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Would a British exit from Europe damage the economy?

Economists and industry groups respond to David Cameron's pledge to hold a referendum on European Union membership.

Would a British exit from Europe damage the economy?

Just moments after prime minister David Cameron promised Britons an ‘in-out’ referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union, the French are already courting businesses that may subsequently want to relocate from Britain, with foreign minister Laurent Fabius promising to ‘roll out the red carpet’ to them.

This version of the speech given by David Cameron at Bloomberg, is as written not as spoken:

This morning I want to talk about the future of Europe.

But first, let us remember the past.

Seventy years ago, Europe was being torn apart by its second catastrophic conflict in a generation. A war which saw the streets of European cities strewn with rubble. The skies of London lit by flames night after night. And millions dead across the world in the battle for peace and liberty.

As we remember their sacrifice, so we should also remember how the shift in Europe from war to sustained peace came about. It did not happen like a change in the weather. It happened because of determined work over generations. A commitment to friendship and a resolve never to re-visit that dark past – a commitment epitomised by the Elysee Treaty signed 50 years ago this week.

After the Berlin Wall came down I visited that city and I will never forget it.

The abandoned checkpoints. The sense of excitement about the future. The knowledge that a great continent was coming together. Healing those wounds of our history is the central story of the European Union.

What Churchill described as the twin marauders of war and tyranny have been almost entirely banished from our continent. Today, hundreds of millions dwell in freedom, from the Baltic to the Adriatic, from the Western Approaches to the Aegean.

And while we must never take this for granted, the first purpose of the European Union – to secure peace – has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside NATO, who made that happen.

But today the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is different: not to win peace, but to secure prosperity.

The challenges come not from within this continent but outside it. From the surging economies in the East and South. Of course a growing world economy benefits us all, but we should be in no doubt that a new global race of nations is underway today.

A race for the wealth and jobs of the future.

The map of global influence is changing before our eyes. And these changes are already being felt by the entrepreneur in the Netherlands, the worker in Germany, the family in Britain.

Deliver prosperity, retain support

So I want to speak to you today with urgency and frankness about the European Union and how it must change – both to deliver prosperity and to retain the support of its peoples.

But first, I want to set out the spirit in which I approach these issues.

I know that the United Kingdom is sometimes seen as an argumentative and rather strong-minded member of the family of European nations.

And it’s true that our geography has shaped our psychology.

We have the character of an island nation – independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty.

We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel.

And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.

For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself.

We insistently ask: How? Why? To what end?

But all this doesn’t make us somehow un-European.

The fact is that ours is not just an island story – it is also a continental story.

For all our connections to the rest of the world – of which we are rightly proud – we have always been a European power – and we always will be.

From Caesar’s legions to the Napoleonic Wars. From the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution to the defeat of Nazism. We have helped to write European history, and Europe has helped write ours.

Over the years, Britain has made her own, unique contribution to Europe. We have provided a haven to those fleeing tyranny and persecution. And in Europe’s darkest hour, we helped keep the flame of liberty alight. Across the continent, in silent cemeteries, lie the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen who gave their lives for Europe’s freedom.

In more recent decades, we have played our part in tearing down the Iron Curtain and championing the entry into the EU of those countries that lost so many years to Communism. And contained in this history is the crucial point about Britain, our national character, our attitude to Europe.

Britain is characterised not just by its independence but, above all, by its openness.

We have always been a country that reaches out. That turns its face to the world…

That leads the charge in the fight for global trade and against protectionism.

This is Britain today, as it’s always been:Independent, yes – but open, too.

I never want us to pull up the drawbridge and retreat from the world.

I am not a British isolationist.

I don’t just want a better deal for Britain. I want a better deal for Europe too.

So I speak as British Prime Minister with a positive vision for the future of the European Union. A future in which Britain wants, and should want, to play a committed and active part.

Some might then ask: why raise fundamental questions about the future of Europe when Europe is already in the midst of a deep crisis?

Why raise questions about Britain’s role when support in Britain is already so thin.

There are always voices saying “don’t ask the difficult questions.”

Three major challenges

But it’s essential for Europe – and for Britain – that we do because there are three major challenges confronting us today.

First, the problems in the Eurozone are driving fundamental change in Europe.

Second, there is a crisis of European competitiveness, as other nations across the world soar ahead. And third, there is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years. And which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is – yes – felt particularly acutely in Britain.

If we don’t address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit.

I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success. And I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it.

That is why I am here today: To acknowledge the nature of the challenges we face. To set out how I believe the European Union should respond to them. And to explain what I want to achieve for Britain and its place within the European Union.

Let me start with the nature of the challenges we face.

First, the Eurozone.

The future shape of Europe is being forged. There are some serious questions that will define the future of the European Union – and the future of every country within it.

The Union is changing to help fix the currency – and that has profound implications for all of us, whether we are in the single currency or not.

Britain is not in the single currency, and we’re not going to be. But we all need the Eurozone to have the right governance and structures to secure a successful currency for the long term.

