PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 February 2013
I’m sure UKIP member Ann Prior (Letters, January 24) is not really the ‘raving lunatic’ she describes herself as being, and that’s good because we do need mature, thoughtful debate in the coming months and years about our place in Europe - not tub-thumping, not foot-stamping and certainly not lunacy!
Her arguments are mainly based on sums. We pay in more than we take out and just think what we could do with all that money!
Well - here are two figures which might be helpful, provided by Simon Sweeney, an expert in international political economy at the University of York and recently published (sorry, Ann!) in the Guardian: 57 per cent of our trade is with the EU; our nett contribution to the EU is £7 billion out of a total government expenditure of £695 billion.
That buys us a huge market and keeps Britain centrally-involved in European decision-making, placing us in a strong position as a ‘portal’ for companies from all over the world which want to trade within Europe and find us a good place from which to base their operations.
It also allows us to have a say in the many laws and regulations which emanate from Brussels, some of which are pointless and annoying but many of which are right and proper and benefit us a great deal.
And - perhaps more valuable than any of these - a strong British voice helps keep the peace in a Europe which otherwise might once again be torn to pieces by war.
So there’s a lot at stake, and - as Ann Prior rightly says - there will be many letters to the press about this issue over a five-year period which, since the Prime Minister’s speech on January 23, with his promise of an in-out referendum on Europe by the end of 2017, is now alarmingly uncertain. In the interim, I fear that our international partners might well lose patience and go elsewhere in search of more reliable long-term markets. We shall see.
One thing seems clear to me: Britain can only prosper in a today’s world, a globalised world of networks and alliances and unions, by staying connected.
Remember, we now face a Scottish referendum which threatens to break up the UK, atomising its parts disastrously, and threatening to make England (now on its own with Wales and Northern Ireland) a much-diminished power.
Were we, as UKIP wants, to come out of Europe as well, we would ‘stand on our own’ as a small island province in what could be a fruitless search for more powerful friends. Does Ann Prior really want that?