Rory Broomfield is Director of The Freedom Association, where he is Director of the Better Off Out campaign.
When it comes to the UK’s membership of the EU, President Obama and other US politicians should leave it to the British people to decide. This does not mean that the relationship between the UK and US should not be valued. Far from it. It merely means that one of the founding principles of both nations – sovereign democracy – is respected. Indeed, the principles and values of both our countries do, in many ways, mean that if we did leave the EU there would be ample opportunity to enhance our relationship based on our shared values.
These shared values are not just the product of our economic, strategic and diplomatic ties (although they help) but something more fundamental. Margaret Thatcher once said that she did not like the phrase “special relationship” because she thought it too clinical, too unimaginative and too cold. On the contrary, she preferred the term “our American cousins” as, in her family as in mine, she had family ties in the US. In her speech to the National Review Institute’s National Conference on “Anglo-American Conservatism” in 1996, she continued:
“We believe the same things. We don’t start politics from the idea of gain or from what system we have; we start politics from certain beliefs.” I could go on to quote the entire speech – it was one of the best I’ve read. It illustrated exactly where our common beliefs reside – and will continue to reside – if the UK votes to leave the EU. It talked of our shared language, belief in the rule of law (“expressed in the majesty of the principles of common law”) and democracy. It talked principally about the cooperation that the United Kingdom and the United States did have when she was Prime Minister, cooperation which found its roots in the above values, in contrast to those found on the European continent.
This cooperation has certainly fostered trade between the two nations. It has provided a sustained reward that has helped perpetuate and strengthen our relationship. Accordingly to calculations done by the well-respected economist Ruth Lea, the US is the UK’s most important partner for both outward and inward investment, with the UK almost certainly being the US’s most important partner for both outward and inward investment. Despite this, much of the case made by the Stronger In Europe rests on the idea that the EU is the UK’s most important trading partner - even more puzzling when this trade as a proportion has declined over the past decade – hit no doubt by first the growth and then the continuing crisis in Eurozone growth. On the contrary, the UK’s trade with the USA is well-established and strengthening.
Despite its strength, however, the UK-US relationship is being held back by the EU, as research by Ted Bromund and Nile Gardiner of the highly regarded Heritage Foundation indicates. In this, there is an understanding that outside the EU a trading agreement between both an independent US and an independent UK would benefit both countries. It argues that the obstacles to a trade deal not being completed have been political – and that the barrier is the European Union itself. Outside the EU, the paper suggests that there are a number of avenues that the UK could consider which would be preferable to a TTIP arrangement. This is especially as the current TTIP negotiations have been delayed and, in any case, exclude certain areas integral to our relationship (“culture” – including creative industries – being one of them).
Of course, our relationship goes far deeper than just an economic one: indeed, it could be said to be a consequence of other shared values such as language and law. In terms of these, also shared throughout the Commonwealth, there is a common sense of justice and belonging. Within the UK, this has been unwound over the years it has been a member of the EU. Going back to what Margaret Thatcher said in 1996:
“The law of equity, the law of Britain, is also being undermined because there’s a European law. It’s not our law at all; it doesn’t stem from the same great principles…[the ECJ] is a political court.”
This meant that Baroness Thatcher could then continue to say, with all confidence, that the UK had “come under the heel of an alien creed which is undermining our parliamentary sovereignty and our rule of law”.
This “alien creed” has only been extended with subsequent EU Treaties that, even if it proves legally binding, David Cameron’s deal will not repeal. It means that membership of the EU has not just undermined our relationship with the US, it has also undermined the core value systems that we share with our American cousins. Outside the EU, we can of course embrace once again the notions of parliamentary sovereignty and common law – something that the EU Commission, the EU’s acquis communautaire and its court system are incompatible with. In leaving the EU, we don’t just reinvigorate our fundamental values but also reclaim the common threads that, I dare say, many conservatives in the US, the UK and elsewhere would embrace.
We must remember that this week we commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The English language – the global language – is another example of the UK’s global reach and connections. With this language, one of the most respected legal systems in the world and global trading relationships, the people of the UK will be in an excellent place to take advantage of a future outside the EU. We would thrive.
As such, 23rd of June presents us all with a choice and an opportunity: do we continue living with a system alien to our own or do we recapture the values and relationships shared with the wider world. Far from turning our back on the world, leaving the EU can bring rewards on a global scale - no matter what here today and gone tomorrow politicians will say.