And those of us outside the Eurozone also need certain safeguards to ensure, for example, that our access to the Single Market is not in any way compromised.

And it’s right we begin to address these issues now.

Second, while there are some countries within the EU which are doing pretty well. Taken as a whole, Europe’s share of world output is projected to fall by almost a third in the next two decades. This is the competitiveness challenge – and much of our weakness in meeting it is self-inflicted.

Complex rules restricting our labour markets are not some naturally occurring phenomenon. Just as excessive regulation is not some external plague that’s been visited on our businesses.

These problems have been around too long. And the progress in dealing with them, far too slow.

As Chancellor Merkel has said – if Europe today accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending, then it’s obvious that it will have to work very hard to maintain its prosperity and way of life.

Third, there is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems.

People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent.

We are starting to see this in the demonstrations on the streets of Athens, Madrid and Rome. We are seeing it in the parliaments of Berlin, Helsinki and the Hague.

And yes, of course, we are seeing this frustration with the EU very dramatically in Britain.

Europe’s leaders have a duty to hear these concerns. Indeed, we have a duty to act on them. And not just to fix the problems in the Eurozone.

For just as in any emergency you should plan for the aftermath as well as dealing with the present crisis so too in the midst of the present challenges we should plan for the future, and what the world will look like when the difficulties in the Eurozone have been overcome.

The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy. In its long history Europe has experience of heretics who turned out to have a point.

And my point is this. More of the same will not secure a long-term future for the Eurozone. More of the same will not see the European Union keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies. More of the same will not bring the European Union any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same – less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs.

And that will make our countries weaker not stronger.

That is why we need fundamental, far-reaching change.

21st century European Union

So let me set out my vision for a new European Union, fit for the 21st Century.

It is built on five principles.

The first: competitiveness. At the core of the European Union must be, as it is now, the single market. Britain is at the heart of that Single Market, and must remain so.

But when the Single Market remains incomplete in services, energy and digital – the very sectors that are the engines of a modern economy – it is only half the success it could be.

It is nonsense that people shopping online in some parts of Europe are unable to access the best deals because of where they live. I want completing the single market to be our driving mission.

I want us to be at the forefront of transformative trade deals with the US, Japan and India as part of the drive towards global free trade. And I want us to be pushing to exempt Europe’s smallest entrepreneurial companies from more EU Directives.

These should be the tasks that get European officials up in the morning – and keep them working late into the night. And so we urgently need to address the sclerotic, ineffective decision making that is holding us back.

That means creating a leaner, less bureaucratic Union, relentlessly focused on helping its member countries to compete.

In a global race, can we really justify the huge number of expensive peripheral European institutions?

Can we justify a Commission that gets ever larger?

Can we carry on with an organisation that has a multi-billion pound budget but not enough focus on controlling spending and shutting down programmes that haven’t worked?

And I would ask: when the competitiveness of the Single Market is so important, why is there an environment council, a transport council, an education council but not a single market council?

The second principle should be flexibility.

We need a structure that can accommodate the diversity of its members – North, South, East, West, large, small, old and new. Some of whom are contemplating much closer economic and political integration. And many others, including Britain, who would never embrace that goal.

I accept, of course, that for the single market to function we need a common set of rules and a way of enforcing them. But we also need to be able to respond quickly to the latest developments and trends.

Competitiveness demands flexibility, choice and openness – or Europe will fetch up in a no-man’s land between the rising economies of Asia and market-driven North America.

The EU must be able to act with the speed and flexibility of a network, not the cumbersome rigidity of a bloc.

We must not be weighed down by an insistence on a one size fits all approach which implies that all countries want the same level of integration. The fact is that they don’t and we shouldn’t assert that they do.

Some will claim that this offends a central tenet of the EU’s founding philosophy. I say it merely reflects the reality of the European Union today. 17 members are part of the Eurozone. 10 are not.

26 European countries are members of Schengen – including four outside the European Union – Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. 2 EU countries – Britain and Ireland – have retained their border controls.

 Some members, like Britain and France, are ready, willing and able to take action in Libya or Mali. Others are uncomfortable with the use of military force.

Let’s welcome that diversity, instead of trying to snuff it out.

Let’s stop all this talk of two-speed Europe, of fast lanes and slow lanes, of countries missing trains and buses, and consign the whole weary caravan of metaphors to a permanent siding.

Instead, let’s start from this proposition: we are a family of democratic nations, all members of one European Union, whose essential foundation is the single market rather than the single currency. Those of us outside the euro recognise that those in it are likely to need to make some big institutional changes.

By the same token, the members of the Eurozone should accept that we, and indeed all Member States, will have changes that we need to safeguard our interests and strengthen democratic legitimacy. And we should be able to make these changes too.

Some say this will unravel the principle of the EU – and that you can’t pick and choose on the basis of what your nation needs.

But far from unravelling the EU, this will in fact bind its Members more closely because such flexible, willing cooperation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre.

Let me make a further heretical proposition.

