Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

17 August 2012

Leavin' Here: Escape From The E.U.S.S.R.

M2RB:  Pearl Jam at East Rutherford, New Jersey, 2006


Hey, you, apparatchik-a-dees, have you heard?  Oh, yeah.
The peeps in this quasi-gulag are being misused.  Oh, yeah.
Yeah, I seen it all in my dreams last night.  Oh, yeah.
Serfs leavin' the satellites 'cause you don't treat 'em right.  Aaaah. Oh, yeah.

They'll take a train...take a train.
Fly by by plane.
They're gettin' tired...gettin' tired.
Gettin' sick and tired...sick and tired.

Oh, you,
'chiks, had better change your ways. Oh, yeah.
'Dem leavin' this тюрьма in a matter of days.  Oh, yeah.
'Dem's good, so you'd better treat 'em true.  Oh, yeah.
'Cuz your claims of "Democracy, today!  Democracy, tomorrow!  Democracy, forever!" are untrue.    
Oh, yeah.

We're gettin' tired...gettin' tired.
Sick and tired...sick and tired.
We're leavin' here...leavin' here.
Oh, leavin' here...leavin' here.
Oh, leavin' here, yeah!
Yeah, yeah, leavin' here! Been a long time a'comin'.

(Creative licence taken...obviously)

The case against Europe: One MEP reveals the disturbing contempt for democracy at the heart of the EU.  Over 13 years as an MEP, Daniel Hannan has witnessed first hand how Brussels works. Now he has written a forensic analysis of why it’s rotten to the core. His devastating critique should be required reading for every politician.

By Daniel Hannan, MEP

There is a popular joke in Brussels that if the European Union were a country applying to join itself, it would be rejected on the grounds of being undemocratic.

It’s absolutely true - and, believe me, it isn’t funny. Or, if it is, then the laugh is on you and me.

Democracy is not simply a periodic right to mark a cross on a ballot paper.

A protester places a EU flag on a bonfire during a riot outside the European Council hall in Gothenburg Sweden

A protester places a EU flag on a bonfire during a riot outside the European Council hall in Gothenburg Sweden

It also depends upon a relationship between government and governed, on a sense of common affinity and allegiance. 

It requires what the political philosophers of Ancient Greece called a ‘demos’, a unit with which we the people can identify.

Take away the demos and you are left only with the ‘kratos’ - a state that must compel by force of law what it cannot ask in the name of patriotism.

In the absence of a demos, governments are even likelier than usual to purchase votes through public works schemes and sinecures.

Lacking any natural loyalty, they have to buy the support of their electorates.

And that is precisely what is happening in the EU.

One way to think of the EU is as a massive vehicle for the redistribution of wealth - though not in a way that many of us would consider fair or beneficial.

Taxpayers in all the states contribute money to Brussels through their national taxes.

The bureaucrats then use this huge revenue to purchase the allegiance of consultants, contractors, big landowners, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), corporations, charities and municipalities.
In other words, all the articulate and powerful groups they rely on to keep themselves in employment.

Unsurprisingly, the people running the EU have little time for the concept of representative government.

The (unelected) President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, argues that nation states are dangerous precisely because they are excessively democratic.

‘Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong,’ he claims, without a hint of irony.

French riots: Firemen in Amiens yesterday examine a car torched by youths during a night of violence

French riots: Firemen in Amiens yesterday examine a car torched by youths during a night of violence

The plain fact is that the EU is contemptuous of public opinion — not by some oversight, but as an inevitable consequence of its supra-national nature.

The EU is run, extraordinarily, by a body that combines legislative and executive power. The European Commission is not only the EU’s ‘government’, it is also the only body that can propose legislation in most fields of policy.

Such a concentration of power is itself objectionable enough. But what is even more terrifying is that the 27 Commissioners are unelected. Many supporters of the EU acknowledge this flaw — the ‘democratic deficit’, as they call it — and vaguely admit that something ought to be done about it.

But the democratic deficit isn’t an accidental design flaw: it is intrinsic to the whole project.

The EU’s founding fathers had mixed feelings about democracy — especially the populist strain that came into vogue between the two World Wars. In their minds, too much democracy was associated with demagoguery and fascism.

They prided themselves on creating a model where supreme power would be in the hands of ‘experts’ — disinterested technocrats immune to the ballot box.

