And so it came to pass that John Bickley, Brian Otridge and David Lonsdale (a Tory) sat down at a table in Sale RFC in Manchester on Monday to have an EU Referendum debate against Edwina Currie, ex Tory MP, Sajjad Karim (North-West Conservative MEP) and Rob Dixon, a Local Businessman. Regrettably, on the scheduled date of last Thursday, with BBC Sunday Politics cameras present, the whole thing was postponed, so we just had the local media there on Monday.
On our side, David talked about the “soft option” of the interim stage of withdrawal via the EEA, as per Norway. And to close, John Bickley came in with a very strong piece on the democratic deficit of the EU and all its institutions. But, in the middle of the sandwich came myself. So here’s my speech, for what it’s worth:
The facts tell us that EU trade is shrinking: when we joined in 1973, the 28 present EU states made up 36% of world trade; today it is just 17% and falling.
From 2004 to 2014 while our exports to the EU grew from 225 to 289 billion pounds, trade to the rest of the world blossomed from 239 to 390 billion. Adjusted for inflation, EU exports are effectively static. The EU export share fell from 48.5% to 42.5%: to the Rest of the World it rose from 51.5% to 57.5%. There’s also the Rotterdam-Antwerp Effect: the EU counts British exports shipped through those deep-sea ports as EU exports! Another 3%.
So, in 2014 60% of our exports went to the rest of the world, just 40% to the EU. Against our GDP, just 13% of UK output is exported to the EU.
What about the balance of trade, the difference between imports and exports? Between 2010 and 2014, our trade with the EU slumped from a deficit of 45 Billion to 107 Billion. With the rest of the world, we turned a small surplus into one of 14 Billion.
The EU exports to us around 40% more than we do to them. Project Fear tells us EU trade would die if we left the EU. Do you really think the German car industry, Herren Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW, will let their government destroy exports to us worth 15 to 20 Billion pounds a year with a tit-for-tat trade war? The same principle applies to Renault, Citroen and Peugeot in France, Alfa and Fiat in Italy.
I’m part of that Rest of the World export boom – as an IT contractor, I work on BAE System’s contracts with Saudi Arabia, worth around £4 Billion a year, helping keep Preston and its environs financially afloat. Just one contract with one country!
Britain has a 10 Billion trade surplus with non-EU Switzerland and they are thriving, their GDP per capita around $58K, only beaten by one EU country: Luxembourg, and beating Ireland on $51K.
Ah Luxembourg and Ireland… why are they so wealthy? Within the EU, multinationals can take their revenue in other countries… that offer them sweetheart deals on Corporation Tax, such as Luxembourg and Ireland. In 2014, Google paid just 28 million Euros to Ireland on 18 billion of EU-wide trading. IKEA paid half a billion on 15 billion of revenues to Luxembourg. Amazon managed to pay Luxembourg just 0.1% on its 4 Billion European revenue. Even if the EU clamps down on some of these deals, the multinational’s expensive lawyers and accountants will find other ways of avoiding large corporation tax bills.
The whole EU set-up is “Big Business Friendly”. It’s certainly not SME friendly. You want to start selling pillowcases? There are 105 EU Laws and Directives. Duvets and sheets? Around 50 laws. Spectacles? 225. You’re a bathroom fitter? 65 laws apply to the room, never mind the fittings. The list goes on, toothbrushes 31, mirrors 172, shampoo 118, towels 454 and bread a crazy 1246. Farmers marketing milk must comply with over 12,000 laws. Can you believe it? 100% of those laws for just 13% of our total output.
It’s easy for Big Business to comply, who have whole compliance departments stuffed full of employees. They also employ lobbyists: MEPs report their very visible presence in Brussels, fighting their corner, for more regulation to remove their more nimble competitors from the market – perhaps some of you are those nimble SMEs?
I won’t be drawn on precise numbers but between 50 and 70% of our laws come out of Brussels.
There’s also been a lot of finger pointing about our direct financial contributions to the EU. So, I went straight to the horse’s mouth – a Parliament briefing paper. The last year with confirmed figures is 2014 when our gross contribution per week was 360 million, after rebate 277 million, 188 million after receipts back from Brussels. For a year, our net payment could buy around quarter of a million nurses or 110 Typhoon jets.
Some argue about the benefits of the EU’s largesse to us, the organisation that can’t get its own accounts through audit for 20 years. Most of that goes on the EU’s pet projects. Without the EU, our own government could support those projects: indeed, Vote Leave has pledged to do just that.
And there’s all the much-hyped “consensus” of economists on the dangers of leaving. The same collection of economists who said in the early nineties we just had to be in the ERM: that led to Black Wednesday. They said we had to join the Euro in 2002 otherwise the UK would become a disaster zone – and now the Eurozone is the disaster area. Those same “experts” are telling us that Brexit would be a disaster. I don’t believe them – do you?
I will end by quoting DH Lawrence:
“Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”
On 23rd June we have the opportunity to vote to escape the anti-democratic, big government, big business EU.