The European Treaty commits the Member States to “lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

This has been consistently interpreted as applying not to the peoples but rather to the states and institutions compounded by a European Court of Justice that has consistently supported greater centralisation.

We understand and respect the right of others to maintain their commitment to this goal. But for Britain – and perhaps for others – it is not the objective.

And we would be much more comfortable if the Treaty specifically said so freeing those who want to go further, faster, to do so, without being held back by the others.

So to those who say we have no vision for Europe.

I say we have.

Flexible union

We believe in a flexible union of free member states who share treaties and institutions and pursue together the ideal of co-operation. To represent and promote the values of European civilisation in the world. To advance our shared interests by using our collective power to open markets. And to build a strong economic base across the whole of Europe.

And we believe in our nations working together to protect the security and diversity of our energy supplies. To tackle climate change and global poverty. To work together against terrorism and organised crime. And to continue to welcome new countries into the EU.

This vision of flexibility and co-operation is not the same as those who want to build an ever closer political union – but it is just as valid.

My third principle is that power must be able to flow back to Member States, not just away from them. This was promised by European Leaders at Laeken a decade ago.

It was put in the Treaty. But the promise has never really been fulfilled. We need to implement this principle properly.

So let us use this moment, as the Dutch Prime Minister has recently suggested, to examine thoroughly what the EU as a whole should do and should stop doing.

In Britain we have already launched our balance of competences review – to give us an informed and objective analysis of where the EU helps and where it hampers.

Let us not be misled by the fallacy that a deep and workable single market requires everything to be harmonised, to hanker after some unattainable and infinitely level playing field.

Countries are different. They make different choices. We cannot harmonise everything. For example, it is neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the single market, or full membership of the European Union requires the working hours of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels irrespective of the views of British parliamentarians and practitioners.

In the same way we need to examine whether the balance is right in so many areas where the European Union has legislated including on the environment, social affairs and crime.

Nothing should be off the table.

My fourth principle is democratic accountability: we need to have a bigger and more significant role for national parliaments.

There is not, in my view, a single European demos.

It is national parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU.

It is to the Bundestag that Angela Merkel has to answer. It is through the Greek Parliament that Antonis Samaras has to pass his Government’s austerity measures.

It is to the British Parliament that I must account on the EU budget negotiations, or on the safeguarding of our place in the single market.

Those are the Parliaments which instil proper respect – even fear – into national leaders.

We need to recognise that in the way the EU does business.

My fifth principle is fairness: whatever new arrangements are enacted for the Eurozone, they must work fairly for those inside it and out.

That will be of particular importance to Britain. As I have said, we will not join the single currency. But there is no overwhelming economic reason why the single currency and the single market should share the same boundary, any more than the single market and Schengen.

Our participation in the single market, and our ability to help set its rules is the principal reason for our membership of the EU.

So it is a vital interest for us to protect the integrity and fairness of the single market for all its members.

And that is why Britain has been so concerned to promote and defend the single market as the Eurozone crisis rewrites the rules on fiscal coordination and banking union.

These five principles provide what, I believe, is the right approach for the European Union.

So now let me turn to what this means for Britain.

Today, public disillusionment with the EU is at an all time high. There are several reasons for this.

People feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up to. They resent the interference in our national life by what they see as unnecessary rules and regulation. And they wonder what the point of it all is.

Put simply, many ask “why can’t we just have what we voted to join – a common market?”

They are angered by some legal judgements made in Europe that impact on life in Britain. Some of this antipathy about Europe in general really relates of course to the European Court of Human Rights, rather than the EU. And Britain is leading European efforts to address this.

There is, indeed, much more that needs to be done on this front. But people also feel that the EU is now heading for a level of political integration that is far outside Britain’s comfort zone.

They see Treaty after Treaty changing the balance between Member States and the EU. And note they were never given a say.

They’ve had referendums promised – but not delivered. They see what has happened to the Euro. And they note that many of our political and business leaders urged Britain to join at the time.

And they haven’t noticed many expressions of contrition.

And they look at the steps the Eurozone is taking and wonder what deeper integration for the Eurozone will mean for a country which is not going to join the Euro.

The result is that democratic consent for the EU in Britain is now wafer thin.

Some people say that to point this out is irresponsible, creates uncertainty for business and puts a question mark over Britain’s place in the European Union.

But the question mark is already there and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

In fact, quite the reverse. Those who refuse to contemplate consulting the British people, would in my view make more likely our eventual exit.

Simply asking the British people to carry on accepting a European settlement over which they have had little choice is a path to ensuring that when the question is finally put – and at some stage it will have to be – it is much more likely that the British people will reject the EU.

That is why I am in favour of a referendum. I believe in confronting this issue – shaping it, leading the debate. Not simply hoping a difficult situation will go away.

Some argue that the solution is therefore to hold a straight in-out referendum now.

I understand the impatience of wanting to make that choice immediately.

But I don’t believe that to make a decision at this moment is the right way forward, either for Britain or for Europe as a whole.

