Would Britain be better off outside the EU?

In the recent European elections many voters seemed ready to reject the EU. Here’s what that might entail

LAST UPDATED AT 09:01 ON Wed 28 May 2014

European leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss their response to last week's elections, in which anti-EU parties made striking gains.

"The results of the European Parliament election led to calls for an EU rethink by those leaders who suffered defeats," the BBC reports. "Reforms could include less regulation and less focus on economic austerity policies, while measures to boost growth and create jobs could address voter discontent."

But what if Europe, or individual members, took a more radical approach? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a part of Europe? And would Britain be better off staying inside the club or going it alone?

How did the European Union come about?
After the Second World War, Winston Churchill proposed “a structure under which [Europe] can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom... a kind of United States of Europe”.

At the time, the proposal was broadly popular in Britain, but when the European Coal and Steel Community was founded in 1951 with the aim of making “war not only unthinkable but materially impossible”, Britain stood aside.

Britain also declined to join the European Economic Community, when the six founding nations: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

Britain relented in 1961 and applied to join the EEC after watching France and Germany’s economies show signs of recovery. But its application was rejected not once but twice because the then French President Charles de Gaulle saw “deep-seated hostility” in the British attitude towards Europe.

Ironically it was the Conservative Party that eventually led Britain into Europe in 1973, with the more sceptical Labour party promising a referendum on whether the country should stay in, leave or seek renegotiated terms. When the referendum was held in 1975, the main political parties and all national newspapers campaigned for a vote to stay in the EEC, a stance backed by 67 per cent of voters.

Over the next two decades Britain’s relationship with Europe became more complex, with Margaret Thatcher expressing deep antipathy towards the project. In 1992, however, her successor John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union and the single pan-European currency (though Britain later opted out of that). 

How might Britain exit the EU?
The most likely way out of the EU would be for Britain to hold a referendum. David Cameron has committed to holding an in-out referendum by 2017 if he wins the next election, and has said he would not trade that promise as part of any coalition negotiations. 

Another scenario could see a referendum triggered by provisions contained within the European Union Act 2011, under which a referendum must be held in the event of any new EU treaty that attempts to shift significant power from Westminster to Brussels.

How would Britain fare outside the EU?
It would quickly see some benefits The Economist suggests. Treasury figures show that the nation would in fact be £8 billion better off each year. It would also be able to claim back its territorial fishing waters, scrap caps on limits to the number of hours people can work per week, free itself from the EU’s renewable energy drive, and create a freer economic market. This would turn London into a “freewheeling hub for emerging-market finance—a sort of Singapore on steroids”, the Economist says.

There would also be costs. British farmers would lose £2.7 billion in EU subsidies once Britain left the union, many UK car producers may leave the country rather than pay the EU’s four per cent tariff on car-equipment sales, and business investment would probably drift away from Britain towards the continent. Airbus might also leave in a bid to keep its supply chains simple, and an end to the movement of free labour would see a rush of British nationals and foreign citizens relocating before the door closed.

Britain would have to renegotiate bilateral trade deals with all its European business partners. It may also lose some of its military influence – many believe that America would consider Britain to be a less useful ally if it was detached from Europe.

Most critically of all, Britain would still be subject to the politics and economics of Europe, but would no longer have a seat at the table to try to influence matters – the situation in which Norway finds itself now.

“Norway has to swallow almost every regulation that comes out of Brussels, despite having virtually no power to shape them,” The Economist says. Another possible model for how Britain might interact with the EU is Switzerland, but it too has a fraught relationship with the EU, which is getting more problematic as more countries sign up to the Union.

If a referendum were held tomorrow, what would happen?
It could go either way. As of last month, the public was evenly split: 35 per cent of people polled by the BBC said they would vote to remain in the EU if a referendum were held tomorrow; 32 per cent said they would vote to leave. Another 27 per cent said they were undecided, and 6 per cent said they would not vote.

The end?
Perhaps the greatest uncertainty associated with leaving the EU is that no country has ever done it before, so no one can predict the result. “The most likely outcome,” The Economist suggests “is that Britain would find itself as a scratchy outsider with somewhat limited access to the single market, almost no influence and few friends. And one certainty: that having once departed, it would be all but impossible to get back in again.”

