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Last week on the Deep End, I wrote about the ‘message discipline’ that the NO campaign would have to practice in order to win.

There are various bits of Eurosceptic lingo that they could do without. ‘EUSSR’ is a prime example and another is the one about Britain being ‘shackled to a corpse’, which is often used by Eurosceptics in reference to the moribund state of the EU economy.

There’s an entirely legitimate point to be made about Britain’s membership of a trade block that’s not only hobbled by the Eurozone disaster, but which is also certain to account for a declining share of world trade. Comparing it to a corpse, however, is crass. After all, between now and the referendum, it’s likely to show a return to modest growth – unusual for a dead body. Furthermore, large parts of the “corpse” are more advanced and better managed than much of our own economy.

Writing for the Independent, Hamish McRae believes that, in the next couple of years, the economic news from the Continent won’t be so bad:

“New forecasts from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are encouraging. For example, Spain is expected to grow at just under 3 per cent this year and next, while Ireland may do a bit better at around 3.5 per cent both years. Spanish debt looks rather stuck, but Ireland’s debt, which peaked at 123 per cent of GDP in 2013, could be below 105 per cent next year. Portugal is forecast to grow at 1.6 per cent and 1.8 per cent, trimming its debts.”

No light at the end of the tunnel for Greece, of course – and it’s not looking too bright for Italy either:

“…barely growing this year and may only manage 1 per cent next. National debt, as a result, barely moves.”

As for the long-term, he draws upon demographic projections to paint a truly dismal scene:

“…UN figures for the changing workforce size by 2050 make troubling reading.

“For example, the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland are all forecast to have increases in the working population over this period. By contrast Germany, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain are all projected to have a shrinking workforce… in Germany the projection is for a workforce down 30 per cent, with Greece, Portugal and Italy down about 25 per cent.”

The movement of work-hungry young people from the Mediterranean countries could accelerate this trend:

“Obviously the more Greeks and Italians who come to the UK, the US or the rest of the English-speaking world, the more dangerous this trend becomes for continental Europe.”

Though not completely set in stone, the fundamentals of the demographic challenge have been known about for years, which makes the decision of European governments to run-up enormous debts all the more shameful (and all the more reason why their young people would want to leave).

Admittedly, Europe is not alone in facing this disastrous combination of a shrinking workforce and high debts. Some Asian countries are in the same fix – especially Japan (to be followed, within a generation, by China). Eurosceptics should therefore be careful about pointing to new opportunities for Britain elsewhere in the world.

Nevertheless, a demographic gap is opening up between the English-speaking nations and much of the Continent. Within Europe, it’s not a corpse we’re shackled to, but an empty cradle.

19 comments for: Heresy of the week: Is Britain in the EU really ‘shackled to a corpse’?

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