With government support growing for a referendum on our relationship with Europe, Jim Sillars and Mike Crockart debate whether the time is right for us to quit the European Union
By Jim Sillars
‘THE WALLS OF EUROPE WOULD NOT SHUT US OUT’
I first argued for Scotland to be a member state of the European Economic Community in 1975, because I saw no logic in Scottish policy watered down in a UK consensus for EEC negotiations, and still don’t. Even as the EEC became the European Community, with an extended competence (transfer of sovereignty), I retained that position. Not now.
Of critical importance at that time was the existence of an effective national veto over policies, giving each nation considerable clout in negotiations. The EEC/EC no longer exist. The successor EU is a very different political and economic body. Successive treaties, especially Lisbon, have destroyed the national veto in a wide range of policy areas. The Commission, grown arrogant, is an unelected elite which has been instrumental in unseating the elected governments of Italy and Greece. The Greek crime was an intention to consult its citizens, by referendum, on the austerity package to be enforced upon them. It is now widely accepted that the creation of the eurozone without a full sovereign fiscal and monetary union, with a central power superior to the treasuries and parliaments of its member states, was a monumental error. Central to that error was the failure to consult the peoples of the eurozone. That was deliberate. The elite knew many would have said no, especially in Germany.
Do we really wish, whether we be an independent Scotland or still part of the UK, to continue belonging to this undemocratic, politically corrupt organisation costing the UK £50 million per day? Those who would keep us in, argue that our trade would suffer, implying that we would have the walls of Europe shut against us. Nonsense.
Under WTO rules that would not be possible. And there is a better alternative: membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It has a free trade agreement with the EU, called the European Economic Area. It has no £50m per day perpetual joining fee, but would provide, along with WTO rules, the access we can continue to enjoy to the EU market. Better together? Not for this Union.
By Mike Crockart
‘TORY CIVIL WAR MUST NOT COME FIRST’
Right now, we are facing a global economic crisis; quite possibly the most dangerous we have seen in the last 100 years. The British economy – jobs, businesses and family incomes – has benefited hugely over the last 40 years from opening up of trading and investment opportunities across the European Union and the creation of the largest single market in the world.
Eurosceptics in the Tory party may put their short-term party benefit above that of the country and try to use the uncertainty in the eurozone to push for a referendum, but to do so in the midst of such a global crisis is a dangerous distraction.
Government figures show that the average UK household is up to £3300 a year better off as a result of increased UK trading within the EU; there are 3.5 million more UK jobs. And the cost of living is some £480 a year cheaper per person as result of EU-wide competition driving down the costs of goods and services.
Today, over half of UK trade is with eurozone countries and around 60 per cent with the rest of the EU.
Our trade with Ireland, a eurozone country, is greater than our trade with the growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.
We must also remember that the UK is the beating heart of the European financial system, with major exposures to other countries and their banks.
Though we can try to minimise the impact, there is no hiding from a eurozone collapse.
Liberal Democrats in the coalition government will not allow misguided Tories to jeopardise our long-term relationship with our European neighbours.
That is why we are committed to upholding the integrity of the European single market and will continue to encourage co-operation between the UK and its European counterparts.
The true test of standing up for Britain’s interests is to work with and within Europe; it is good for jobs, good for growth and good for Britain.