There seems to be a common myth that those of us who are fundamentally opposed to our continued membership of the European Union, do so because we are afraid of the bigger world outside of our own national borders and that we are somehow incapable or unwilling to accept that the wider world has fundamentally moved on from the period when Britain still had a vast territorial Empire that stretched across the world; and on which the sun never set. And so the same argument goes, Britain's Eurosceptics are not only insular, but also isolationists, who would quite happily turn our backs on all of the benefits that a truly globalised economy might bring to our country, in return for living in a Britain that resembles the best bits of the 1950's and 60's.
It's all stuff and nonsense of course, as that presupposes we'd all like to be living without our improved standards of living, our coloured televisions, personal computers, tablet devices and mobile phones, which of course we wouldn't. The very idea that those of us, who are opposed to the concept of a European political union, have some sort of rose-tinted view of Britain prior to us joining the Common Market, is not only ridiculous, but patently untrue.
Britain during the 1970's was often a pretty grim place to be, what with a massive decline in our industrial base, high unemployment, rampant inflation, power cuts and wildcat trade union strikes virtually every other week, all of which contributed to us being seen as the "sick man of Europe". However, let's not be completely misled about this, even though our entry into what was then known as the European Economic Community undoubtedly helped to stabilise and regenerate certain areas of our national economy, through the various trade mechanisms, ultimately it was sovereign British governments and not the foreign based EEC, that resolved most of the social, economic and industrial ills that were blighting the country at the time.
Even though you can continue to argue indefinitely about the causes of Britain's industrial decline, whether or not it was the bosses or the unionised workers who ultimately brought about industrial ruin, either way, the almost wholesale de-industrialisation of Britain was carried out by a sovereign British parliament, albeit in conjunction and with financial aid from the EEC. Similarly, virtually all of the Trade Unions legislation enacted to limit the immense financial and human power of unionised labour in the UK was also initiated by a sovereign British parliament, elected by the British people to both regulate and restrict the enormous social, economic and industrial influence of the Trade Unions Movement.
The point is that the EEC was never in any way responsible for fixing the multitude of social, economic and industrial problems that were affecting Britain during the 1970's despite what the most avid supporters of the European Union might choose to claim. Most of this country's ills were in fact "fixed" by a strong and independent sovereign British parliament, which consisted of elected British representatives who were finally prepared to bring the full force of their executive powers to bear, in order to fix an assortment of social, economic and industrial issues that had been allowed to fester for so long, that they were in danger of destroying the entire country. Let's not forget that Britain joined the EEC in 1973, had a referendum on our continuing membership in 1975 and yet large-scale industrial disputes were still raging in 1984/5, some ten years after we had first joined the supposed customs union, so any claim that the EEC/EU has been responsible for bringing peace, love, stability or even prosperity in its immediate wake is fanciful at best.
One of the other great myths surrounding our membership of the EEC/EU is that the other 27 member states have not, would not and will not continue to trade with Britain, were we to put ourselves outside of the customs union by deliberately leaving the club. Then of course there's the added threat to the estimated two millions British ex-pats who live, work, or who have retired to other member states, whose entire position would be brought into question were the UK to willingly withdraw from its membership of the EEC/EU. Clearly, to follow the EU supporters argument to its logical conclusion then, prior to 1973, Britain didn't trade with the likes of France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands or Portugal, we didn't sell anything to them and they didn't sell anything to us? In a similar fashion, prior to 1973, there were no Britons living, working or safely retired to any of those European nations, nor were there any French, Germans, Belgians, Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Dutchmen or Portuguese living, working, or safely retired to the UK?
Now I could be wrong, but I rather suspect that foreigners of all descriptions and nationalities have been living, working and residing in the various countries of the European Union for hundreds of years, without the need for a treaty or binding agreement to allow them to do so. Likewise, Britain and most other major European states have been happily trading goods with one another for hundreds, if not thousands of years, yet still didn't need an overarching or restrictive international treaty to allow them to do so. Ancient Britain was known to be trading with a number of Scandinavian and Mediterranean countries prior to the Roman invasion of Britain in the first century; and yet we managed to do that without the so-called "benefits" that are attached to our membership of the modern day EU. Fundamentally, people deal with people, trader deals with trader, countries deal with other countries, very often without a single word being written down on paper, let alone the tens of millions of words that the various EU treaties have involved.
The very idea that German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish or any other foreign consumers or manufacturer would refuse to continue purchasing British made goods, just because they happened to originate from outside of the European Union's self imposed tariff boundary is quite frankly ridiculous, given that we all continue to consume American, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Taiwanese made products every single day. After all, it's not even as if British manufacturers and producers are regularly supplying the sort of cheap tat, that might be produced elsewhere in the world, but for the most part are actually supplying the sorts of high-end luxury items that Britain is renowned for. British exports, be they financial, industrial, agricultural, aeronautical, automotive, fashion or petrochemical are generally some of the very best products in the world, so the claim that global consumers would simply stop buying them, just because Britain was no longer in the EU is an infantile suggestion.
As for Britain's global influence being diminished by an EU exit, well that's yet another myth perpetrated by those pro-EU'ers who would have us stay shackled to the project regardless of any disaster that might befall it, now or in the future. Unfortunately, it gets very tiresome having to endlessly repeat the facts that Britain is not only one of the largest economies on the planet, but also has some of the best funded and militarily capable armed forces in the world. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has been a founding member of virtually all of the world's most important international organisations, has a diplomatic network built up over decades and is a central member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It can boast historic links to virtually every continent on the globe and enjoys healthy diplomatic and trade relationships with nearly every nation of the English speaking world, so quite how anyone can suggest that Britain lacks global influence, let alone requires our membership of the European Union to somehow bolster it, is just beyond parody.
The truth is of course that those who would caution us against withdrawal from the EU are the real isolationists, the real Little Europeans, who would have us turn our face against the wider world, to concentrate instead on reserving our place in the limited, finite marketplace that is western continental Europe. They would have us settle for a potential market of 500 million people, rather than the billions of potential consumers who inhabit other parts of the world, many of whom reside in the newly emerging markets in China, India, Russia and South America. Why on earth would we want to cut ourselves off from the billions of people in these regions, simply to concentrate on the millions who happen to live within the artificially created borders of the European Union?
Might it be because it is the Little Europeans themselves who lack the confidence, the foresight, the confidence to strike out into the big wide world; and it is actually they who are busily looking back to a world of the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's, when the idea of a single unified Europe was being set against an almost common memory of a devastating military conflict. Is it also perhaps that the likes of Kenneth Clarke, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Jean Claude Junker, Angela Merkel and all of those others Europhiles who would have us become good "Europeans" are just small men and women trying to inflate their own personal egos and political legacies, by creating what is in effect their own small pond, in which they can appear to be much, much bigger? There is an argument to be made therefore that if anyone is turning their backs on the wider world, it is the likes of Kenneth Clarke, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and their associated Europhile followers, the very people who will campaign for the UK to say YES to remaining as a member of that same backward looking, insular, isolationist and anti-global customs union.