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Douglas Carswell's Blog

15 JAN 2013

After we're out

Britain's EU membership is no longer a settled question. The great and the good have finally woken up to what my constituents have longer known; the current terms of our membership are unacceptable. Unless they change pretty dramatically, we will quit.

But what would leaving the EU mean? What would things be like outside?

According to a coalition of ex-ministers, failed politicians and corporate lobbyists, life outside the EU would be bleak and lonely. For them, no longer able to suckle off the Euro system, perhaps.

But what about the rest of us? Life would be better outside the EU.

Higher living standards: It is not a coincidence that European countries outside the EU, like Switzerland and Norway, tend to have higher living standards than EU member states. If Britain was outside the EU, our living standards – which have fallen in recent years – would likely rise, too.

How come? Being part of the EU means that UK households are having to pay much higher food prices (to fund the Common Agricultural Policy) and higher energy bills (EU renewable targets). Without these EU imposed policies, food and energy costs could be lower.

A competitive economy: Being part of the single market means that all UK businesses have to comply with EU rules, even if they have no intention of selling to the EU.

How can it be right that a business looking to sell to India or Manchester should have to conform with rules that are supposed to help facilitate trade with Belgium? It makes no sense.

Being outside the EU would mean that UK businesses would only have to comply with all those EU rules if they were looking to sell to the EU. At a stroke, it would remove a massive regulatory burden, and help make UK firms more competitive.

Trade with the world, not just a declining part of it: Last week, Honda announced it was laying off 800 workers. Why? Because the Honda plant produces almost exclusively for the European market, and the European market in car sales declined by 7 percent last year.

This week, Jaguar Land Rover announced it was hiring 800 workers. It produces for markets in America, Asia and the Middle East.

Nothing could better illustrate how our future prosperity lies in trading with the wider world, not just the declining Eurozone. Outside the EU, we would be able to trade more freely with the emerging world beyond.

More democracy: Being part of the EU suits many politicians and officials because it helps insulate them from democratic accountability.

Don't like the way your local council is emptying the bins? That's the Landfill Directive, Sir. Environment Agency ignoring local people? Habitats Directive.

Being part of the EU means that the public has been denied a say over whole swathes of public policy. Indeed, most of our law now comes from Brussels – so much so that our democracy is increasingly moribund.

Once outside, those we elect would make the rules, not remote officials. And they would no longer have excuses.

A lighter state: Bringing power back from Brussels should be but the first step. Rather than leave power festering in Whitehall, we should pass it downwards and outwards – a localist revolution.

Government and officialdom are going to have to get lighter and more nimble. Being part of the EU, with its top down dirigisme, is preventing us from making the changes that we need.

I can't help noticing that many of the most successful countries in the global race seem to be those in which power is dispersed and decentralised. If we want to win the global race, we need to radically decentralise the British state.

Leaving the EU does not mean returning to some imaginary past. It means far reaching change for the better.

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