Fringe Box



Opinion: There Is No Good Alternative to EU Membership

Published on: 13 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 19 Jun, 2016
Nils Christiansen

Cllr Nils Christiansen

By Nils Christiansen

Conservative ward councillor for Holy Trinity

This article is the fourth of a series of five setting out my personal views on a very important voting decision. I have written them in the hope of stimulating some reasoned debate, and I hope that others, from all sides, will do the same.

I accept that it is possible to argue that the EU’s best days are behind it, and success in the past does not necessarily lead to success in the future. But what would things look like from outside the EU?

Given that I cannot see any “burning platform” requiring us to leave, the alternative vision would have to look pretty compelling. The SNP were successful in painting such a picture for Scotland during the Scottish Independence campaign, but what is the single coherent vision of a post Brexit UK?

EU & UK FlagsBrexit voices on the right seem to see us as a European Singapore, free trading our way to riches without the burden of social welfare nets for the vulnerable, regulations to protect us from unsafe working practices, and unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions on competition such as minimum wages etc.

Opinion Logo 2But Singapore is a country of very high immigration and rather autocratic political tendencies, meanwhile Ireland seems to manage the same feat from within the EU.

Brexit voices on the left would prefer to see us freed from the dangerously free market oriented EU competition authorities. They point out that our public services are forced to tender for contracts, and if the EU gets its way these tenders will be open to not only EU companies, but US ones too.

If we “save” the money we currently pay to Brussels, we will be able to pay for better public services and not have to impose the cuts to welfare necessary to reduce our national debt. The model they aspire to is more the Scandinavian model – but a model which is also in the EU.

Ukip Brexit voices focus on immigration. This is the one area we could undoubtedly control more if we left the EU, but at what cost?

The EU have made clear that any post Brexit trade deal will have freedom of movement as a minimum requirement (as is the case for Norway and Switzerland), and incidentally we would also have to pay very significant sums into the EU budget but with no influence over the rules setting (also like Norway and Switzerland).

So if we wanted the “benefits” of no immigration and no EU budgetary contribution we would have to live without a trade deal with our largest trading partner – so much for the “Singapore” free-trader vision.

The depressing truth is that there is no single vision, yet without this a post Brexit UK would likely steer a rudderless path for many years as we reverted to being a country which had, “lost an empire, but not yet found a role”, as former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson said in 1962.

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Responses to Opinion: There Is No Good Alternative to EU Membership

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    June 13, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Did we lose an empire or did we move into the modern era by creating a commonwealth of nations?

    A commonwealth which helped us in fighting against European domination in two world wars.

    • George Potter Reply

      June 21, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      In reply to Bernard Parke, the last time I checked, the Commonwealth was created after the Second World War when it became clear that retaining the Empire was impossible.

      I know that Leave supporters like to rewrite history and show great disdain for facts but it’s come to quite something when they try to claim that the Empire ceased to exist before 1914.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    June 14, 2016 at 8:24 am

    How about the right to govern ourselves rather than by unaccountable unelected failed minor politicians from failed minor European countries? Quite apart from being able to control our own borders and decide who we will allow into our country.

    • Phillip Robinson Reply

      June 16, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      How about coming up with something other than the old red herring of democratic accountability?

      The UK has a system of representative democracy, the democratic principle further diluted by the ‘first-pass-the-post’ electoral count.

      In all honesty, how much effect does any individual have on the decisions of our Executive.

      How can it be called to account? The fact is we don’t have that control.

      The Council of Europe is composed of elected senior politicians; the Parliament is composed of elected politicians; the unaccountable unelected failed minor politicians from “failed minor European countries” are put forward and then approved by both the Council and the Parliament.

      Mr Barnes may not like it, but that sounds fairly democratic to me.

      • John Perkins Reply

        June 23, 2016 at 9:48 pm

        The Council of Europe is not an EU institution it is a distinct and separate body of some 47 countries and pre-dates the EU by many years.

        If Phillip Robinson is referring to the European Council then, yes, its members are the elected heads of state of the EU countries, but they have no formal legislative powers. That does not mean that it is powerless, but it does not take part in the running of the EU, except sometimes to provide strategic impetus to the Commission.

        Alternatively, if what is meant is the Council of the European Union, sometimes referred to as the Council of Ministers or the Council, then that is indeed a legislative body within the EU, although subordinate to the Commission. Its members are appointed by the heads of state of the EU countries, not elected.

        The main legislative body of the EU, where all the real power lies, is the European Commission. Its members are not elected either.

        The only democratic institution in the EU is the European Parliament, but it has no power to legislate – it can only accept or reject laws proposed by the other bodies: the Commission or the Council. The nearest equivalent in the UK is the House of Lords and I suspect few would regard that as particularly democratic.

        So democracy in the EU is a poor shadow of that in the UK. The fact that democracy in the UK is degraded is no reason to accept something so much worse.

  3. John Armstrong Reply

    June 14, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    I think Mr Christiansen has resorted to making it up as he goes along.

    John Armstrong is the chairman of Guildford Ukip

  4. John Perkins Reply

    June 21, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    If a “burning platform” is wanted then one suggestion might be to look at the state of the Euro; the TARGET2 balances show how unstable is the main currency of the EU. When it collapses the UK will get burned whether in or out, but it must be better to be lightly toasted helping others out rather than being cooked inside.

    The UK had social welfare and workplace safety regulations long before the EU came along. It’s ridiculous to suggest that these things are dependent on membership.

    The EU can make clear anything it likes, but negotiations following an exit would be two-sided and the EU would not be in a position to simply impose it’s own will. How exactly could the UK be forced to “pay very significant sums into the EU budget”? We can survive without a trade deal as we have done for our entire history to date and as others do all over the world.

    The UK would not be “rudderless” outside the EU; it would be steering a course directly away from a place of danger. It might even leave a trail for others to follow.

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