EU, and of course we will remain in NATO.
”It would be sheer folly to put all this at risk”. To put all what at risk? You argue that the British economy has done better than the EU average. Great. But you make no case that we have done better than if we had been outside.
“Suppose we left — what are the risks?” And John, if we stay, what are the risks? Will the €urozone implode? Will migrant numbers overwhelm the EU’s administrative capacity? Will Merkel give EU passports to her million migrants, just to see the back of them? If Turkey joins the EU as promised, how many Turks will exercise the right to free movement? Four million? Five million? It’s not unrealistic to expect a million in the UK. And Turkey will solve its migrant problem by giving a couple of million Turkish passports to migrants and sending them west. The real risk, John, is Remaining.
“The argument that the EU needs our market…is disingenuous. More bluntly, it is sheer fantasy”. Maggie said you can’t buck the markets, and she was right. When we leave, we will be the EU’s largest customer, and largest net customer, in the whole world. Bar none. Yet you think they’ll put that at risk. Despite the massive trade imbalance, you make some specious argument about percentages of GDP. But percentages don’t pay the ferryman, John. Folding money does. And they can’t ignore the huge business we provide.
When Boris mentioned the Canada Trade Agreement, merely as a broad outline, he was immediately attacked because it includes a 10% duty on cars. But we buy nearly double the value of cars from the continent as they buy from us. If there’s any disruption to the cross-channel car trade, the CEOs of Mercedes and BMW and Audi will be kicking the Commission’s door in. Digby Jones said we’d have a free trade deal in 24 hours. Meantime on BBC World at 0ne today a Canadian Trade Negotiator said the reason the EU/Canada deal took so long was the time taken to sort out issues between 28 member states. A UK/Canada deal would be much more straightforward.
Remember John that the Treaties require the EU to negotiate favourable trade terms with neighbouring countries.
“If we wish to do a deal in services — it may be a long time coming”. You may be familiar with TISA, the Trade In Services Agreement, which the UK would certainly accede to and is a much better platform for financial services than the EU alone.
“The price of any trade deal with the EU is we must accept free movement of people”. Why? Do Canada or Korea have free movement? No. So why should we? And why is the EU the only major trading organisation (of course it’s not a free trade area) that seeks to conflate free trade with all sorts of extraneous factors? Same comments on the EU budget. Why? Given the trade imbalance, they should pay for access to our market.
“Our departure would weaken Europe”. I’m elected in the interests of British voters, John, so Europe isn’t my prime concern. But Brexit will be a beginning, not an end. Across Europe citizens are fed up with the EU’s stultifying model, with immigration and austerity. I think that soon after Brexit we will see pressure from other member states for referenda, either to leave the EU, or at least to achieve radical change. I envisage a Europe in ten or fifteen years of independent, democratic nation states, linked by free trade and voluntary intergovernmental negotiation.
Once again, Britain will have saved itself by its exertions, and Europe by its example.
Yours sincerely. Roger Helmer MEP