Brian Monteith: EU better wise up

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DID the vote on independence really matter so long as Scotland stays a member of the European Union? The EU gave its own ­answer to that question this week when it ­announced plans to introduce road tolls across the European continent.

In its usual patronising Euro-Nanny “we know better than you” manner the EU Transport Commissioner has said that we should pay road tolls that go directly to Brussels, where they will then be divvied-up amongst the member nations to take care of their roads. We would pay for every kilometre driven using satellite tracking.

We all know what that means, we will hand over our hard-earned cash to Brussels but then get back less than what we put in.

On top of what we already contribute in membership costs (a staggering £21 billion gross and £13bn net in 2013) our tolls will go to building roads in Romania and repairing ­potholes in Portugal.

We don’t need our roads managed in Brussels, we need our motorways managed in Edinburgh and London and our highways managed locally.

After Edinburgh voting against congestion charging why should the EU be able to ride roughshod over us without us being able to stop it?

When we joined this Common Market caper back in the early seventies we were told it was all about free trade with our European friends. We quickly found out it wasn’t and were given a referendum to decide over what was branded a renegotiation of the ­membership terms.

It was, of course, a complete ruse, a charade, pulled off by Prime Minister Harold Wilson to con the public.

There were no substantive changes to our membership terms but the ploy allowed him to say he had a ­better deal and it would all be good for ­business and jobs. I expect Cameron to do the same.

Ever since, year after year, we have seen the erosion of the UK’s influence inside what has now become the European Union. The removal of national vetos on so many aspects of policy has meant the UK can be ­overruled and constantly is.

Last year the UK failed to block a single proposal coming from the EU’s Commission presented to the Council of Ministers – despite trying 55 times. In 1973 the UK had 17 per cent of the votes at the Council of Ministers, where decisions are taken, now the UK has only eight per cent of votes there. If we want to stop road tolls we would need to find something else to concede (another word for “give away”) to buy up partners in a voting alliance. It is nothing short of international democratic corruption and should be roundly condemned.

On Wednesday I attended a ­conference run by Global Britain to hear Dr Gerard Lyons, the chief ­economic advisor to London Mayor Boris Johnson, explain what the ­economic future might look like for London if the UK stayed in or decided to leave the European Union. It was a compelling talk.

What became clear is that London – with all its diverse business sectors that make it the fifth-largest economy in the whole of Europe – should have nothing to fear from a British exit, what is now being called Brexit.

Now Gerard Lyons knows his onions, he has won many awards for his economic forecasting and was one of the very small number of economists that warned of the economic recession before it happened. He gave a balanced, non-partisan 
explanation of what the costs and benefits of the EU were and explained that irrespective of EU membership the UK’s future is in trading with the rest of world and not relying so much on Europe.

The obvious question is therefore why do we go on paying to be in a club that, by constantly adding regulations to the way we make things (1140 last year alone) or do business, makes us more costly to trade with?

Why do we carry on letting unelected politicians in Brussels add costs to energy that have cost tens of thousands of European jobs (40,000 across Europe in aluminium smelting alone)? Now they want to add costs to our roads.

Politicians such as Nicola Sturgeon like to scaremonger us with wild ­stories about jobs being dependent on EU membership, but it is nothing other than ignorant negativity to avoid having a genuine debate. The myth is put about that without being a member of the EU’s single market our businesses could not access the EU’s customers or would have tariffs placed upon them.

This ignores the fact such a trade war would be illegal under the terms of the World Trade organisation to which all European states are signed up to and that the EU has established or is negotiating more than 70 free trade agreements with countries such as China, India, South Korea, Mexico and Canada – and could and would do the same with the UK.

For the UK substitute Scotland, for London, substitute Edinburgh. The Scottish Government – or for that matter Edinburgh’s council – could do worse than ask Dr Lyons to do a similar study for what we should be doing about our economic future so that any decisions we make are informed ones and not just some prejudiced shots in the dark.