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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Referendum is not about the Safe Status Quo vs the Terrifying Unknown

Europhiles are accused of exploiting Project Fear to frighten the UK electorate into remaining with the devil we know instead of taking a leap into uncharted waters. What they are doing is very much worse: they have a vision of ever closer union, a bigger and ‘better’ EU (including, perhaps Turkey), with a European army and diplomatic corps, with a bigger, more powerful and more meddlesome bureaucracy. No status quo is on offer. By ‘remaining’ in the EU we are padlocking ourselves to the seats of a coach which is going somewhere we don’t want to be. Not included in the vision is the empirical fact that the EU is shrinking as a fraction of world GDP. A shrinking economy laced with an expanding bureaucracy is a toxic cocktail.

The EU in its present incarnation is bad enough: antidemocratic, corrupt and sclerotic. Even if it were risky to do so, we should break free. But it is, in effect, not just shrinking but sinking.

At some point, well into the Voyage of the Kon Tiki, each of the mariners separately noticed that the balsa wood logs of which the craft was built were becoming saturated. It was possible, with their fingers, to break off pieces. Thrown into the Pacific, these pieces sank. How far, each man wondered, had the brine penetrated? Each man kept his worries to himself. The process was clearly ongoing. Nothing was to be gained by sharing the anxiety. Fortunately, they reached their destination before the vessel slipped beneath the waves. Fortunately, for us, the coming referendum gives us an opportunity to save ourselves.

The prospects, as the incomparable Dan Hannan reminds us, are very bright.

A statistic I never tire of repeating is this: Since 1970 the number of people living in dire poverty has declined by 80%. This is unprecedented in world history. Many millions thitherto poor are now affluent.

I lived in Taiwan from 1950 to 1960. Many Taiwanese were very poor. It is now a prosperous country. The reasons for this dramatic improvement in living standards are: globalisation, free trade and market economies. In relative terms the EU is witnessing a decline. The Euro has been a disaster for Southern Europe. Greece, the most terrible example, is now home to millions who are much poorer than they were a generation ago.

The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy and its fourth largest military power. We are influential in NATO and we have a seat on the Security Council. The EU depends upon us to import from them. We are a major player on the world stage. Our language is the most widely spoken. Much of the world owes us for democratic institutions adopted from us; likewise our sublime system of common law.

When the reptilian Edward Heath took us into what was then the Common Market, he did so on the basis of a lie. He knew that Europe’s future was avowedly political and he denied it. What a tragedy that we did not build upon the Anglo-sphere instead. Our shared traditions of liberty are not as deeply rooted in Bulgaria as in Canada, in Belgium as in Connecticut.

I wish Bulgarians and Belgians well. If they like the Ever Closer Union charabanc, good luck to them. But I want to get off.