A vote today between the status quo and leaving would be an entirely false choice.

Now – while the EU is in flux, and when we don’t know what the future holds and what sort of EU will emerge from this crisis is not the right time to make such a momentous decision about the future of our country.

It is wrong to ask people whether to stay or go before we have had a chance to put the relationship right.

How can we sensibly answer the question ‘in or out’ without being able to answer the most basic question: ‘what is it exactly that we are choosing to be in or out of?’

The European Union that emerges from the Eurozone crisis is going to be a very different body. It will be transformed perhaps beyond recognition by the measures needed to save the Eurozone.

We need to allow some time for that to happen – and help to shape the future of the European Union, so that when the choice comes it will be a real one.

Real choice

A real choice between leaving or being part of a new settlement in which Britain shapes and respects the rules of the single market but is protected by fair safeguards, and free of the spurious regulation which damages Europe’s competitiveness.

A choice between leaving or being part of a new settlement in which Britain is at the forefront of collective action on issues like foreign policy and trade and where we leave the door firmly open to new members.

A new settlement subject to the democratic legitimacy and accountability of national parliaments where Member States combine in flexible cooperation, respecting national differences not always trying to eliminate them and in which we have proved that some powers can in fact be returned to Member States.

In other words, a settlement which would be entirely in keeping with the mission for an updated European Union I have described today. More flexible, more adaptable, more open – fit for the challenges of the modern age.

And to those who say a new settlement can’t be negotiated, I would say listen to the views of other parties in other European countries arguing for powers to flow back to European states.

And look too at what we have achieved already. Ending Britain’s obligation to bail-out Eurozone members. Keeping Britain out of the fiscal compact. Launching a process to return some existing justice and home affairs powers. Securing protections on Banking Union. And reforming fisheries policy.

So we are starting to shape the reforms we need now. Some will not require Treaty change.

But I agree too with what President Barroso and others have said. At some stage in the next few years the EU will need to agree on Treaty change to make the changes needed for the long term future of the Euro and to entrench the diverse, competitive, democratically accountable Europe that we seek.

I believe the best way to do this will be in a new Treaty so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this.

My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain.

But if there is no appetite for a new Treaty for us all then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners.

The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament.

It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart.

And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether.

It will be an in-out referendum.

Legislation will be drafted before the next election. And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.

It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics.

I say to the British people: this will be your decision.

And when that choice comes, you will have an important choice to make about our country’s destiny.

I understand the appeal of going it alone, of charting our own course. But it will be a decision we will have to take with cool heads. Proponents of both sides of the argument will need to avoid exaggerating their claims.

Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so. So could any other Member State.

But the question we will have to ask ourselves is this: is that the very best future for our country?

We will have to weigh carefully where our true national interest lies.

Alone, we would be free to take our own decisions, just as we would be freed of our solemn obligation to defend our allies if we left NATO. But we don’t leave NATO because it is in our national interest to stay and benefit from its collective defence guarantee.

We have more power and influence – whether implementing sanctions against Iran or Syria, or promoting democracy in Burma – if we can act together.

If we leave the EU, we cannot of course leave Europe. It will remain for many years our biggest market, and forever our geographical neighbourhood. We are tied by a complex web of legal commitments.

Hundreds of thousands of British people now take for granted their right to work, live or retire in any other EU country.

Even if we pulled out completely, decisions made in the EU would continue to have a profound effect on our country. But we would have lost all our remaining vetoes and our voice in those decisions.

We would need to weigh up very carefully the consequences of no longer being inside the EU and its single market, as a full member.

Continued access to the Single Market is vital for British businesses and British jobs.

Since 2004, Britain has been the destination for one in five of all inward investments into Europe.

And being part of the Single Market has been key to that success.

There will be plenty of time to test all the arguments thoroughly, in favour and against the arrangement we negotiate. But let me just deal with one point we hear a lot about.

There are some who suggest we could turn ourselves into Norway or Switzerland – with access to the single market but outside the EU. But would that really be in our best interests?

I admire those countries and they are friends of ours – but they are very different from us. Norway sits on the biggest energy reserves in Europe, and has a sovereign wealth fund of over 500 billion euros. And while Norway is part of the single market – and pays for the principle – it has no say at all in setting its rules: it just has to implement its directives.

The Swiss have to negotiate access to the Single Market sector by sector. Accepting EU rules – over which they have no say – or else not getting full access to the Single Market, including in key sectors like financial services.

The fact is that if you join an organisation like the European Union, there are rules.

You will not always get what you want. But that does not mean we should leave – not if the benefits of staying and working together are greater.

We would have to think carefully too about the impact on our influence at the top table of international affairs. There is no doubt that we are more powerful in Washington, in Beijing, in Delhi because we are a powerful player in the European Union.

That matters for British jobs and British security.

It matters to our ability to get things done in the world. It matters to the United States and other friends around the world, which is why many tell us very clearly that they want Britain to remain in the EU.

We should think very carefully before giving that position up.