They understood very well that their audacious scheme to merge Europe’s ancient kingdoms and republics into a single state would never succeed if each successive transfer of power from the national capitals to Brussels had to be approved by the voters.

They were unapologetic about designing a system in which public opinion would come second to deals stuck by a bureau of wise men.

The EU’s diffidence about representative government continues to this day.

When referendums go the ‘wrong’ way, Eurocrats simply swat the results aside.

Demonstrators clash with policeman during protests in Madrid, Spain

Demonstrators clash with policeman during protests in Madrid, Spain

Denmark voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Ireland against the Nice Treaty in 2001 and Ireland (again) against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008. Their governments were all told just to go away and try again.

When France and the Netherlands voted against the European Constitution in 2005, the verdict was simply disregarded.

As an MEP at the time, I well remember the aftermath of those last two votes.

One after another, MEPs and Eurocrats rose to explain that people hadn’t really been voting against the European Constitution at all.

They had actually been voting against Anglo-Saxon capitalism or the French leader Jacques Chirac or against Turkey joining — anything, in fact, except the proposition actually on the ballot paper.

As in any abusive relationship, the contemptuous way in which Eurocrats treat voters has become self-reinforcing on both sides.

The more voters are ignored, the more cynical and fatalistic they become.

They abstain in record numbers, complaining — quite understandably — that it makes no difference how they cast their ballots.

Eurocrats, for their part, fall quickly into the habit of treating public opinion as an obstacle to overcome rather than a reason to change direction.

To get around the awkward lack of enthusiasm for their project, the Euro-elite of Brussels claim the people are being misled.

If only they weren’t hoodwinked by Eurosceptic media barons and whipped up by unscrupulous nationalists, if only there could be an informed and dispassionate election campaign, then the people would surely see that deeper integration was in their interests.

But, the argument goes on, because people are unable to make an unclouded judgment, Eurocrats are therefore entitled — indeed obliged — to disregard their superficial desires in pursuit of their true preferences.

Critical: Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP representing the south east of England

Critical: Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP representing the south east of England

In his final interview as prime minister, Tony Blair stated: ‘The British people are sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain prejudice about Europe, they don’t expect their government necessarily to share it or act upon it.’

Got that? According to Blair, we don’t want our politicians to do as we say: we want them to  second-guess our innermost, unarticulated desires.

From the point of view of the politician, this is a remarkably convenient theory. Not all Eurocrats are cynics. There are some committed Euro-federalists who believe it is possible to democratise the EU without destroying it.

Their ideal is a pan-European democracy, based on a more powerful European Parliament.

The European Commission would become the Cabinet; the Council of Ministers would become an Upper House, representing the nation states; and the European Parliament would become the main legislative body.

Give MEPs more power, runs the theory, and people will take them more seriously.

A higher calibre of candidate will stand, and turnout will rise.

Pan-European political parties will contest the elections on common and binding manifestos. European democracy will become a reality.

The problem with this idea is that it has already demonstrably failed.

Turnout for the 2009 elections to the European Parliament was a dismal 43 per cent - compared to 65 per cent in our 2010 general election, a figure that was itself considered embarrassingly low.

In other words, less than half the population could be bothered to vote - despite voting being compulsory in some member states and Brussels spending hundreds of millions of euros on a campaign to encourage turnout.

One of its gimmicks was to send a ballot box into orbit - the perfect symbol of the EU’s pie-in-the-sky remoteness.

The plain fact - which Brussels chooses to ignore - is that over the past 30 years, the European Parliament, like the EU in general, has been steadily agglomerating powers.

Yet people have responded by refusing to sanction it with their votes.

Turnout at European elections is far lower than at national elections for the obvious reason that very few people think of themselves as Europeans in the same sense that they see themselves as British or Portuguese or Swedish.

There is no pan-European public opinion, there is no pan-European media. You can’t decree a successful democracy by bureaucratic fiat. You can’t fabricate a common nationality.

A bleeding protester is led away by riot police during a rally in the Spanish capital

A bleeding protester is led away by riot police during a rally in the Spanish capital

But MEPs respond to this by blaming the electorate.

They demand better information campaigns, more extensive (and expensive) propaganda. Europe matters more than ever, and, they argue, voters must be made to see it!

It never occurs to them to infer any loss of legitimacy from the turnout figures, nor to devolve powers to a level of government — the nation state — that continues to enjoy proper democratic support.

