Wednesday, July 07, 2004

What if?

My friends at the EU Referendum Blog have a Link to an article on what would happen if Britain left the EU. Not that I am advocating it of course. This is where UKIP fails to convince. It's all very well saying we should leave the EU, but they just haven't done the research to outline the consequences of doing so. This article certainly makes you think though.


Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

To the extent that it does make you think, it makes you think "what planet do these conspiracy theorists live on?"

I could right a fairly lengthy essay on the absurdities in the article you linked to, but will content myself with a few brief thoughts.

First, the idea that successful private US firms base their overseas investment decisions on which countries they "like" or "dislike" rather than on commercial advantage is fanciful. Any firm pursuing such a strategy would not last long in the free market.

Secondly, the implication that the current or likely future continental European approach is to go for national champions is at least a decade out of date. In fact, the deregulation agenda is broadly accepted, the European Commission and Courts take an increasingly robust line on state aid matters, and even the Italians are grudgingly accepting that their national champions are basket-cases in need of radical reform.

Thirdly, the article simply parrots unquestioningly the eurosceptic fantasy that withdrawal would unleash unparalleled economic growth. Economic growth depends on productivity growth and standard of living depends on productivity combined with gains from trade. You can debate the eurosceptics' assertion that withdrawal would save us a certain amount of money each year on various forms of bureaucratic waste (and I do not want to understate the significance of such debates) but that is static state waste, and the idea that withdrawal would unleash growth is pure assertion with seemingly no basis other than wishful thinking.

Finally, there are the minor absurdities of the piece. The point that there could possibly be a major split over the use of English when EU documents are routinely translated into tiny minority languages such as Finnish at present (presumably one of the forms of waste that eurosceptics criticise) is ridiculous in the extreme.

I am a bit surprised at you, Iain, for giving such tabloid ramblings the time of day. There are serious arguments for and against Europe and all it entails but to give real consideration to a parlour game masquerading as legitimate analysis... goodness me!

Iain Dale said...

James, you do take things seriously don't you? I was fascinated by this article because I am an enthusiast for counterfactual history. Last year I edited a book called Prime Minister Portillo & Other Things That Never Happened and I wrote the title essay. Hugely entertaining stuff. For what it is worth I agree with most of your analysis of the piece, but that doesn't detract from its entertainment value.

Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

Maybe I need a holiday! The whole European debate just depresses me, I'm afraid. One side says we would have an economic miracle if we withdrew and there would be a Jaguar in every garage, the other that it would be a return to the dark ages, with wandering hordes of Franks and Vandals roaming the plains (I exaggerate, but not much). I expect you will say Howard takes a sensible middle line, but for all he says is "it's all awful but let's stay in it anyway" then whitters on a bit about how he would renegotiate it all as if anyone in Europe would let him do it.

I like a good counterfactual as much as the next man, but prefer to confine mine to highly ill-informed, booze-fuelled Friday night chats rather than having them masquerade as serious news!

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