If we left the European Union, it would be a one-way ticket, not a return.

So we will have time for a proper, reasoned debate.

At the end of that debate you, the British people, will decide.

And I say to our European partners, frustrated as some of them no doubt are by Britain’s attitude: work with us on this.

Consider the extraordinary steps which the Eurozone members are taking to keep the Euro together, steps which a year ago would have seemed impossible.

It does not seem to me that the steps which would be needed to make Britain – and others – more comfortable in their relationship in the European Union are inherently so outlandish or unreasonable.

And just as I believe that Britain should want to remain in the EU so the EU should want us to stay.

For an EU without Britain, without one of Europe’s strongest powers, a country which in many ways invented the single market, and which brings real heft to Europe’s influence on the world stage which plays by the rules and which is a force for liberal economic reform would be a very different kind of European Union.

And it is hard to argue that the EU would not be greatly diminished by Britain’s departure.

Let me finish today by saying this.

I have no illusions about the scale of the task ahead.

I know there will be those who say the vision I have outlined will be impossible to achieve. That there is no way our partners will co-operate. That the British people have set themselves on a path to inevitable exit. And that if we aren’t comfortable being in the EU after 40 years, we never will be.

But I refuse to take such a defeatist attitude – either for Britain or for Europe.

Because with courage and conviction I believe we can deliver a more flexible, adaptable and open European Union in which the interests and ambitions of all its members can be met.

With courage and conviction I believe we can achieve a new settlement in which Britain can be comfortable and all our countries can thrive.

And when the referendum comes let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul.

Because I believe something very deeply. That Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it.

Over the coming weeks, months and years, I will not rest until this debate is won. For the future of my country. For the success of the European Union. And for the prosperity of our peoples for generations to come.

Like the British electorate though, business leaders and economists appear mixed on what impact an exit might mean. Or in fact, what lingering impact Cameron’s speech this morning will have, even before he attempts to renegotiate Britain’s place in the EU (if the Conservatives win the next general election), which he would do before holding an in/out referendum.

First, the economists:

‘By promising a referendum only by the first half of the next parliamentary term (i.e. 2017), economic and political uncertainty is set to rise considerably,’ said Commerzbank’s Peter Dixon.

Polls show that voters are more interested in fixing unemployment and the economy than the European question, Michael Saunders of Citigroup, reminded readers of his economic analysis. And besides, a 'Brexit' over the next 5-10 years is still unlikely, he added. But nonetheless 'uncertainties over the issue are likely to further cap business investment in the UK and reinforce the prospect of prolonged economic underperformance.’

Ross Walker of Royal Bank of Scotland says the UK is likely to remain within the EU, but outside a more fiscally and politically-integrated core as Europe splits in two: ‘It seems inevitable that some form of 'two-tier' or 'variable geometry' EU emerges before the end of this decade: a more integrated euro area core alongside a looser outer-grouping centred around the single market.’

Alan Clarke of Scotiabank said the speech actually removed short-term uncertainty: ‘Overall, there was something for everyone in the speech. A vote is up to 4 years away, so you can’t really trade on it so it is a relief that some uncertainty is now out of the way.’

Another economist, James Knightley of ING, makes the point that much will depend on the economic backdrop down the line. 'What is happening to relative growth will also be a key determinant. If Europe can start growing again and outperforms the UK, and if unemployment falls more quickly and interest rates are lower, then a Pro-EU vote would become more probable,' he says.

And industry:

Business group the CBI seemed to support the PM. CBI director-general John Cridland said: ‘The EU single market is fundamental to Britain’s future economic success, but the closer union of the Eurozone is not for us.

‘The Prime Minister rightly recognises the benefits of retaining membership of what must be a reformed EU and the CBI will work closely with government to get the best deal for Britain,’ Cridland added in a statement.

Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising group WPP said the referendum was ‘not good news’, and would prompt businesses to postpone investment decisions, according to Sunday Telegraph business editor Kamal Ahmed, tweeting from the World Economic Forum in Davos. Sorrell added that Britain and relations with Europe are a fifth ‘grey swan’ – a reference to his description of known threats to the global economy.

Venture capitalist, Jon Moulton, told the BBC: ‘It was definitely in the direction we'd favour…It's about getting the EU to be less bureaucratic, and to stop them shoving some legislation down out throats.’

But, he added: ‘The timescale will be protracted, and the only certainty is that we'll now have five years of uncertainty. It's pretty adverse for people investing in the UK that there's not going to be a decision for five years.’

Mark Boleat of the City of London Corporation, the square mile’s local authority, said: ‘We support the Prime Minister’s stated goal of keeping the UK within the European Union – albeit on better terms.

‘Uncertainty over this relationship with Europe risks making the UK less attractive as an international centre across many industries – not just financial and professional services – by clouding the business environment and making it more difficult to make long-term investment decisions,' Boleat added.

