David Campbell Bannerman has been an MEP for the East of England since 2009. In May he defected from the UK Independence Party to the Conservatives.
Economic governance, a financial transaction tax and the impending collapse of the Euro – the EU project is in serious trouble. A majority of British people want to leave the EU and even more demand an In/Out referendum to settle the issue. A You Gov poll this July showed 75% of Tories want a referendum and two thirds want to leave the EU.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that he “does not see the case for an In/Out referendum on Europe”. He’s right – Eurosceptics to date have not made that case effectively enough. The EU may be terrible for us, and there is plenty to criticise, but we can only address the fear of change and of overturning the status quo by successfully articulating an attractive, credible, positive alternative outside the EU, and not just rely on attacking the EU.
I believe that the paper I launch today: ‘The Ultimate Plan B: A Positive Vision of an independent Britain outside the European Union’ in cooperation with The Freedom Association helps starts that process. The Positive Vision is one based on greater freedom, national self determination, greater economic prosperity, and an end to excessive regulation.
If that case is made successfully and a referendum is offered in years to come, then obviously we have to ensure we win it. The fear amongst Eurosceptics is that such a referendum will go the way of the AV referendum, where there was initially a big majority for change. Even in 1975, the ‘out’ side was way in front in the polls.
What was lacking then, is a convincing case – that Positive Vision – for life outside the EU. We need to demonstrate that we can survive outside the EU, breaking the euro-myths one by one and showing how we would leave, securing trade with the EU but free from political union.
In addition, there are also incredible differences between now and 1975. Fewer people get their news from establishment media (the BBC) and online blogs and news sources, like Guido Fawkes, get a bigger readership than most newspapers. More people can easily go on holiday to places much further afield than EU states. There is a difference in perception also. Back in 1975 the EEC (as it was then known) was the new horizon. Now the British people know there is a world beyond the EU to engage with. The case needs to be made that a free, independent Britain can have a host of new, positive opportunities we can readily grasp.
In a referendum battle, the pro-EU side will utilise every argument and political game available to scare the British people into staying in the EU. They will say we will lose jobs by leaving the EU. This is simply not true. We are the EU’s biggest customer. They trade more with us than we with it. Four million jobs in the EU are tied in with trade with the UK. There’s no reason to believe our trading relationship will change. What will change is the 90% of the British economy that isn’t involved with the EU won’t be bound by its regulations and rules, creating more jobs in the UK.
Similarly there’s the ‘what next’ arguments for when we leave the EU. The people will want to hear that we have a plan, that it will be business as usual, their lives will be easier and that they’ll never even miss the EU. We have to make it clear we will take back our seat at the WTO we currently leave vacant for the EU. Long discarded links with the Commonwealth can be reestablished. Crucially we will have the freedom to engage with trading blocs further afield denied to us by the EU who trade ‘on our behalf’.
Then there’s the mechanism of leaving. We know we can leave by repealing the 1972 EU Communities Act. The Lisbon Treaty allows members to leave and requires the EU to maintain trading relations post withdrawal. That’s all well and good, but Positive Vision goes through a step by step procedure of leaving, trade negotiation, deregulation committees, and special budgets to reallocate the billions saved, when we officially cease to be a member of the EU.
To win a referendum and free Britain from the EU, we have to be positive and show how realistic it is to leave. That campaign begins now.