Andrew Lilico on Sunday asserted that the “get-out-ers” should be debating “what do we do next?”, as the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, in terms we have understood it up to now, is over.
Well, at the Freedom Zone next to the Conservative Party Conference, where Mr Lilico suggested he saw no vision, there were alternatives put forward. The first was in a pamphlet written by Ruth Lea and Brian Binley MP entitled Britain and Europe: a new relationship. As the title suggests, it looks at the UK’s relationship with Europe and how it must change.
In doing so, the authors conclude that the UK, under the WTO, should move towards the following trading relationships with EU and non-EU countries respectively:
- With EU countries: a Swiss-style relationship, based on free trade and mutually beneficial bilateral agreements.
- With non-EU countries: closer trade links with the Commonwealth, the USA and other favoured nations. These links could include the establishment of a Commonwealth FTA and/or Britain’s inclusion in NAFTA, which could then become the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.
It argues that building up mutually beneficial free trade links with the EU, Commonwealth and NAFTA would mean that, rather than being isolated, the UK would actually be better internationally networked, especially with the world’s growing economies, than it is today as a full member of the EU.
But if that isn’t enough, there was also another vision put forward and, with it, further concrete ideas on how the relationship with the Commonwealth might develop.
This was also at The Freedom Zone, through the publication of Common-Trade, Common-Wealth, Common-Growth. This book, written by Tim Hewish and James Styles, demonstrates the powerful yet under-utilised economic credentials of the Commonwealth and how these can be enhanced for the benefit of all.
It understands that the Commonwealth is not merely a collection of 53 developed, developing, and emerging nations across the globe that spans all habitable continents with English as its lingua franca, and most of its legal systems based on English Common Law; moreover, it offers an alternative to problems encountered with the European Union.
In an article written last week, Tim Hewish explains that:
“We are looking to establish a network of shopkeepers where when two businessmen sit coincidentally side by side on a plane at Heathrow or Pearson Airport, and ask why they are going to Singapore or Rwanda, both their replies are that it is easier to do business in the Commonwealth.”
Indeed, Hewish is not advocating that the UK leaves one restrictive economic union only to fall into another. Instead, he argues that the UK should be free to forge economic ties with any nation or grouping and he envisages “a world where the UK joins NAFTA – renaming it the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement; re-joins the European Free Trade Association (EFTA); and creates partnerships with other key Commonwealth states, such as India and Singapore as well as the Caribbean and Anglo-African nations.”
This marks a distinctive change of direction to our EU membership. At present, the UK is forbidden from entering into free trade relationships as it remains in the outdated EU customs union, which means that our ability to create trade deals is given away to the EU Trade Commission. As a consequence, the UK is forced to hide behind a tariff wall which is protectionist, and doesn’t allow British goods to compete on the world’s stage.
Indeed, I’m sure that there are some things that will change in the UK’s relationship with the EU in 2015. However, as it stands this protectionist barrier still exists and it is unlikely that the UK will be able to be outside of it without first leaving the EU.
Yet in Common-Trade, Common-Growth, Common-Wealth, along with Ruth Lea and Brian Binley’s Britain and Europe: a new relationship, there are well thought through alternatives that, far from conceiving of the UK’s departure from the EU as a kind of withdrawal from international affairs, see the UK re-entering global relations with the ability to strengthen its lot through business relationships with both EU nations and others across the globe.
If he had been able to stay for the Better Off Out session on the Tuesday at the Freedom Zone, Mr Lilico would also have heard David Nuttall MP, amongst others, saying how we need to articulate that we are “great globalists” in looking for solutions that connect us to others outside of the protectionist EU zone.
Furthermore, if he had gone to the Labour party conference, he might also have heard voices articulating alternative visions to the UK’s membership of the EU. One meeting in particular was the Peoples’ Pledge/Labour Safeguards event with many Labour Members of Parliament including Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Austin Mitchell and Graham Stringer, all of whom articulated visions of a UK that can reconnect with global trade and strengthen its global relationships outside of the EU.
We are pleased to say that Kate Hoey MP was one of the panellists at Monday’s Westminster Launch of Common-Trade, Common-Growth, Common-wealth in the House of Commons. She was joined by Lord Popat, Chairman of the Conservative Friends of India; Richard Graham MP, Chairman of the Commonwealth All Party Group; and Henry Bellingham MP, former Minister for Africa.
This session gave further illustration that some people are articulating well thought out alternatives to the UK’s membership to the EU. Furthermore, I hope that Mr Lilico, and others, will pick up a copy of the book and join us in articulating the message that we are not merely “get-out-ers” but are, instead, “great globalists”.