To summarise:

The only certainty is uncertainty, as Jon Moulton puts it. Short term uncertainty has been removed by Cameron finally delivering his speech – at least we are sure of what his plan is now – but that gives way to longer term uncertainty which may prevent companies from investing and keep the economy subdued. A ‘Brexit’ could help forge a two-speed Europe. Less bureaucracy for business, but perhaps less opportunity.

146 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Anthony O' Grady

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:54


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alan wilson

Jan 23, 2013 at 13:44

If there,s one thing markets hate it is uncertainty and we now have at least four years of that. Plus if you were thinking of re-locating your multi million euro business to the U.K. would you take a chance that we would still be in ?


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Anthony O' Grady

Jan 23, 2013 at 13:52

Cameron is a monkey, hostage to the right wing nutters who pull his strings. Leaving the European Union would be a disaster.

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Geoff Downs

Jan 23, 2013 at 14:25

" Leaving the European Union would be a disaster"


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Ronald Iles

Jan 23, 2013 at 14:43

There is never " certainty" in markets. You can be sure that the "markets" have already factored in the implications one way or the other.

As for re-locating/starting a business to France, with bitter experience I would say bon chance and bon voyage to all who go there.

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Anthony O' Grady

Jan 23, 2013 at 14:44

Because Geoff, we are part of the European trading block whether we like it or not. On this basis we need to have a voice with regard to decision making within that trading block, ergo we need to be a member of it.

The days of sending gunboats to do our bidding are gone. We are a small island nation in Europe. Safety in numbers! Simple as that.

PS Don't pay too much attention to everything that the Daily Mail says.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 14:47

Hi all

(1) Cameron is leaving the referendum to after the 2015 election. You (=he) have to win it to be in it =the referendum), by no means a certainty.

(2) We have the small matter of the Scottish referendum before then, the outcome of which (totally unclear to me) is likely to inform/impact many voters' thoughts on the advisability of Europe.

I think he's played a blinder, myself !

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Jan 23, 2013 at 14:49

The sooner we are out the better - 4 years+ is too long at £50m a day.. We'll do a lot better in the global economy unencumbered by the bureaucracy and corruption of the EU. In any case, a place at tie EU top table will be reserved for the strongest Eurozone enconomies, namely Germany and France and the option of the UK signing uo for the Euro is inconceivable..

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Jan 23, 2013 at 14:54

The man is an Idiot!

In his small mind he now thinks that he has a stick to beat the rest of Europe with when he gets involved in any future negotiations over the future of Europe. When in reality we are treat with a fair degree of disdain by much of the rest of Europe, and other than the money we contribute have very little to offer the rest of Europe.

If they really want a referendum they should be having it soon, this year in the summer. Plenty of time for the politicians and press to spin their poision between now and then. The public will be just as ill informed in 2017 as they will be in July 2013, so they should simply get this question out of the way.

This Idiot and his chum are doing terminal damage to our economy, and this period of uncertainty will just add to that.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 14:55

Wouldn't be lovely (and novel) if someone could logically and rationally quantify the pros and cons of an exit from the EU.

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colin wilson

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:04

Always thought that when foreign companies re-located to the UK they were always buttered up with lavish grants and subsidies. Reckon that things won't change, one way or the other.

Would hardly have thought that France would be the promised land for new business start ups, under their current tax regime.

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Ian Craig

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:04

As a saver, it occurs to me that if I would've been better off if we had ditched the pound in favour of the Euro. Sure, the Euro is in trouble, but I remember buying a Euro for about 68p and now one'd cost me 84p; exactly how much trouble is the pound in?

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wayne roberts

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:05

Wow exciting news at last! We've got 4 years of hearing riveting politicians bleat on about this totally interesting subject.. we won't leave and will end up exactly where we are now - I can't wait!

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Clive B

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:09

@ Anthony O'Grady

"Because Geoff, we are part of the European trading block whether we like it or not"

Not true. We DON'T have to be part of the EU if we don't like it.

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Chris Powell

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:10

I agree with you Mac


I do not want to leave the EU BUT ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We do need to renegotiate and stop the stupid red tape and regulation. However, we need to get business to export more outside of the EU.

If we leave the EU our UK owned business will be more productive and compete better on the continent. We will lose investment from say BMW but they don’t pay UK tax like our small and medium companies- these are the companies we should think about.

I think Germany has the most to lose. The pound will fall and they will be less competitive with their biggest trade partner and they will also have to give even more money to the EU budget. Additionally, if we can keep reducing corporation tax then inward investment will continue.

I think we will be able to negotiate a better deal in the EU. There will be no referendum in my opinion. Labour is in a terrible position on this- do they agree with a referendum that might not happen? Or will they say no to one- I doubt it because it will kill them at the next election! The point being is if the PM can renegotiate a deal there will not be a referendum!

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Jan 23, 2013 at 15:10

Madmitch - I think that by far the majority of individuals and business want the UK to retain control on employment, taxation, interest rates and social legislation but stay in the common market. But without a threat of the UK voting to pull out completely, no one else in the EU is going to listen. They are far more interested in their own self importance and feeding from a bigger trough financed by shrinking economies.

