The proprietor of Rugby Fitted Kitchens, Trevor Scott, asks why the UK should want to stay as a member of a club that never wanted us in the first place
So, are you an innie or an outie? And I’m not talking belly buttons here! I am, of course, referring to the issue of Brexit, our opportunity to vote in a referendum on June 23 on whether the UK should stay in the EU or leave.
As a kitchen specialist who makes a significant amount of his business purchases in euros and a whole load more with suppliers whose products are directly imported from the EU – and as the owner of a property in France that I am perhaps hoping to retire to – it would not be unreasonable to assume that I am in favour of staying in the EU.
But I’m not. So why do I hold this view?
Back in the post-World War Two era of the mid to late 1950s, France’s President, Charles de Gaulle, wanted to create a union of European nations for the purpose of binding these previously competing nations together economically – in a common market, and thus protect Europe from the horrors of another world war fought on European – and specifically French – soil.
De Gaulle never liked us ‘rosbifs’ and never forgave us for our actions during the war. He didn’t want us in his club. Twice he used France’s veto to prevent our joining and it was only after his death, in 1973, that the UK was finally allowed to join.
So why were we so keen to join this club that didn’t even want us? Fear, pure and simple.
Fear of being left out. Fear of having no one to trade with and becoming economically isolated within what, at the time, we saw as the only route to market for British products. After all, we had lost the Empire. India had gone its own way in 1948 and other countries were queuing up to gain their independence during the following decades.
For a couple of decades, this all worked out pretty well, but then Brussels started getting a bit too big for its boots and far too much regulation has crept in and is hamstringing UK businesses, making them jump through hoops that many other member states completely ignore.
Brussels wants to tie us in more and more to a federalist Europe that I, and a whole lot of other Brits, don’t want to be a part of.
A recent (April) poll suggested that it’s a close call, with 43% wanting to stay in, while 41% want to leave. So what are the economic effects of the UK leaving likely to be?
No one really knows, as it’s never happened before, and with the UK being an economic powerhouse right now, it is even more uncertain.
Innies will tell you it will be the end of life as we know it, with a run on the pound, a big fall in investment, large-scale unemployment as our markets dry up and imports becoming too expensive to purchase due to trade tariffs, etc. They suggest that Brexit could cost 2.2% of GDP by 2030.
But outies believe the opposite. With the UK pursuing very ambitious deregulation and being able to trade freely with the other emerging nations of the world – not least among them the countries of our own commonwealth, they think GDP could actually grow by around 1.6%.
But much of this possible cost to GDP could be absorbed by the net £8.5 billion the UK will save by coming out of the EU.
And what about trade tariffs? Are we seriously expected to believe that France, Germany, Italy and other EU nations are going to be so miffed by our leaving that they will cut off their noses to spite their faces and impose prohibitively high tariffs?
I don’t believe so. Our market is too important to them to put it at risk. They will seek to establish trade agreements that on the surface allow them to save face, but in reality cost us next to nothing.
One fear is that the UK’s leaving the EU could potentially lead to its eventual collapse, but in its current form it’s already broken and needs a massive root-and-branch overhaul to get it back on the right track and back to its core values.