‘There’s too much uncertainty if we leave the European Union.’ This is the battle cry of Remain campaigners.
But it should be clear that there is no certainty if we remain in the EU. Just look at what is happening to Europe: the persistent threat of another Euro crisis and further bailouts means there is little financial stability; the EU’s economic slump caused 50 per cent of youth unemployment across southern Europe; the near election of Norbert Hofer in Austria and industrial unrest across France demonstrate the potential for political upheaval; the free movement of people is undermined by the erection of borders across Europe; EU foreign policy has led to a disaster in Ukraine; the people of Greece continue to suffer; the Czechs are thinking of leaving; and Serbia is thinking twice about joining. People all over Europe are voting for anti-EU parties because they see the EU as a contemptuous distant elite without a plan. The EU provides little in the way of stability and plenty of uncertainty.
Moreover, there is no shared feeling of being ‘European’ under the EU. There are no pan-European trade unions, political parties, newspapers or TV channels. So when each crisis occurs, there is no pan-European discussion, no collective response. The EU’s answer to each problem is to centralise more power, to exert more direct control, and to issue dictates from distant committee rooms.
If the EU is unable to provide certainty, why do the Remain campaigners argue for it?
Firstly, there’s the experts. Organisations including the Bank of England, the Treasury, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have applied their computer models to the matter – and it doesn’t look good.
But what’s interesting is that the economists doing the calculations are using the same basic model. Their understanding of economic factors and how they interrelate is common, and different results are produced because varying assumptions are fed in. Put simply, they apply their judgement. What is also common is their assumption that the economy is largely outside of our control. Their pessimism stems from their assumption that Britain, unlike Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, the US and almost all other countries, will be unable to trade outside of the EU on mutually beneficial terms.
More importantly, the experts all assume that we are unable to transform our own economy. Let’s remember that, nearly 200 years ago, the early Victorians built 6,000 miles of railway in 18 years and we are still living with much of that infrastructure today. In the 1970s, we developed the fastest passenger train in the world and we still use it 40 years later. In collaboration with the French, we developed the fastest passenger jet, and we haven’t yet replaced it. In two generations, whole populations have moved from rural poverty to relative wealth in towns and cities, including 600million people in China. We have unprecedented computing power, enabling diseases to be decoded and cures found. We have more potential now than at any time in history.
In the UK, big strategic investments in new industries – from robotic house-building or biotechnology to exploiting the substantial oil and gas reserves through fracking – could foster a new industrial revolution. The economic experts have failed to predict every economic shock in the recent past, including the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), the financial crash and the Euro crisis. If they were honest, they would admit that there is little that is certain, in or out of the EU. But instead, they apply external factors to their forecasting models and are thus unable to model a transformative future. The economic experts fear uncertainty because they are unable to see beyond what exists now.