• Toby Irwin

EU: 'European Union' or 'Economically Undesirable'?

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

Many calls for a new referendum on European Union (EU) membership are spurred on by claims that the electorate was lied to concerning the benefits of leaving. However, I believe this is superficial and does not take into account a multi-varied analysis. Not only were those who voted to leave lied to by the remain side concerning the risks of leaving, but it also does not take into account that lies are rampant in politics itself. The Institute of Economic Affairs recently debunked many of the concerns about Brexit in a ‘Fear-Check’ podcast, available here. On top of this however, is the hypocrisy that the British electorate was lied to about back in the ‘70s when we first joined the EU. The British public were led to believe this was an economic venture, not a political integration project.

The European Parliament, Strasbourg

The creation of a European supra-state has far surpassed what the European Union was initially designed to do, and - as Brexit has indicated – desired for. However, now it seems that the EU has lost all purpose, with the economic argument now falling flat also. It is indisputable that the EU’s share of world trade is shrinking. In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) the EU has fallen from 24% to about 18% of world economic output in the last 35 years. Concerning GDP and economic output in $USD the European Union has fallen from about 28% to 22% of world trade. Since 2007 the EU has seen a consistent collapse in its share of world economic output, being hampered by the incorporation of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia as well as the 2008 economic recession. *

The EU’s GDP itself is growing, hence why it is possible for some to claim that to remain is safe for the British economy. However, relative to the rest of the world it is declining steadily. Who can predict what the EU’s share of world trade will look like in another 30 years’ time, or 50? This is a consequence of the rise of other economic powerhouses in the world, notably to the south (Brazil and South Africa) and east (India and China). When Britain joined in the 1970s France and Germany represented the best way to capitalise on growing, post-war economies. In 2018 though, the future lies in Asia, South America and Africa. As such, Britain’s future trade relationships should reflect this change and be outside the exclusive customs union, where trade deals are negotiated as a bloc. Again, I return to the solution I have been advocating for a while now: the EFTA option. A new 79-page paper recently published highlights the feasibility of this option and provides the United Kingdom with an achievable alternative economic route which excludes unwanted political integration.**

A speech by Guy Verhofstadt in the European Parliament suggests that it was the EU itself that defeated and banished fascism and totalitarianism from Europe.*** I could be incorrect, but it seemed to me that this was a jab at Brexit, making some not-so-subtle claim that this what awaited Britain following its mournful departure. It is nonsense though. Britain is one of the only countries on the continent never to capitulate to authoritarian tyranny, and even today remains one of the most tolerant and inclusive of all nationalities.**** Furthermore, Britain’s sole extreme party, UKIP, enjoyed only a brief rise in popularity, before slinking back to irrelevance once more. It highlights to me once again the unwanted bureaucratic nonsense coming from Brussels. Peace and democracy in Europe have been promoted largely as a result of the single market (not exclusive to the European Union) and American-assured security through NATO, not pedantic grumbling over regulations and integration. The EU has overstepped its mark as a guarantor of economic security, and indeed also shrunk in relevance in that regard also.


** https://ln.sync.com/dl/824fcd480/egzwymwh-pdbvc9av-c9ay83jj-zvxb8uxt *** https://twitter.com/guyverhofstadt/status/1043782603839598592 **** https://www.indy100.com/article/european-countriesracist-study-european-union-map-prejudice-survey-7893106

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a second year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying Modern History and International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK defence strategy and foreign policy.

The student project covering international relations and foreign affairs


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