Disqus - noscript

A chain is as strong as its weakest link. Think of Spain, Portugal, Greece, and the answer is clearly "Yes, Britain would be better out of the EU". Its hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys.

The current version of the EU with its emphasis on political and financial unity bears no resemblance to the trade zone we originally voted to join,aside from Germany and the UK only the eastern member states are showing any domestic growth,France,Italy and Spain are barely treading water,if the EU is to prosper it must return to its original concept,the euro has been a disaster and the drive for political union has been totally undemocratic.

Cameron should get off the EU fence and commit himself to either the YES or NO to Europe. He should lead not be led. The longer he sits on that fence he would only damage his rear.

Hopefully he will damage himself sufficiently that in a year he will be returned to the ranks of no-account posh boys with no idea about real life. Heard him on the radio the other day being interviewed, he was asked pointedly and repeatedly about the trashing he'd taken at the hands of UKIP, and all he could talk about was his superiority over Miliband. We need rid of such people, who neither lead nor follow, just muddy the waters and make themselves rich in the process

Let's get a bit provocative, shall we? Mr. Cameron quite clearly fails the courage to make up his mind: staying in or leaving the European Union. Besides, maybe the EU would be better off without the fickleness and obstruction of Great Britain, since this former world power may still have the pretension to be "Great", but has no longer the means nor the influence to claim that adjective. Besides, suppose the Scots do decide for their independance in September and ask for membership to the EU, where would that leave Merry Old England? In the dark and cold shadows of a once bright and glorious past? And with charming Nigel Farage as PM? Little Britain as a reality show.

TWe would be far better off leaving the EU. It costs us a fortune just to be a member--we are one of only two or maybe three contributors (Germany is a contributor and maybe a scandinavian country)--the rest are beneficiaries--they get far more than they pay in. The EU has destroyed many of our traditional industries--too numerous to mention here. It has the last word over our laws. The open borders mean that we are vastly over-populated. A tiny wee island sinking with about 70 million people all crammed together--far too many--by far. We have a trade deficit with the EU--they sell much more to us than we sell to them--so they gain from trade. The best countries, and most lucrative economies are ALL OUTSIDE THE EU. The EU is the past--countries in Asia , South America etc.--are where the future is. (and do not forget Australia , Canada, the USA and New Zealand.
The sooner we leave--the sooner we start to save money and reduce our one and a half trillion pounds deficit--a national disgrace.

The chain analogy is completely wrong. It was clear from the analysis above we would be taking massive risks if we decided to leave. try to put a value on the things we would lose (e.g. much manufacturing).

You sound like a Kipper...willing to grab any silly point that seems to support your pre-conceived policy position; sadly, there are many Kipper types who grab at the same nonsenses.

"There would also be costs"

FFS Kippers, read what followed that. Then try to think.

...with freedom come risks! We risked annihilation when we declared war on Germany over Poland in 1939. This nation now lacks confidence and leadership - not courage and enterprise.

Firstly, Winston Churchill did propose a United States of Europe, he also said that the UK should play no part in it.

Secondly a country technically has already left the EU, namely Greenland.

Yes of course there would be risks like anything, there are risks staying in and its costing us massively to do so.

There would be a few years of turmoil until it finally settled down. The Norway and Switzerland analogy is totally wrong, we are far more than these 2 countries. We import more than we export to the EU so they wont want a trade war with us it would cost them dearly. Besdies we are exporting less and less to the EU every year. We also had to end our trade relations with the anglosphere to join the EU and look what a disaster that's been. You look how well anglosphere countries are doing compared to EU countries. We would gain much back, control of our borders, our fishing grounds our right to trade with who we want.

What a load of rubbish. Mind you the EU would be better off without the UK, unfortunately they need our money and our military which is why they put up with us. As far as the EU is concern the UK makes no contribution apart from the above. My wife who is French worked for them for 4 years she knows exactly what the Eurocrats think of the UK and the British people and its certainly not nice.

What is all this FFS Kippers crap. Why dont you try thinking nugget. We know there would be costs, but they are worth it. Well obviously not to you you cave dwelling moss licker.

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