What’s wrong with Britain becoming “a sort of greater Switzerland”?

David Cameron claims that being outside the EU would make Britain "a sort of greater Switzerland". He's wrong, it would make it better

Chocolate and money - what's not to like?
Rory Broomfield
On 23 July 2012 10:34

David Cameron said in an interview that if Britain left the EU it would become “a sort of greater Switzerland” and that this was “not in our national interest”.

On the contrary, leaving the EU would allow Britain to negotiate its own relationship with the Union, take advantage of its links to the rest of the world and generate both jobs and growth for generations to come.

Of course, there are areas  in which Switzerland leads the UK at the moment. As pointed out by Nick Wood of the Daily Mail, the alpine nation has lower unemployment (3.1 percent), higher GDP per capita (£27, 868), lower public debt as a percentage of GDP (52.4 percent) and are higher for educational standards (14th in the world). They also make some nice chocolate and seem to be quite good at winning Wimbledon.  

However, Switzerland does not have the ties with the Commonwealth that the UK possesses. As pointed out by Dan Hannan, the English-speaking markets which Heath and Wilson wrote off in the early 1970s have solidly outperformed those in the EU.

Furthermore, according to the IMF, the Commonwealth is projected to enjoy annual economic growth of over 7 percent in the next five years in comparison to the Eurozone’s projected 2.7 percent growth.    

This gives the UK the opportunity to capitalise on international trading and cast its net further than just its neighbours in the EU.

However, the UK is currently restricted in building its trading relationships abroad. Because of its membership to the EU, the UK cannot negotiate free-trade deals unilaterally and is obliged to follow what is best for the EU’s other member states. On the other hand, countries such as Switzerland, Norway and others that are outside the EU can conduct their own arrangements.

The result of this is that countries like Switzerland have been able to build economies where exports amount to 50 percent of GDP in comparison to the UK’s 29 percent of GDP.  

It is true that because of its size the UK is one of the largest trading nations in the world. However, it is also true that the UK’s inability to act as its own advocate might allow other countries to build their links where the UK should have an inbuilt advantage.

If the UK were independent of the EU it would be free to capitalise on its relations abroad. Like Switzerland, it would also be able to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the EU whilst being free from the EU’s regulatory burden.

This move would not just negate the competitive advantage that Switzerland and countries like it have but also allow the UK to reform its Commonwealth connection and take advantage of growth for future generations. 

In short: if made free from the EU, the UK would not be restricted in taking full advantage of international growth, creating jobs and future prosperity for the British people.

Being outside the European Union would not just make Britain “a sort of greater Switzerland”, it would make it better.

Rory Broomfield is Deputy Director at The Freedom Association. He tweets at @rorybroomfield

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