So whilst Cameron does not want to leave the Common Market, the only way he can get real reform is to set up the game such that the British People will vote us out unless the EU agrees to a looser arrangement for non-Euro members.

This is not the plan of an idiot, but a courageous individual who knows that many people such as Milliband and the core Euro beaurocracies will endeavour to discredit him and scupper his plans. Labour failed to hold a promised referendum on the Lisbon treaty - which even if it had been held with a NO vote would not have given the UK as much free room as Cameron hopes to achieve.

If we had a referendum now, then I believe that it would end up with us leaving the UK, so perhaps you should look in a mirror !!! :-)

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Clive B

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:14

I don't think that economic well-being is the key question. If somebody could "prove" that we'd be better off economically being aligned with China, at the expense of giving up our right to vote, would people vote for it ? Not me.

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Anthony O' Grady

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:40

Yes Clive, but if you can locate your boy's own atlas, you might just notice that we are located within the European continent.

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Clive B

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:49


Doesn't follow that we have to be in the EU under the current rules (or at all if we choose not to). We trade with lots of countries we're not in any sort of union with.

Nobody in the UK has ever voted for the EU in its current form, or how its moving

As somebody remarked elsewhere recently - funny how those who are pro-EU are anti-referendum. If it's such a no-brainer, should be easy enough to win a referendum.

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cape via mobile

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:50

I like the swashbuckling expression of our true values.

For the rest, I do not care.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 15:53

Here's what we should be seeking as part of this alleged 're-negotiation' that should commence right away:

Control of our own justice system

Management of our borders to control EU immigration - starting next January when (unpredictable) numbers of of Bulgarians and Romanian workers are entitled to move here to join the others here already.

Abandonment of most of this imposed health and safety at work bureaucracy that increases costs and dampens job creation.

No need for the appointment of British MEP's,Bureaucrats and Commissioners - we have a Foreign Office.

No more of this pseudo global warning/climate change claptrap that is causing fuel proverty and crippling our industry.

A substantial reduction of our net EU contribution.

Management of our own agriculture and fisheries sectors.

The ability to set up global trade agreements with whomever we like without reference to or interference from Brussels.

Feel free to add your own suggestions to this list.

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Guy Thompson

Jan 23, 2013 at 15:54


The main "pro" of leaving the EU is that the contribution the UK pays would perhaps be saved, although what sounds like a huge amount is a relatively small at a GDP level. I heard today that Norway (outside the EU) in fact pays more to the EU in total than we do, although I don't know how that can be true. Perhaps it is paid in tariffs.

If you like UKIP, and think any of their other policies make sense, you will regard that as a "pro".

Immigration will presumably slow down somewhat.

The most serious of the "cons" include that there is no guarantee that access to the European Market will be as easy and tariff free as it is now. Germany will be happy for VW and BMW to carry on selling us their cars but all of Europe could make up their own rules about what they want from us.

The much-maligned European Commission is on the side of free trade. It is a long time ago now, but the Commission forced the rest of Europe to take British beef long before other trading partners such as the USA accepted that mad cow disease was a thing of the past.

Inside the EU, the UK can play a major role in setting the rules the rest of Europe has to adopt (we are actually good at that - maybe it is a vestige of our Imperial past).

Outside the EU our businesses would still have to comply with all the rules the EU imposes, and the EU has collective clout when telling other parts of the world what rules they should follow and we can help shape those requirements.

There is a plausible argument that internal investment may be deterred. Nobody know for sure if there is a serious risk of new investment being discouraged, and it is hardly likely that being outside the EU will be seen as an advantage to a major international investor.

Immigration has brought the UK access to cheap labour, so there will be an adverse effect on inflation as well as a skill shortage.

Travel and emigration to the rest of Europe will be harder.

I think the balance is definitely in favour of staying in the EU. Nothing is perfect, but I remember that the UK government and society before we joined had many problems as well.

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Ian Garratt

Jan 23, 2013 at 16:17

The analysis of the in/out benefits is long overdue. Until that's done, all opinions are not fact based. Then, if the evidence points conclusively to an EU exit, so be it. Irrespective, it's clear that EU reform should be a no brainer, even for the most pro EU lobby. The EC appears totally out of touch with reality, demanding self-serving budget increases when some member countries are bankrupt! The inability of the democratically elected governments of the member states to control the EC and its unelected officials is unacceptable.. If you need convincing of the profligacy of the EC, visit Brussels and walk around the EU HQ and surrounding area. Every other building is occupied by some extraneous arm of the EC, most of which you probably don't even know exists. The gravy train is huge and ever expanding and we are paying for it!

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Mark Cleminson

Jan 23, 2013 at 16:18

Re The man is an idiot.

So the terminal damage didn't occur under Brown? The place is already sunk.

