Dr Liam Fox is a former Defence Secretary and is MP for North Somerset.
Quitters – that’s what the Remain camp call those of us who want to leave the European Union. Not only is it insulting, condescending and an unnecessary ramping up of the rhetoric but it is also the opposite of the truth. Those of us on the Leave side have recognised the essential lie of this entire referendum campaign. It is that there is a reformed EU out there for people to vote for.
The truth is that there is no reformed EU and there is not going to be a reformed EU. The choice therefore is to remain, knowing that we are heading towards ever closer union or mapping out a new and different future for the United Kingdom. The European Union is failing. The twin disasters of the Euro and the Schengen agreement are there for all to see.
The social fabric of southern Europe is being torn apart as a result of the economically flawed and politically driven single currency project. A generation of young Europeans have seen their economic prospects sacrificed on the altar of this ideology and increasing numbers are heading north to find some prospect of prosperity, leaving behind an ever more dismal prospect for their own national recovery. The British people are paying for this not only through the prospect of ever increasing migration but through our budgetary contribution which is dependent on the performance of our economy in relation to that of the rest of the EU. The longer the euro continues to depress the European economy, the bigger our budgetary contribution will become. We are being forced to pay for the failure of a project that we stayed out of because we believed it was doomed from the start.
Likewise, the failure of the Schengen project for a borderless Europe not only puts us at risk in terms of our security but worse, is producing the rise of nationalist sentiment across the continent. We can see it in the strengthening of extreme political parties and in the barbed wire fence has been erected along European borders.
The truly sad thing is that those who have produced both these disasters have no intention of changing course. We know this because of the Prime Minister’s failed renegotiation. We asked for little and got less but perhaps the worst thing was the site of a British Prime Minister having to take the political equivalent of a begging bowl to much smaller European countries asking if we could please change some of our own benefit laws.
For many it was the final confirmation that we are unable to reform the EU from the inside. The hardliners in Brussels, Berlin and Paris will never deviate from a European project that has taken on almost religious significance. The concept of free movement of people has become the central ideological touchstone and no country will be allowed to dilute its effect or be exempted from its consequences. Those who simply accept that this is an unchangeable reality lack ambition for our country.
Yet, the Remainers tell us that we would be isolated if we left the EU and unable to influence the world around us. Isolated? Let’s just remind those who would sell our country short the sort of influence we possess. If we vote to leave the European Union then we will still have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. We will still be members of the G7 and G20 with the world’s fifth biggest economy. We will still be at the centre of NATO with the world’s fifth biggest defence budget and a close relationship with our major transatlantic partner, the United States. We will still be at the heart of the Commonwealth. We will still have a special intelligence relationship with our partners in the Five Eyes community – the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We will still have our seats on the IMF and the World Bank. This is not a picture of a country that is about to be cast into outer darkness but one which has significant levers to pull in order to shape the world around us.
I’m not willing to accept that we should meekly seek to manage our national decline inside a failing EU. It is quite unacceptable to say that in order to avoid short-term uncertainty will simply go along with the project that we all understand is fundamentally flawed. We live in a world where flexibility and agility will be key to our success. Handcuffing ourselves to the world’s most economically sluggish continent, with the inability to control our own laws or borders would tie as forever to the fate of the political equivalent of a condemned building. No, those of us who wish to leave the EU are not quitters, we are the visionaries. We do not believe that second best is good enough for the British people. We have faith in what our people can do, how we can shape the world around us and how we can create a more optimistic future.