One year before the 2016 EU referendum I was Pro EU and would have voted Remain without hesitation. 3 months before the vote I was a Brexit supporter and voted Leave and don’t regret it.
I’ve been interested in politics for well over a decade, like many I spend a lot of time following politics and in 2009 I even built a website in anticipation of the 2010 general election. The site generated millions of visitors and was one of the top sites in Google for General Election UK searches.
I was very pro EU, the very first comment I made on the new site was defending the EU, I wrote:
I don’t want us to leave the EU, financially speaking we are much better off in than out. August 29th, 2009: David Law
If you read my UK Local and European Election Results article you will see I was concerned at BNP MEPs, it was why I started a politics site.
This result concerned me: “British National Party : 943,598 votes 6.2% (+1.3%) 2 seats” felt wrong!
I saw the EU as the future, it was obvious as time passed we’d transfer more power to the EU and eventually the EU politicians and bureaucrats would be as and then more important to our day to day lives than politicians in London. I wasn’t concerned at this, I don’t have a problem in principle with the EURO, an EU army, sharing resources, all the sort of stuff Euroskeptics supposedly worry about: I’m not a Euroskeptic, I like the EU.
Low EU Election Voter Turnout
However I was concerned UK politicians and the media use the EU as an excuse for UK problems and more importantly the British electorate cared so little about European Parliament elections we’ve never even had 40% turnout during the 8 EU elections we’ve participated in! As a believer in democracy that worries me a LOT!
Almost a decade later I know a lot more about the EU and though I’m still Pro EU (I love the concept) I no longer see the EU as the UK’s best future, I see major risks in remaining and as a country which hasn’t embraced the EU project I couldn’t justify voting Remain.
Also very happy about the demise of the BNP as a political party, it’s pretty much dead and I hope it stays that way.
Few people believe the EU is perfect and many (including myself) believe the EU requires serious reform to thrive long-term. A year before the referendum vote I believed the EU would eventually reform for the better, I had hope.
In the final 6 months before the referendum vote I watched how dismissive the EU was of David Cameron asking for concessions to in effect placate enough UK voters to vote Remain and sadly this killed any hope I had of future EU reform!
Consider these facts indicating just how important UK membership is to the EU project:
- The UK is the 5th largest economy on the planet.
- 2nd largest European economy.
- 2nd largest EU net contributor to the EU budget, only Germany contributes more.
- In GDP terms the UK economy is the same size as the 18 smallest EU economies.
Below is all 28 EU member states, the UK economy is equal to these 18 EU countries economies: Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Romania, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta.
|Rank||Country||2018 GDP $|
Will the EU Ever Reform?
If the risk of the UK leaving the EU isn’t a good reason to at least offer to talk about EU reform! What the hell will it take?
This put me on a path to do far more detailed research and I wasn’t happy with what I found.
I’d assumed being in the EU was awesome for the UK economically etc… that’s the Pro EU/Remain narrative. We joined the EU in the 70s when the UK economically was a basket case and joining fixed all our economic problems!
Interesting UK Economic Facts
UK was the 6th largest economy when the UK joined the EU. UK’s placing has moved around the 5th/6th place over the past 4 decades, but overall not a lot changed: sometimes the UK is the 5th and other times it’s France, in GDP terms the two economies over time are equal.
This suggests the UK hasn’t suffered or performed exceptionally well economically, basically it’s done OK. That being said the UK (and France) have underperformed economically when compared to Germany, the German economy has performed exceptionally well as an EU member.
In the 45 years before the UK joined the EU the UK economy suffered 4 quarters (one year) in recession. In the 45 years since joining the EU the UK economy suffered 20 quarters (five years) in recession.
I’m not blaming the EU for UK recessions, just showing the narrative EU membership is awesome for the UK economically isn’t straightforward.
Interestingly the UK has the lowest exports as a % share of GDP in the EU, France comes a close second worst. This statistic surprised me a lot, I’d assumed the UK exported a lot, but relative to most EU countries we are the worst! The EU average is around 45% (Germany 47%), whilst the UK and France are around 31% of their GDP is due to exports. Germany basically exports 50% more than the UK and France.
The Remain narrative is the UK economy thrives due to EU membership, the EU facilitates an awesome UK export market. Clearly this isn’t the case. We do OK economically, but it’s not due to exports, it’s the home market, in particular in services which the EU in trade agreement terms hasn’t done a particularly good job promoting. Most EU FTAs barely touch services, EU FTAs are goods focused which is only 20% of the UK and France’s economies!
If this were just a UK problem we could blame the UK (successive governments messing up), but this also impacts France. Both the UK and France have mostly services based economies, both economies are pretty much 80% services and where the UK exports the least in the EU, France exports the second least (it’s pretty much the same amount: UK 30.5%, France 30.9%)!
The EU appears rubbish at promoting the export of services and as service based economies both France and the UK can’t take advantage of the EU trade agreements like Germany can: the German economy is closer to 60% services, relative to the UK/France the German economy has a huge goods market which takes advantage of EU trade agreements.
The UK and France could change their economies to be more goods based, but as a successful services based economy that doesn’t make sense. Makes more sense to negotiate trade agreements which focus more on services (what the UK does well) rather than change the economy to be more like Germany.
Work in progress, more to come…