On the contrary, those nation states find themselves in danger of being subverted by the Brussels machine and its sympathisers.

Ireland used to have exemplary laws on the conduct of referendums, providing for equal airtime for both sides and the distribution of a leaflet with the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ arguments to every household.

When these rules produced a ‘No’ to the Nice treaty in 2001, they were revised so as to make it easier for the pro-EU forces to win a second referendum.

Henceforth, the free publicity would be divided up in proportion to each party’s representation in parliament.

There is no pan-European public opinion. You can’t fabricate a common nationality.

And since all Irish parties — except Sinn Fein — were pro-Treaty, impartial information was replaced by State-sponsored propaganda.

Worse, the result was that all subsequent Irish referendums, not just those to do with the EU, are fought on an unbalanced basis.

There are many other examples of Brussels’ influence undermining the democratic processes of its member countries in order to sustain the requirements of European integration. Croatia dropped the minimum threshold provisions in its referendum rules in order to ensure a result in favour of joining the EU in 2011.

When the president of the Czech Republic declared his reluctance to sign the Lisbon Treaty into law, senior Brussels Eurocrats called on their Socialist allies in the Republic to threaten the President with impeachment, even though he was trying to stick to a promise he had made to his people in the run-up to his election.

Meanwhile, in Britain, successive party leaders have had to abandon their pledges of a referendum on one aspect or another of the EU. Each such betrayal damages their credibility with the electorate, yet it seems they are prepared to pay that price for the sake of Europe.

However, British party leaders have got off lightly compared to others.

In Ireland, the ruling Fianna Fail party found its support slump from 41.6 to 17.4 per cent in last year’s general election, as voters turned against a government that had meekly agreed to the EU’s loans-for-austerity deal, turning Ireland into a vassal state.

Teetering: A Greek protestor during riots in Athens in June, after austerity measures were put in place in a bid to rescue the country's economy

Teetering: A Greek protestor during riots in Athens in June, after austerity measures were put in place in a bid to rescue the country's economy

Meanwhile, Greece and Italy suffered what amounted to Brussels-backed coups as elected prime ministers were toppled and replaced with Eurocrats.

In Athens, George Papandreou’s mistake was to call for a referendum on Greece’s austerity deal - a move which was to prompt fury in Brussels where, as we have seen, the first rule is ‘no referendums - unless we can fix the result’.

Papandreou was not a Eurosceptic. On the contrary, he fervently wanted Greece to stay in the euro. His ‘sin’ was to be too keen on democracy, and so he was out

Silvio Berlusconi, too, got on the wrong side of the EU. His pronouncement that ‘since the introduction of the euro, most Italians have become poorer’ was factually true, but sealed his fate.

The European Central Bank’s sudden withdrawal of support for Italian bonds, verbal attacks from other EU leaders and a rebellion by Europhile Italian MPs combined to see him off.

Both Papandreou and Berlusconi were already unpopular for domestic reasons — just as Margaret Thatcher was when EU leaders and Conservative Euro-enthusiasts brought her down in 1990.

Had any of these leaders been at the height of their powers, they would not have been vulnerable.

Nonetheless, to depose an incumbent head of government, even a wounded one, is no small thing. It shows the hideous strength of the EU.

With Papandreou and Berlusconi out of the way, Brussels was able to install technocratic juntas in their place — unelected administrations called into being solely to enforce programmes which their nations rejected.

The most shocking aspect of the whole affair was that so few people were shocked.

The Brussels system was undemocratic from the start, but its hostility to the ballot box had always been disguised by the outward trappings of constitutional rule in its member nations. That has now ceased to be true.

The Brussels system was undemocratic from the start, but its hostility to the ballot box had always been disguised by the outward trappings of constitutional rule in its member nations. That has now ceased to be true.

Apparatchiks in Brussels now rule directly through apparatchiks in Athens and Rome. The voters and their tribunes are cut out altogether. There is no longer any pretence. In place of democracy, we now have the tyranny of a self-perpetuating, self-serving elite, all wedded by self-interest to the European project.

They are, it must be said, a worried and tetchy bunch. Ever since 55 per cent of French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution in 2005, the Eurocrats in Brussels have been noticeably defensive. They have given up trying to win round public opinion. Their primary interest is keeping their well-paid positions.

Before those ‘No’ votes, they could convince themselves that Euroscepticism was essentially a British phenomenon, with perhaps a tiny off-shoot in Scandinavia.

