Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Final Note to Brits Before You Vote: The EU is Not About Free Trade

Matt Ridley, a columnist for the Times (U.K.) and a member of the House of Lords, writes in the WSJ:

The EU is also against free trade. It says it isn’t, but its actions speak louder. The EU has an external tariff that deters African farmers from exporting their produce to us, helping to perpetuate poverty there, while raising prices in Europe. The EU confiscated Britain’s right to sign trade agreements—though we were the nation that pioneered the idea of unilateral free trade in the 1840s. All the trade agreements that the EU has signed are smaller, as measured by the trading partners’ GDP, than the agreements made by Chile, Singapore or Switzerland. Those the EU has signed usually exclude services, Britain’s strongest sector, and are more about regulations to suit big companies than the dismantling of barriers.

Even worse than in Westminster or Washington, the corridors of Brussels are crawling with lobbyists for big companies, big banks and big environmental pressure groups seeking rules that work as barriers to entry for smaller firms and newer ideas...

In a fine speech in 2013, David Cameron, the British prime minister, called for fundamental reform, but this year he settled for far more modest demands in a travesty of a “renegotiation.” He has since campaigned for a vote to Remain, making increasingly implausible claims about the wars, depressions and plagues of Egypt that will follow if the world’s fifth-biggest economy tries to survive in a world where Norway, Switzerland, Japan and Singapore seem to manage fine. His latest claim is that the leaders of Islamic State would welcome Brexit, for which he has adduced no evidence. George Osborne, his chancellor of the exchequer, has bizarrely promised a punitive budget of tax rises and spending cuts to deepen any recession after our departure.

The most striking feature of the campaign is that nobody on the Remain side is prepared to make a positive case for the European Union and its further integration. By contrast, the Leave campaigners, led by Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, and Michael Gove, the justice secretary, talk of Britain’s escaping a regional backwater and getting into the global mainstream, while remaining an ally and friend of Europe. I shall be voting Leave.

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