A reminder of why we wanted out of the costly, failing, protectionist bloc that is the EU

A reminder of why we wanted out of the costly, failing, protectionist bloc that is the EU

The curious thing about the long battle of Brexit is the dog that never barked. Rampant Remainers abused the Brexiteers and undermined Theresa May’s negotiating position with their campaign of fear, by forecasting disaster and by clamouring for another referendum to overrule the first.

Yet at no stage did they indicate that anything was wrong with the organisation they didn’t want to Leave. Still less did any suggest changes which might make membership more acceptable – and none tried to persuade their mates in the EU to make any improvements to make staying in more comfortable. On the contrary. They admitted no faults, proposed no changes and viewed the EU as pristine perfection.

Which it ain’t. So at this late stage we should look at the real EU, not the myths of preserving peace (with no mention of NATO), advancing to ever closer union (which no electorate will vote for) and boosting the economies of the converging countries (when the euro is actually increasing divergence).

Departure from the EU isn’t leaving a happy band of brothers marching gaily to unity and prosperity. It’s leaving a protectionist club in which we pay heavily to be drained. The EU was created to advance the interest of France (by providing a protected market for its food) and the manufacturing strength of Germany (by a protected market keeping out competition).

The result was a protectionist bloc which we joined because British governments felt that industry needed the cold shower of competition and union power was making the UK ungovernable. That produced a haste to get in, prompting Ted Heath to accept unfavourable terms.

Mrs Thatcher got a rebate from our excessive contribution, but not enough, and part if that was then given back by Tony Blair. Fair contributions should be based on ability to pay measured by GDP, but ours produced a steady drain of jobs, money and economic demand. The charges are excessive (currently £11 billion), we pay more for our food (£10 a week for a family of four) and run a gaping trade deficit (£95 billion) because Germany insists on building up huge surpluses.

All this was made worse by the euro. Far from being a machinery for redistribution to help the weaker economies, this has worked to ruin them because it’s a neoliberal device for disciplining the small economies, particularly the Club Med nations. It benefited Germany by holding its exchange rate down when it should go up to trade fairly. It forced deflation on the weaker economies, compelled (disastrously in Greece and Italy) to try to keep to German rates of inflation and levels of productivity by harsh financial discipline. Unemployment rose, particularly for young people. The result was increasing divergence, a rejection of Keynesian growth and a continent growing more slowly than other countries – even Britain under George Osborne’s idiotic deflation.

There was no escape. We couldn’t trade with other economies, get food on the cheaper world market or give state aid to failing industries and redistribute growth by an effective regional policy. Instead we were forced to trade in a protectionist bloc weighted against us, accept whatever cheap labour came in from Eastern Europe and all without help from the EU whose grants are our own money back with their costs taken out.

That’s the problem. Our political elite likes it as a bigger stage on which to strut. The vested interests want to keep their cosy status quo and business lacks the guts to seize an opportunity. Yet the Brexit vote was largely triggered by the effects of austerity and slower growth on our people. Staying in an unchanged EU would do nothing about either. It seems more likely to increase the alienation which caused the vote in the first place.