One of the reasons Eurofanatics always give for the need for the UK to stay within the European Union is that over fifty per cent of our trade is with the members of that organisation. Of course, as we all know, this figure is a gross exaggeration, the exports to the rest of the world which happen to pass through European ports being included to boost the total.
However two things never seems to occur to these people. Firstly that even were we to leave there is no reason to suppose that we would trade any less with the remaining members, as they rely as much, or more, on exporting to us as we do to them. The second, and more significant point, is that this pattern of trade represents an unhealthy situation and one that we should be striving to correct.
At last even the blinkered business world is beginning to wake up to this fact, as is evidenced by a recent number of articles published by financial commentators and businessmen.
One reports on a survey of the British Chambers of Commerce which shows a distinct lack of enthusiasm for 'ever closer union' and which reveals that more than a third of those asked think that Europe should be a free trade area, not an economic union. They make it clear that they are tired of endless regulations emanating from Brussels hamstringing their businesses. A very senior figure says he now sees a need for a grand renegotiation of relations with the EU and for members to look beyond Europe to the wider world for future markets.
The article concludes with the comment that even the City, once a reliable cheerleader for the EU, is disillusioned, as it becomes clear that the Brussels bureaucrats are deliberately using regulations to undermine its competitive position.
Another opinion piece from a successful businessman describes the Euro as a half-baked, dangerous and unnecessary experiment which has now gone hideously wrong and points out that, from a macro-economic point of view the whole eurozone is a comparative failure, under performing markets in Asia, America and even the UK. It is in the global slow lane and if we were not already in the EU we assuredly would not want to join now. He concludes "The only club we need to belong to is the world, of which we are already a member. To achieve economic strength we simply have to prioritise policies that promote business and prosperity rather than harmonisation, compliance and redistribution. Look east and emulate."
Finally one article attacks the whole orientation of Britain's trade policy stating that EU rules have conspired to make British companies focus on the world's worst-performing region. As the author says "Let's embrace the world and avoid being left on the continental shelf". He gives actual statistics to make his case pointing out that by 2025 annual consumption in emerging economies will rise to thirty trillion dollars, nearly half the global total, yet the largest Western multinationals only derive seventeen per cent of revenues from these areas. An even more damaging fact is that the GDP of the Commonwealth, excluding Britain's, is forecast to grow by more than seven per cent a year over the next five years, thus overtaking that of the eurozone. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, for the first time since the 1970s UK exports of goods to the rest of the world now exceeds sales to the EU.
Brussels is levying a distortionary tariff on imports from other parts of the world and banning the UK from concluding its own trade agreements yet some claim that we would be "punished" if we sought to break with the EU, a hollow threat, as not only is Britain the EU's largest export market it would be illegal under World Trade Organisation rules for Brussels to impose penal tariffs on us. As this writer concludes "A reinvigorated, post-Olympic Britain, confident in its identity, needs to secure a new economic place for itself in the world. We desperately need visionary leaders with the courage to fight for this".
Of course none of these facts are new to Eurorealists, who have been pointing them out for years and we assuredly do have the necessary leaders. It is just that they are not, with a very few exceptions, to be found among the main political parties. Even before Heath forced us to join the European project General de Gaulle was questioning why a nation with vast, historic markets and a Commonwealth whose goods complemented, not competed with, its own products should wish to tie itself into a group of nations who were its main competitors. He was right then and it was only the desire of politicians to strut their little hour on a wider stage that took us in, and keeps us in now.
We can regret that so many businessmen, while astute in their own field, were so naive as to believe that the EU would be good for them or for the country. Now, as the Euro continues its slow motion collapse, is the time to break free and turn back to the wider world. For our future let us look over the oceans, not the Channel!