Now, they know that almost any electorate will reject the transfer of powers to Brussels. So they concentrate on wielding power in the way they know best — through influence and money.

It is a shock to discover just how extensive the EU’s reach is. Take its claim in 2003 to be ‘consulting the people’ about the draft of a new constitution by inviting 200 ‘representative organisations’ to submit their suggestions.

Every single one of them, I discovered, received grants from the EU. If you scratch the surface, you find that virtually every field of activity has some EU-sponsored pressure group to campaign for deeper integration, whether it  be the European Union of Journalists, the European Women’s Lobby or the European Cyclists’ Federation.

These are not independent associations which just happen to be in receipt of EU funds. They are, in most cases, creatures of  the European Commission,  wholly dependent on Brussels for their existence.

Protesters clash with riot police outside of the Greek Parliament in Athens, in February 

Protesters clash with riot police outside of the Greek Parliament in Athens, in February

The EU has also been active in spreading its tentacles to established charities and lobbying groups within the nation states. The process starts harmlessly enough, with one-off grants for specific projects.

After a while, the organisation realises that it is worth investing in a ‘Europe officer’ whose job, in effect, is to secure bigger grants.

As the subventions become permanent, more ‘Europe officers’ are hired. Soon, the handouts are taken for granted and factored into the organisation’s budget. Once this stage is reached, the EU is in a position to call in favours.

When he introduced the Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, made a great song and dance that it was backed by a whole range of independent organisations including the NSPCC, One World Action, Action Aid and Oxfam.

Yet every organisation he cited was in receipt of EU subventions. In a single year, Action Aid, the NSPCC, One World Action and Oxfam had among them received €43,051,542 (£33,855,355).

Can organisations in receipt of such colossal subsidies legitimately claim to be independent? Hardly surprising that they should dutifully endorse a treaty supported by their paymasters.

In much the same way, the Commission pays Friends of the Earth to urge it to take more powers in the field of climate change.

It pays the WWF to tell it to assume more control over environmental matters. It pays the European Trade Union Congress to demand more Brussels employment laws.

The EU hoses cash at these dependent organisations, who then tell it what it wants to hear. It then turns around and claims to have listened to ‘The People’.

Here is the swollen European behemoth, its interests utterly tied into the European project. And I fear it’s not going to stand aside for a cause so trivial as public opinion or democracy.

And here’s the clever bit: millions of workers linked to these groups are thereby drawn into the system, their livelihoods becoming dependent on the European project.

Meanwhile, big businesses see a way of manipulating the EU system for their own purposes, grasping that they can achieve far more in the Brussels institutions than they could from administrations whose legislatures are dependent on public opinion.

Between 2007 and 2010, the EU banned several vitamin supplements and herbal remedies and subjected others to a prohibitively expensive licensing regime.

The reaction from consumers to this attack on alternative medicines was overwhelming as millions of Europeans found that an innocent activity they had pursued for years was being criminalised. I can’t remember receiving so many letters and emails on any question in all my time in politics.

It turned out these new restrictions were pushed strenuously by big pharmaceutical corporations.

They could easily afford the compliance costs; their smaller rivals could not. Many independent herbalists went out of business, and the big companies gained a near monopoly.

The lesson here is that whenever Brussels proposes some apparently unnecessary rules, ask yourself, who stands to benefit?

Nine times out of ten, you will find there is a company or a conglomeration whose products happen to meet all the proposed specifications anyway, and is using the EU to its own advantage.

Thus are businesses, as well as charities, drawn into the Euro-nexus.

Thus are powerful and wealthy interest groups in every member state given a direct stake in the system.

These days, the EU’s strength is not to be found among the diminished ranks of true believers or the benign cranks who distribute leaflets for the Union of European Federalists.

Nor, in truth, does it reside primarily among the officials directly on the Brussels payroll.

The real power of the EU is to be found in the wider corpus of interested parties - the businesses invested in the regulatory process; the consultants and contractors dependent on Brussels spending; the landowners receiving cheques from the Common Agricultural Policy; the local councils with their EU departments; the seconded civil servants with remuneration terms beyond anything they could hope for in their home countries; the armies of lobbyists and professional associations; the charities and the NGOs.

Here is the swollen European behemoth, its interests utterly tied into the European project. And I fear it’s not going to stand aside for a cause so trivial as public opinion or democracy.

