I was at a public meeting in Salisbury last week when a trade unionist demanded to know in what way the rights of working people are dependent upon our membership of the EU, given that the entitlement to maternity benefits, holiday pay, sick pay, social security and unemployment benefits in UK exceed the minimum required by EU legislation?
He had answered his own question: they don’t, and to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.
Of course, if I – as your MP – wanted to reduce your holiday entitlement, and voted to do so in Parliament, I would have to face your wrath at the next election. The problem with the EU is that the judges at the European Court and the 28 commissioners who increasingly are making our laws are not accountable to anyone: more and more, we are being governed by people who we do not elect, and who we cannot remove.
At a another meeting in Ringwood the following day, someone drew our attention to Anthony Bamford’s excellent letter to his JCB employees, reassuring them that their jobs were safe, and that they would prosper if we left the EU. In that letter he makes the point that when we joined the Common Market as its eighth member, it accounted for fully 31% of the world’s economic output. To-day however, with 28 members, the EU’s share of the world’s economic output has shrunk to 17%. I draw two inferences from this. First, the EU is of diminishing importance in the world economy and that if we are to prosper in the future we will have to look beyond its confines to the younger and growing markets of the future. Second, the EU is to a significant extent responsible for the diminution of its share of the world’s economy. The reality is that, far from acting to promote trade with the growing economies of the world, it acts to restrain that trade. In effect, the EU’s trading policy is one of constructing a ‘fortress Europe’ where trade between the member states within the EU is encouraged, but trade with the rest of the world is discouraged by the tariff wall that the EU has built around itself.
Where the EU has sought to make trade deals with countries beyond its own borders, it has proved extraordinarily dilatory. Canada has been trying to reach such an agreement with the EU for fully seven years. India, with a huge and lucrative potential market, waited so long for an EU agreement that it eventually gave up.
At a debate in Canford last Saturday the point was made that, irrespective of the undemocratic imposition on our ability to govern ourselves, membership of the EU – however frustrating – was necessary to secure our prosperity. As Anthony Bamford’s letter points out, the reverse is true: the EU is, on the contrary, holding back our prosperity. Whilst at the same ensuring that we are increasingly governed by people we do not elect and cannot remove. We can do something about that on 23rd June.