Leading eurosceptic Daniel Hannan has said that voters should ignore the scaremongering which is being used by supporters of the EU in a bid to stop Britain leaving the political bloc. Writing in the Daily Mail,the Euro MP said europhiles were being disingenuous as they queued up to say the country could not survive without the control of Brussels and the debate risked being a rerun of the 1975 EEC referendum.
‘It’s as if the intervening 40 years have taught us nothing; as if we were still talking about participation in a common market rather than about the political amalgamation EU membership now involves,’ he wrote.
‘As in 1975, the multinational giants and the mega-banks are telling us that we must not leave; and, as in 1975, the Confederation of British Industry is pretending that its Euro-fanaticism is typical of British business as a whole.’
CBI President Sir Mike Rake used his position in the big business community to tell others they must “turn up the volume” on the benefits of EU membership but did not mention that the biggest of its members, including the BBC, take tens of millions of pounds in hand outs from the EU. The CBI itself is part-funded by the EU, having received £800,000 in grants from Brussels.
His comments led to UKIP trade spokesman William Dartmouth saying questions must be asked about his judgement, saying it has been “so consistently wrong that one wonders why he does not blush every time someone puts a microphone in front of him.”
“It remains a mystery how he has the nerve to offer advice to anyone on anything,” the MEP added.
Mr Hannan said that those who wanted Britain to remain in the EU were acting as though the NO campaign wants to stop trading with other EU members. ‘No one is talking about Britain leaving the European market,’ he said. ‘I don’t know a single Eurosceptic who wants to put up trade barriers against our allies in Europe. What we want is free trade rather than political union.’
And he added that he had not met ‘a single Eurocrat who says that withdrawing from the political institutions in Brussels would mean leaving the internal market.’
‘On the contrary, EU leaders keep telling us that the alternative to our current EU membership is a free-trade-only relationship.’
‘The idea that we’d face trade barriers if we pulled out exists only in the press releases of British pro-EU campaigners. They know perfectly well that it’s a straw man — though that doesn’t stop them bashing away at it for all they’re worth.’
In a classic example of Mr Hannan’s comments, Airbus UK last week hinted that they might not keep a factory in the UK should it withdraw from political union, although it stayed clear of making any definitive statements.
UK chief Paul Kahn warned that between 150,000-200,000 jobs in Wales alone were dependent on being ‘in Europe.’
He acknowledged that the EU could be “bureaucratic” but said doing business would be far more difficult if Britain voted to leave: “It’s a hell of a lot more difficult, more bureaucratic and more costly to do so from outside the EU than it is from within it.”
Mr Hannan said the reason that big businesses were so keen on EU membership wasn’t that jobs would be lost and markets closed off to the UK should the country vote to be an independent, self-governing nation but that they had invested so much time and money lobbying the EU institutions to get rules which suit them and disadvantage their rivals.
The EU is a paradise for big business, setting up barriers to entry and trade under the guise of necessary legislation, he said.
‘When I was a new MEP, I was surprised by how keen big businesses were on regulation; I had innocently assumed that they would want less government interference,” he said.
‘Now I know better. The multi-nationals see EU rules as a useful way to raise barriers against smaller competitors, who can’t as easily afford the compliance costs. A glance at the EU’s lobbying register tells me that, last year, Airbus spent €500,000 (£360,000) on making its case in Brussels, employing ten lobbyists.’
Instead, Mr Hannan says, we should listen to the entrepreneurs who don’t have a vested interest in stopping Brexit. Peter Hargreaves, who co-founded Hargreaves Lansdown said: “If you took a blank sheet of paper and wrote down all the benefits that derive from EU membership, you’d still have a blank sheet of paper.”
‘Or listen to Dr Nigel Wilson, chief executive of the insurance giant Legal & General, who told the Daily Mail earlier this week that the costs of EU regulation were holding Britain back in global markets.
“I see the world as a huge opportunity for the UK, but we are underachieving by concentrating on Europe, which is growing too slowly,’ he said. ‘This will not lead to economic growth in the UK.”
The question which will be put to voters is ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’ something, Mr Hannan thinks makes the question ‘loaded’.
In response the NO side need to come out as positive and forward looking, he said. ‘The case against the EU is not nostalgic, fearful or petulant; it’s optimistic, modern and global,’ he wrote.
‘We are a buccaneering nation, able to see opportunities beyond the stagnant trade bloc on our doorstep. We are a secure democracy, which finds no reason to accept the primacy of unelected foreign officials.
‘We are a forward-looking people, who have outgrown the EU’s Fifties-style corporatism. We are a trading country, our eyes fixed on more distant horizons. We can do better.’