After 13 years as an MEP, Daniel Hannan's knowledge of the way Brussels works is second to none. Now he has written a forensic analysis of why it's rotten to the core. Yesterday, in our exclusive serialisation, he examined how the euro has brought ruin to Europe. Today he argues that Britain must break with Brussels if its economy is to prosper again...

Every nation joins the European Union for its own reasons. The French saw an opportunity to enlarge their gloire, the Italians were sick of a corrupt and discredited political class.

The burghers of the Low Countries had had enough of being dragged into wars between their larger neighbours, and the former Communist states saw membership as an escape from Soviet domination.

One thing in common is that they all joined out of a sense of pessimism: that they couldn't succeed alone. 

What might have been: The unsuccessful 'No to Europe' campaign in 1975

What might have been: The unsuccessful 'No to Europe' campaign in 1975

Confident and prosperous nations, such as Norway and Switzerland, see no need to abandon their present liberties. Less happy nations seek accession out of, if not despair, a sense of national angst. Britain signed up in 1973 at what was our lowest moment as a modern nation. Ever since the end of World War II, we had been comprehensively outperformed by virtually every Western European economy.

Suffering from double-digit inflation, constant strikes, the three-day week, power cuts and prices-and-incomes policies, decline seemed irreversible.

It was during this black period that we became a member of the Common Market, with the electorate confirming the decision by a majority of two to one in a referendum two years later. Our timing could hardly have been worse. Western Europe as a whole had grown spectacularly since 1945, bouncing back from the war years with the help of American aid. But shortly after we joined, world oil prices quadrupled after a crisis in the Middle East, and this growth shuddered to a halt.

Far from joining a growing and prosperous free-trade area, the United Kingdom found itself confined in a cramped and declining customs union. We had shackled ourselves to a corpse. And in doing so, we foolishly stood aside from our natural hinterland - the markets of the Commonwealth and the wider Anglosphere, which continued to grow impressively as Europe dwindled.

These historic ties had always set Britain apart from the rest of Europe. Britain might be just 22 miles from the Continent, but her airmail letters and international phone calls went overwhelmingly to North America, the Caribbean, the Indian sub-continent, Australia and New Zealand.

We conducted a far higher proportion of our trade with non-European states than did any other member. We still do.

This was why France's General de Gaulle vetoed our first two applications to the EEC. Perhaps he knew us better than our own leaders at the time did.

French president Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain's first two applications to the EEC. Perhaps he knew us better than our own leaders did at the time

French president Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain's first two applications to the EEC. Perhaps he knew us better than our own leaders did at the time

Twenty-five years later, Margaret Thatcher was to make the same argument when she observed that throughout her life, Britain's problems had come from Europe and its solutions from the rest of the English-speaking world.

Nonetheless, in the post-war years, we were far from standoffish about the moves made by other countries towards greater European integration. Our leaders argued for the creation of a broad and flexible European free-trade area, doing business with the rest of the world.

What they opposed was a protected European sector, with prices regulated by the state.

That, though, was precisely what the clique of federalists were after - a tight community based on a common external tariff, industrial and agrarian subsidies and common political institutions.

Successive prime ministers refused to join a Common Market that precluded Britain's trade links with the Commonwealth - until Tory prime minister Edward Heath came along.

A fanatical and uncritical Euro-integrationist, he was determined to get us in on any terms. He acquiesced in full to the EU's agricultural and industrial policies, external protectionism and anti-Americanism.

He loudly applauded its ambition to become a single federal state - though he downplayed this aspect for domestic purposes. The case he made to the British people was on economic grounds - that Britain would be better off - and he expressly denied that our sovereignty would be affected.

This has been thrown back at the Conservative Party ever since. People felt, with reason, that they had been deceived, that we had joined on a false premise.

Instead of becoming members of a common market, based on the free circulation of goods and mutual recognition of products, we had joined a quasi-state that was in the process of acquiring all the trappings of nationhood - a parliament, a currency, a legal system, a president, a diplomatic service, a passport, a driving licence, a national anthem, a foreign minister, a national day, a flag.

For Britain, the promised benefits of the European community have never been delivered

For Britain, the promised benefits of the European community have never been delivered

There was further disillusionment when the common market itself never properly materialised. The European Commission turned out to be keener on standardisation than on free trade.

Rather than enabling mineral water from Britain to be sold in Italy, it preferred to lay down precise rules on bottle size, content and so on. Products were banned if they did not conform.

