A referendum is only the start: We must plan for the finish

The case for a referendum is clear but the case against the UK's membership of the EU keeps on growing

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Cameron has many doubters, but shouldn't we plan regardless?
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Rory Broomfield
On 15 May 2013 11:22

The case for a referendum is clear: no one under the age of 56 has been able to vote on the UK's membership of a European project that has changed beyond all recognition.

Indeed, as David Davis said last week on Question Time: "every day more power is going to Brussels." This has been going on for the past 40 years and needs to stop. 

The people of the UK see this and understand that they want a different relationship with other European countries and with the world. But the need to articulate why the UK would be better off out, free to become master of its own destiny and able to reclaim control over its regulations and democracy, is as important as it has been for years.  

This is because of the challenges that the UK faces – and those that groups like the EU are failing to solve. In fact, not only is the EU failing on growing problems such as youth unemployment and the growing energy crisis, but it is actually making them worse. 

Through the highly regulated business environment that the EU has created, member states, from those in the Eurozone through to those like the UK, are unable to be competitive and adaptive in the way they set regulations. The results have been clear with growing numbers of 18-24 year-olds unemployed across the EU. Right now, for example, there are over 1 million young people unemployed in the UK; and businesses, with the burden of regulation, are unable (or unprepared) to take the risk of hiring inexperienced people. 

This burden of regulation, according to Tim Congdon CBE, is said to be 5 percent of UK GDP per year, or £75 billion. Similar estimations have been made by economist Ian Milne and Professor Patrick Minford CBE. The British Chambers of Commerce has also estimated that regulations originating from the EU make up nearly 70 percent of business costs to British companies. 

There are real costs that are holding business – especially small businesses – back. And these costs result in higher prices for the people of the UK. 

Take energy as an example. The Better Off Out campaign estimates that EU energy regulations will result in a near 25 percent increase in energy bills by 2020 – around £300 per family in the UK. These regulations and EU schemes distort the market, restrict the supply of energy, and produce higher prices for the consumer. 

Food costs are also increased by EU membership schemes. Dr Lee Rotherham has written for the Taxpayers' Alliance on how the Common Agricultural Policy has increased the average UK family's grocery bill by £400 per year. Indeed, in this 2009 paper, Rotherham estimated that UK taxpayers are spending £5.3 billion more each year than they would outside the CAP 

It is clear then that the EU hasn't just become an unbearable burden to small business but also to the people of the UK. What is more, the EU has also fostered an environment of corporatism which, again, hits both of these groups. 

Via lobbying activity, possibly borne out of their supposed economic clout, large organisations are able to influence legislation at the EU level and take away democratic control from the people of Europe. Ironically enough, this influence is said to be seen even in the negotiations of free trade deals - most recently between the EU and the USA.

It has been reported that the USA and the EU are making deals for larger firms and that they are allowing these firms to influence the process – a development that has been dubbed the “dirty little secret”.

Indeed, by allowing high degrees of regulation to cut up small competitors, the EU has not just taken away the democratic processes and given it to many corporates – it has given them the economic process too. 

It means that now more than ever pro-EU supporters trot out the lie that 3 million jobs depend on EU membership and that, if the UK leaves the EU, then we’ll be saying farewell to corporations like Nissan or Toyota as well. Yet this completely misunderstands the point that the majority of companies in the UK are SMEs and that the reasons why these sorts of corporations locate in the UK go far beyond EU membership. 

Indeed, the reasons are based on trade – not membership – as The Freedom Association's latest publication illustrates. And given that the UK has a £46 billion trade deficit with the EU, and is the largest consumer of Eurozone goods, the idea that these separate entities would cease a trading relationship should the UK revoke its membership is a complete non-starter. 

Nevertheless, these corporations continue to dominate the debate and, having been provoked by pro-EU scaremongering, many people are anxious. This is why transitional arrangements need to be thought about immediately, ready to be put in place for when the UK leaves the EU. 

A start has been made in some areas: Ian Milne, for example, has produced research for Civitas and Lee Rotherham has looked into other areas (including agriculture) for the TPA. Professor Patrick Minford will also consider some of these issues in a new publication produced by The Freedom Association next month, as part of a project aimed at producing plans that can be put into practice as the UK slowly withdraws from the grasp of the EU. 

Scepticism aside, we should be preparing for the possibility that Cameron’s promise of a referendum bill could, in time, become a government bill and potentially law; we need to start considering firstly why we would be Better Off Out but also how we can turn ideas into facts on the ground. 

The UK is in a very strong position in this regard. In addition to the aforementioned £46 billion a year trade deficit with the EU, according to Global Britain the UK has a trade surplus with the rest of the world of £17 billion per year and growing. 

Both of these trading relations are increasing in the wrong direction for pro-EU supporters; they prove, if nothing else, that the UK and its population are starting to look beyond the EU. 

In the words of Kate Hoey MP, we need to stop being "Little Europeaners" because, to borrow from David Nuttall MP, the UK has become a nation of "Great Globalists".

Rory Broomfield is Deputy Director of The Freedom Association and Director of the Better Off Out campaign. He tweets @rorybroomfield

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