Brexit is an inherently positive concept. It is not the insular isolationist picture so often painted, but rather something progressive. Embracing global free trade, revitalising democracy and local government, moving forwards into a globalising world. These are distinctly positive, forward thinking messages, and it is also important to remember that when we talk about leaving the European Union that it is a departure from a political union, not from Europe. We can love Europe, love European culture and love our European neighbours without having to be in a political union with them.
The European Union represents a bankrupt economic union. It is one of the world’s only stagnant markets (indeed it has had a stagnant growth rate since 2008) and a market with which our trade is significantly declining (even without including the Rotterdam effect which distorts our trade figures to show increased UK-EU trade).
This stagnant market is something we are tied to – in effect by continuing to be a member of the EU we are paying for exclusive membership of a declining market. It’s exclusive because the Common External Tariff puts a significant barrier on trade with non-EU nations; because thanks to EU law we are unable to negotiate free trade deals of our own.
What Brexit offers us is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to move out into the global market. As the fifth largest economy in the world we would be able to have not just free trade with 27 nations, but free trade with 196. That’s free trade with the EU as well as with the growing markets of the world – countries like China, India, the United States, and all the other economic powerhouses of the next twenty years.
Economically, it is a choice between standing back and being happy with less than we could achieve, or stepping forward and embracing global trade. When people say we cannot have the best of both worlds they are wrong, Brexit is at its very foundations a choice between the EU or the EU and the world.
What about democracy? Democracy is an inherently liberal concept. As a classical liberal, one believes that decisions which affect people should be made as close to them as possible, not by Eurocrats in Brussels and Strasbourg. In a democracy, decisions are made by people we can see, people we can hold to account, and fundamentally, people we can throw out of office.
In the EU we cannot see the people who make our laws, we cannot hold them to account, and we cannot throw them out. That is not a democracy. Jean-Claude Juncker who as President of the only EU body with legislative powers is, in effect, the EU’s Chief Legislator, was elected by 0.0000043% of the people he governs. That is not a democracy.
Worse still, the EU affects UK democracy even where it does not have legislative powers. When power gets pulled up the chain from a national legislature to a supranational one, the national legislature pulls up powers from local government. Local government is weakened to a point where it no longer matters (as we see from turnout in the mid-teens for practically all local elections).
If we leave the EU we can revitalise our democracy, pulling powers back from a supranational, antidemocratic body and bringing them into national and local governments, so that the decisions which affect Southampton are made in Southampton, and the decisions which affect the United Kingdom are made in the United Kingdom.
The UK and its predecessors have been at the forefront of innovation and invention, world culture, and change for the last thousand years or so. Let’s return to a position where we can lead the world once more. European cooperative efforts on everything from security to climate change do not require membership of a political union. Cooperation between Britain and our European allies is inevitable regardless of what happens on June 23rd – but let’s do more.
As a global player once more, free from the shackles of the EU and able to stand up and made our voice heard, Britain can lead the way on global cooperation, cooperation on climate change, cooperation on tackling corruption, cooperation on global poverty. These are issues which require global cooperation. Let’s lead it.
On June 23rd you have a choice: be in a bankrupt economic union, an antidemocratic political union, an unsafe security union, or become a global Britain, a Britain able to stand on the world stage, able to trade in the global markets. We could be a Britain able to lead once more, rather than being constrained to merely follow.