|Daniel Hannan, MEP. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore|
Undecided on whether to remain in the EU? Here are seven things to bear in mind.
1. Our money, our priorities. Our annual tribute to Brussels now stands at £19 billion a year gross, 11 billion net. If we kept that money at home, we could give the entire country a two thirds cut in council tax. Or we could build and equip a state-of-the-art hospital every week. To put it another way, during the last Parliament, we saved £36 billion through the entire domestic cuts programme; yet, over the same period, we gave Brussels £85 billion. The EU, in other words, wiped out our austerity savings twice over. Even if we use the net figure, it’s still enough to have cancelled all the cuts and have had enough left over to take a penny off income tax.
2. The EU is out of date. In the digital age, we are no longer defined by our geography. We have links to other English-speaking and common law nations around the world – nations that, unlike the EU, are growing economically. In 1980, the 28 EU states accounted for 30 per cent of the world’s economy; today, it’s 17 per cent and falling. The real growth is happening across the oceans, not least in Commonwealth countries to which we are linked by language and law, habit and history.
3. Keeping Britain secure. Outside the EU, we can control our immigration policy. More passports are checked at Britain’s borders than at those of the other 27 EU states put together. The former Secretary General of Interpol, Ronald Noble, describes the Schengen Zone as ‘an international passport-free zone for terrorists to execute attacks on the Continent and make their escape’.
4. Recovering our democracy. If the EU were just about international co-operation and trade, no one would have a problem with it. The trouble is that it regulates things that have no conceivable cross-border dimension: the power of our electrical appliances, the frequency of our bin collections, the way we open a bank account, the tax on sanitary products. Our laws should have precedence on our own territory, and we should be able to hire and fire the people who pass them.
5. The EU can’t be reformed. At least, not from within. The utter refusal to grant David Cameron better terms puts that beyond doubt. If this is how Britain, the second-largest financial contributor, is treated now, before the referendum, imagine how we’d be treated if we voted to remain.
6. The safer choice. Voting to stay in means remaining on a conveyor-belt whose far end we can’t see. The Schengen and euro crises are deteriorating – which is one reason that the government was in a rush to hold the referendum at the earliest possible date. Staying in means more risk and more cost. It’s safer to take back control.
7. Great Britain. We are the fifth-largest economy in the world, with the fourth largest military budget. We are leading members of NATO, the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth and the G7 and G20. We are one of five permanent seat-holders at the UN Security Council. How much bigger do we have to be before we can live under our own laws?