It really is truly amazing the level of debate that has begun to surround the subject of our country's possible withdrawal from the EU, or "Brexit", despite the fact that the debate has now been raging for the past thirty years or more, off and on; and even though our beloved leader, the completely useless "dumb-ass" Dave is unlikely to ask us the vital question in the foreseeable future.
As Friday, the 18th January 2013, draws closer; and "dumb-ass" prepares to give his long awaited speech on the vexatious issue of Europe, it is perhaps worth noting first of all that the date of this speech appears to have been suddenly changed, in order that "dumb-ass" didn't upset the Germans, the French, or indeed the Americans, all three of whom are celebrating nationalist events that are clearly more important than the future direction of our own country....apparently! Still, it is nice to know where our Prime Minister's priorities are when it comes to offending national sentiments, Americans first, the Germans and French, second and third, with the great British public fourth. Lucky for us I suppose that the Belgians, Dutch, Greeks, Spaniards or the Italians weren't celebrating something important, otherwise we'd be waiting all year for "dumb-ass" Dave's supposedly landmark speech!
Still, I digress! Considering how important the current debate is over Europe, one might have expected that the level of discourse, between the for and against supporter's, the pro's and anti's, the Europhiles and the Eurosceptics might have improved somewhat, given that the subject is supposed to be so vital to the economic, social and political future of our country. Sadly though, if the purportedly high brow Guardian pages are anything to go by that is a going to be a forlorn hope, as the sum total of any serious debate seems to consist of most posters simply repeating the same old worn out propaganda that's been around over the past forty years or so.
Following on from "Calamity" Clegg's highly suspect claims that three million British jobs are reliant on our EU membership, which I've previously dealt with on an earlier post, other Euro-supporters anonymously claim that a British withdrawal will result in the UK going to hell in a handcart; that our entire economy will collapse in on itself; that we'll be left isolated and alone; that economic superpowers like China will refuse to trade with us; that all foreign owned companies (financial and manufacturing), currently based in the UK, will simply relocate their offices and factories across the Channel; and that London's position as one of the major financial capital's of the world will be fatally undermined. The only problem however, is that most of the people posting these dire warning of economic, social and political Armageddon do not provide not a single shred of proof to support their assertions, which makes you wonder why? Okay, we've had the likes of Richard Branson, Martin Sorrell, etc. making the case for staying in Europe and even for deeper integration, although I'm mindful of the fact that when Mr Sorrell was asked by Andrew Neil to name one company that had reconsidered its decision to invest in Britain, on the basis of the ongoing European debate, he failed to name a single solitary organisation, either because he couldn't, or chose not to do so for some undisclosed reason?
Of course, it is noticeable that an awful lot of the debate being held on newspaper forums is being driven by foreigners, who are pretending to be British, but whose writing skills, or rather lack of them, tend to give them away. Considering that it's the stereotypical "little Englander" that's commonly blamed for stoking nationalist fervour within the UK, it really is remarkable to note the level of bile and vitriol aimed at the whole of the British people, the majority of whom are generally quite relaxed, or possibly indifferent to their European neighbours, by a small number of European based posters, who obviously don't like the British to begin with, but still seek to influence an entirely British debate by pretending that they're one of us.
For all of the dire warnings of the economic cataclysm that's awaiting us, should we ever get a straightforward IN/OUT referendum, it is interesting that not a single one of these same doom-mongers have managed to successfully answer the following question; "just what are the main economic, social and political advantages of Britain's continued membership of the European Union"?
No doubt the most obvious answer is gaining access to a potential market of 500 million people, deliberately overlooking the fact that there's a substantial subsidy being paid for this access, of an estimated £1500 per year, being paid by every man, woman and child in the UK. No doubt they would also forget to mention that British sales to Europe are continuing to fall, as the Eurozone crisis steadily impoverishes many millions of people throughout Europe, with only around 40% of UK exports going directly to European markets, as opposed to the "more than half" that the Euro-fanatics commonly expound to underpin their position.
Another argument employed by the Europhile lobby, is that Britain has a louder and stronger voice in the world through its membership of the European Community. However, such a claim is obviously absurd, when one considers that Great Britain was a founding member of most of the leading international bodies that encompass the globe; and is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations. The truth is that the European Union gains far more from having the UK as a member, as the British bring with them centuries of international trade, diplomacy and influence, far exceeding that of its continental neighbours, including France and Germany. Even though the UK has willingly sacrificed many of its trading rights and historical Commonwealth relationships, in order to satisfy the requirements of the comparatively new European Union, it is a nonsense for anyone to suggest that the hundreds of years of shared history with the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Pakistan, along with the dozens of other Commonwealth countries and territories, would be worthless to an independent Britain outside of the European Union.
Critics of a withdrawal or renegotiation of Britain's EU membership have also suggested that a number of large foreign-owned British based manufacturers might simply close their doors and move across the Channel, in order to retain the benefits of being in the EU. However, when one considers that British consumers actually purchased two million new cars in 2011 alone, where would be the economic advantage of moving away from that ready made, on your doorstep marketplace? Bearing in mind that only some 150,000 workers are now employed in the UK by automotive companies and the billions of pounds that car companies have invested in their new plant and equipment here in the UK, isn't it just as likely that they'd simply adapt to our new relationship with the EU and carry on trading as usual. It has to be said that few if any car manufacturers have publicly stated their opposition to Britain having a new relationship with the EU, suggesting that they recognise that they will have to adapt their business models to suit the prevailing economic climate, whatever that happens to be. It is also worth remembering that the UK automotive industry generates an estimated £50 billion worth of revenue, only 50% of which is exported, leaving some £25 billion being generated by the home market, a not inconsiderable sum.
Opponents of a British withdrawal or renegotiation of our EU membership speak of Britain as a nervous, divided and inexperienced country, populated by a people who are lazy, stupid and unimaginative, which we most certainly are not. Okay, we might grumble and gripe, but that is the nature of a people who live in a settled and long-standing democracy, where the rule of law applies. It's not a perfect country by any means, but can be relied upon to bear the heaviest of burdens when the future good of our country is at stake; and it would be a mistake for anyone to think otherwise. Britain's aerospace and pharmaceutical industries are both in the top tier of their respective groups in the world, often producing products that are unavailable elsewhere and therefore immune from any effects this country's membership of the EU may have in other manufacturing sectors.
The truth of the matter is that Britain has some of the most highly skilled and adaptable workers on the planet and the ability to train more should they be needed. We have some of the lowest production costs in Western Europe, as well as access to some of the world's finest research, design and development teams working today. We have a regulatory environment designed to encourage profit and growth and highly competitive tax levels for those who want to benefit from living and working here. Additional benefits for companies considering an investment into the UK include; its affordability, a single language, familiar and standardised business practices, economic and political stability, a generally law-abiding society, a healthy business environment and the sheer ease of doing business in the first place.