Instead of expanding consumer choice, the European authorities were restricting it. And we paid for it. All this over-the-top regulation was - and is - fantastically expensive, outweighing any of the benefits of the single market.

The Commission's own figures show that the single market boosts the wealth of the EU as a whole by €120billion a year, but this is dwarfed by the annual 600billion cost of business regulation.

For Britain, the promised benefits of the European community have never been delivered. On the contrary, our pockets have been picked. In all but one year since joining, Britain has paid more into the EU budget than she has received back - the exception being 1975, coincidentally the year of our referendum on withdrawal.

Indeed, for most of those 38 years, there were only two net contributors - us and Germany. Every other country came out ahead of the game. We did not.

We were also penalised by the Common Agricultural Policy, a system designed for the needs of smallholders in France and Bavaria rather than an efficient farming sector like ours.

Once again, Britain paid in more and got back less.

As for the Common Fisheries Policy, that was openly anti-British. Its quota restrictions applied only to the North Sea and not the Mediterranean or Baltic.

Our trade suffered, too. Until 1973, Britain had run a trade surplus with the existing EEC members. It now went into deficit, where it's remained to this day. Meanwhile the markets that Britain forsook - Canada, Australia, New Zealand - surged.

Our institutions, temperament, size and experience equip us to seek a fundamentally different relationship with Brussels

Our institutions, temperament, size and experience equip us to seek a fundamentally different relationship with Brussels

Today, while the eurozone remains stagnant, the Commonwealth is expected to grow at 7.2 per cent annually for the next five years.

This fact seems to escape Euro-enthusiasts. In a debate last year, a former Europe Minister, Labour's Denis MacShane, told me condescendingly that what I failed to appreciate was that Britain sold more to Belgium than to the whole of India.

That, I replied, was precisely our problem. Which of those two markets represented the better long-term prospect?

Yet, four decades on from the disastrous decision to join the European project, Britain still has alternatives. There is still a world beyond the EU - if only we would separate ourselves from what amounts to a restrictive, protectionist and high-tariff customs union rather than a proper free-trade area.

And the good news is that we can. There is nothing to stop us pulling out and going our own way.

Unlike other parts of the EU, such as Germany, we are not held back by a reservoir of European sentiment, desperately clinging to some notion of unity and union for historical reasons.

Our institutions, temperament, size and experience equip us to seek a fundamentally different relationship with Brussels. As the euro crisis deepens, seceding increasingly seems the right way to go. So what precisely is the alternative to EU membership? Well, several countries - ranging from the Channel Islands and Liechtenstein to Iceland and Turkey - are already part of the single market without being full members of the EU.

While each has its own particular deal with Brussels, all have managed to negotiate unrestricted free trade while standing aside from the political institutions.

The best model is Switzerland, which rejected membership in a referendum in 1992. Although its main political parties had campaigned for a Yes vote, they accepted the verdict of their people and negotiated a series of commercial accords covering everything from fish farming to the permitted size of lorries on highways.

The Swiss have all the advantages of commercial access without the costs of full membership. Switzerland participates fully in the four freedoms of the single market - free movement of goods, services, people and capital - but is outside the ruinous Common Agricultural Policy and pays only a token contribution to the EU budget. Swiss exporters must meet EU standards when selling to the EU - just as they must meet, say, Japanese standards in Japan.

But they are not obliged to apply every pettifogging Brussels directive to their domestic economy. 

Tory prime minister Edward Heath was determined for us to join the EEC on any terms

Tory prime minister Edward Heath was determined for us to join the EEC on any terms

Critically, Switzerland is also free to sign trade accords with third countries, and often does so when she feels that the EU is being excessively protectionist.

The result is that the Swiss export four times as much per head to the EU as we do.

So much for the notion that our exports to the Continent depend on our participation in the EU's institutional structures.

But what, you may ask, if we leave and the other member states turn on us? What if they decide to discriminate against our exports?

This is hardly likely to happen since we import more from the EU than the EU imports from us.

They would be cutting off their noses to spite their faces if they restricted the cross-Channel commerce from which they are the chief beneficiaries.

Overnight, Britain would become the EU's largest trading partner and most important neighbour. Love us or hate us, they wouldn't turn their backs on us. And nor would we turn our backs on them.

As well as our trade links with the Continent, we would want to continue intergovernmental cooperation, our military alliance and the like. We cannot but be interested in the affairs of our neighbours.

