The story we covered earlier concerning Lord O’Donnell’s puff piece, in support of handing more power over the political process to civil servants and Parliamentary has-beens, has attracted the ire of Douglas Carswell. Fair enough.
But this has subsequently prompted Daniel Hannan to weigh in, after spotting an opportunity to make one of his favourite points – related to comments made by O’Donnell on a different occasion – about how EU membership prevents the UK from negotiating trade accords with non-EU states. The problem with Hannan’s observation is that while true, it doesn’t come close to getting to the heart of why a UK exit from the EU is vital.
The prior comments of O’Donnell that Hannan fixes upon are these:
Britain is, above all, an open trading nation, but unfortunately our main trading partner, the euro area, is unlikely to increase its demand for UK exports very much in the short or medium terms. Our historical trading patterns, which have been so beneficial in the past, are likely to condemn us to the global slow lane for years to come. Our share of world trade has declined over the last decade by more than that of all our G20 partners.
This prompts Hannan to postulate that:
[…] Ever since the mid-1960s, as Hugo Young showed inThis Blessed Plot, the campaign to mesh Britain into European political structures has been led by our permanent functionaries. It wasn’t that they were unpatriotic. Rather, they had made a calculation, understandable in the context of its time, that economic growth would be concentrated in Western Europe.
Today, no one makes such a calculation. Every continent in the world is growing except Europe. Britain, the only one of the EU’s 28 members that conducts the majority of its trade outside Europe, is especially well placed to benefit from the growth overseas: we are linked by language and law, habit and history, to the places that are doing best. When even Sir Humphrey has internalised that point, our exit is just a matter of time.
What Hannan doesn’t explain, perhaps because he hasn’t grasped the reality of the genuinely bigger picture before us, is the more crucial point that Britain, because of its EU membership, has no direct influence at the level where trade rules and regulations affecting manufacturing and the standards for a vast number of goods are decided. Namely around the tables of various global bodies and organisations where no EU member has a seat.
While Britain’s ability to strike trade deals is important, of far greater importance is our ability to inform and shape, in our interest, the rules that will bind most countries around the world that are signed up to various conventions and treaties – and which consequently impact international trade deals involving most of the goods we make and most of what we buy. This is what membership of ‘Little Europe’ denies us and why we have to get out.
Leaving the EU is not an end in itself. It is merely an enabler that gives us an opportunity to fight our corner in our competitive interest, in the forums where the rules and standards are made. The hard work therefore does not end when we simply have the ability to strike agreements with other countries on our own terms, rather than the consolidated and diluted terms suiting 27 other European countries.
Hannan’s trade paradigm is only a narrow part of the imperative for leaving the EU. If he understood and articulated the bigger story from his substantial platform, he may actually help more people understand the benefits of British independence.