Looking at the state of politics around Europe, I remain convinced it is to the UK’s advantage to leave the EU. The prospects for our nation are good.
For all the high ideals towards which the EU seeks to strive, it is in an existential crisis, as Jean Claude Juncker said in his 2016 State of the Union Address. As events have developed in the three years since that speech, we have seen distressing scenes in France where weeks of street protests have erupted into a full-on anti-government movement leading to the worst violence in central Paris in a decade. In Italy, months of uncertainty and inconclusive elections have resulted in two populist parties – the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and right-wing League – forming a coalition. Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany entered the federal parliament for the first time last year. As with Italy’s League, it is an anti-euro party and it has strident anti-immigration policies. In 2017, next door in Austria, the Freedom Party become a junior partner in coalition with the Conservatives: talk of banning headscarves for girls under 10 in schools and seizing migrants’ phones is now a part of mainstream Austrian politics (see for example https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-43646560).
In April last year, Viktor Orban secured a third term in office in Hungary with a landslide victory in an election dominated by debates about immigration and featuring comments unthinkable in the UK political context. The Slovenian Democratic Party was the largest party in last year’s general election in Slovenia. Its party leader, Janez Jansa, formed an alliance with Mr Orban in opposing migrant quotas. Poland has also condemned the EU’s handling of the migrant crisis and in Denmark the police are now allowed to seize migrants’ property to pay for their upkeep.
Turning to the economy, according to the EU around 90 per cent of global economic growth will come from outside the EU over the coming years. The EU now accounts for less than half of our overall trade. The EU’s economic clout is also falling, with its share of the global economy almost halving over the last 30 years. For every unemployed British worker, there are two people unemployed in the euro area. Unemployment is five times higher in Greece, almost four times higher in Spain, double in France and between 17-19 per cent in much of the south of Italy. UK GDP growth was stronger than forecast in the first quarter of 2019 while Germany cut their 2019 GDP forecast in half.
In the UK, voters decided to withdraw their consent from the EU in a lawful referendum and, for all our difficulties, the country is fortunate to be having a thorough and relatively calm debate about what our post-Brexit future should look like. In contrast with much of Europe, we haven’t seen a rise of extremist parties in the UK, nor have we seen riots on our streets.
Now is therefore the moment to positively construct a new international trade and domestic regulatory policy which does not rely on political integration without democratic consent.
These publications set out how:
- A Better Deal and a Better Future – how we should be exiting the EU,
- Plan A+ – creating a prosperous post-Brexit UK,
- The EU’s proposed future relationship with the UK, set out on 7 March 2018. This offer would make possible Plan A+, through the Better Deal proposals above.
- Why Vote Leave by Daniel Hannan