At the same time though, we would raise our eyes to more distant horizons and rediscover the global vocation that our fathers took for granted.

There are those who argue that we as a nation are too small to survive on our own in this way, but such a notion rests on a misconception.

The most prosperous people in the world tend to live in tiny countries, such as Liechtenstein, Qatar, Luxembourg, Bermuda and Singapore. The 10 states with the highest GDP per head all have populations below sevenmillion.

If sevenmillion Swiss and four  million Norwegians are able not simply to survive outside the EU but to enjoy arguably the highest living standards on Earth, surely 60million Britons could manage?

And anyway, what matters to a modern economy is not its size but its tax rate, its regulatory regime and its business climate.

What has changed most radically of all in the 21st century is technology. In the 1950s when the European economic community was launched, regional blocs were all the rage. So were conglomerates of every sort - in business, in politics, in the trade-union movement.

Wise-sounding men asserted authoritatively that the world was dividing into blocs, and that it would be a foolish country that found itself left out.

Nowadays, though, distance has ceased to matter. Capital surges around the globe at the touch of a button. The internet has brought the planet into a continuing real-time conversation. Geographical proximity has never mattered less.

A company in my constituency in south-east England will as easily do business with a firm in Dunedin, on the opposite side of the planet, as with one in Dunkirk, 25 miles away. More easily, indeed.

The New Zealand company, unlike the French one, will be English-speaking, will have similar accountancy practices and unwritten codes of business ethics. Should there be a dispute, it will be arbitrated in a manner familiar to both parties.

None of these things is true across the EU, despite half a century of harmonisation. Technological change is making the EU look like the 1950s hangover it is.

So, if the United Kingdom pulls out of the EU, if we can negotiate an amicable divorce, we can be reasonably certain of one thing - that we will be better off.

But that's not all. The European dynamic would be wholly altered too - and for the better, as other nations demanded a similarly reformed relationship.

The exit of the United Kingdom would tilt the balance fundamentally in favour of the core federalist states. But many of the nations on the periphery would become uneasy.

There could well be a separating-out into a compact European Union - based around Germany and France, with a single currency, a common finance ministry and the full panoply of fiscal union - and a European Community, of which Britain would be a member.

This Community would be linked to the European Union through a free market and enhanced inter-governmental collaboration but its members would remain politically independent.

This separation might well be beginning anyway as a result of the euro crisis. The centre is finding it harder and harder to maintain its hold.

European integration rests, to a far greater degree than its supporters like to admit, on a sense of inexorability. People might not have chosen political union but, since it is happening anyway, they shrug and go along with it.

But if one of the four largest member states were to opt out, that sense of inevitability would evaporate and Europe would be able to regroup in ways that make more sense.

In my opinion, getting out is now the greatest gift Britain could give not only to ourselves, but Europe as a whole.

If we set the precedent, others will surely follow - and troubled Europe might yet be rescued from her current discontents and economic woes.

Leaving Here - Pearl Jam
Hey fellas have you heard the news? Oh yeah.

The women in this town are being misused. Oh yeah.
Yeah I seen it all in my dreams last night. Oh yeah.
Girls leaving this town 'cause they don't treat em right-a. Oh yeah.

I'll take a train. (take a train)

Fly by plane. (fly by plane)
They're getting tired. (getting tired)
Getting sick and tired. (sick and tired)

Oh you fellas better change your ways. Oh yeah.

Them leaving this town in a matter of days. Oh yeah.
Girl is good you better treat em true. Oh yeah.
Seen fellas running around with someone new. Oh yeah.

I'm getting tired. (getting tired)

Sick and tired. (sick and tired)
They're leaving here. (leavin' here)
Oh leaving here. (leavin' here)
Oh leaving here yeah yeah yeah leaving here.
Been a while.

Oh yea

The love of a woman is a wonderful thing. Oh yeah.

The way that we treat em is a crying shame. Oh yeah.
I'll tell you fellas yea it won't be long. Oh yeah.
Before these women they all have gone. Oh yeah.

I'm getting tired. (getting tired)

Sick and tired. (sick and tired)
I'll take a train. (take a train)
Fly by plane. (fly by plane)
They're leaving here yeah yeah yeah. Leaving here.
Leaving leaving. Oh leaving here now.
Baby bab
y baby. Please don't leave here.
Oh baby. 

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