Each decade 2 million creative intelligent people leave and are replaced by economic refugees who wont prosper.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 16:35

Has the speech given rise to damaging uncertainty? We've had growing uncertainty over nearly 40 years now and with or without this speech that was sure to continue. At least we have the possibility of an end date now. It may be, of course, that the EU will refuse to negotiate a new relationship, though that is unlikely in light of the fact that the Eurozone needs new arrangements that will probably require treaty backing. Even if that doesn't transpire the fact is that if we leave the EU we will then, immediatel and willy nilly, be in a new relationship with the EU.

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Alan Tonks

Jan 23, 2013 at 16:43

“Would a British exit from Europe damage the economy?”

The short answer to that is the economy couldn’t get much worse, so it wouldn’t.

However we will not get that opportunity, because the referendum will never be held.

I voted ‘conservative’ in the last election only because they were the lesser of the two evils. What happened they joined up with the little hedge hopping evil namely the liberal democrats?

Then what does Cameron do, but invite Little Clegg a staunch European to become Deputy Prime Minister.

You can see that Little Clegg wants more power and Europe is his way there, after all scruples do not come into it.

So why does Cameron want to wait till 2017 for a referendum, well it doesn’t take the brain of Britain to fathom that one out.

He is obviously hoping that that on the strength of people assuming that he will give them a referendum, he will be returned to power in 2015.

In the past he has reneged on his promise for a referendum, so once he is in power again, he will do exactly the same.

So Cameron the only way I would believe you, is if you held a Referendum before the next election, and there is no chance of that.

You have many failings, one of the most serious is you are manipulated by no scruples Little Clegg, European mole.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Jan 23, 2013 at 16:48

The big question is : how much does it cost us to stay in?

Once that is answered, a cost/benefit analysis can be performed.

There was that wonderful exchange in 2010 between a reporter and a UKIP chap;

Reporter: "But there are lots of benefits from being in the EU."

UKIP chap; "Oh really? Name one."

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Jan 23, 2013 at 16:55

Most countries who have held a referendum have voted to exit, but the politicians have fiddled around until they got the answer they wanted.

Who is to say what would happen if we did exit. It may give other

contributing countries the courage to do the same.

At the moment all of the arguments in favour of staying in seem to have a touch of scaremongering.

I do not think we would be isolated. Do we really believe that Germany, France and Italy would cut off the sales of cars to the UK

Frankly do not believe that we will ever be given an "In or Out" vote whatever Cameron says.

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Graham D-C

Jan 23, 2013 at 16:59

Exiting the EU would only be necessary if the EU refused to allow us to renegotiate rules and regulations that determine the state of our own well being - manufacturing, fisheries and agriculture. We want to trade with everyone who wantns to trade with us; those who put up barriers preventing us from doing so, would face exactly the same response from the UK. Simple. We do not want EU laws to take priority over our own laws on human rights, immigration, deportations, law and order, etc., We can still contribute to the EU budget providing it is subjected to an uninhibited annual inspection of its books by an internationally recognised firm of accountants and where false accounting/fraud is discovered, legal action is pursued against those accused, regardless of status and nationality.

Adequate supplies of skilled labour would be satisfied by UK immigration quotas. British manufactures engaged in joint projects with other countries wil be perfectly capably of meeting the regulatory framework set out by customer/s. Of course its potentially all hypothetical unless the Tories win the next General Election. That said, any thoughts of a referendum in 2018 is a nonsense, as Cameron might discover when hiis party takes step to remove him in order to bring in a leader who is prepared to spell out the UK case for its continued membership of the EU, BEFORE the 2015 General Election.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 17:00

Mark, Brown was an Idiot as well, but he at least had a little conviction in his own beleifs, but sadly most politicians who tend to get into high office are exposed as self serving and accomadating to their friends. Those who have a little (real) moral fibre tend to get way laid on the way to the top.

No one will convince me that Cameron is a man of courage, he is cowering before the right of his party and this is nothing more than a sop to them and an attempt to neutralise UKIP at the next election, this is about party, no country.

If he was a man of courage, the date would be set for this summer and we would move forward with whatever the country decided.

I am probably a little too old now to be overly bothered about what the impact of leaving the Eurozone would have on me, I will probably spend much of the forthcomming years in sunnier climes. But I cannot see how removing ourselves can ever be seen as a good thing.

The law of unintended consequenses will apply here and we will have major economic issues that had not been given serious consideration before the decision to pull out..

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Anthony O' Grady

Jan 23, 2013 at 17:01

Clive B

I don't believe that there are quite enough xenophobic little Englanders in the UK to vote for a UK exit in the event of a referendum, so bring on the referendum.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 17:11

I doubt that there will be many companies that relocate to France, with its higher taxes, onerous labour laws, maverick unions who strike if you dare look at them the wrong way and regular spells in office of the likes of Hollande with the redistributive ideas which only achieve the killing off of businesses and more people on the dole.

Yes, leaving the EU will be uncomfortable for a while, but then there are alternatives. Besides which, money talks, and it will be cheaper for UK businesses not to be shackled and weighed down by many of the lunatics requirements of the Brussels and dreamt up, by irrational petty and feeble minded functionaries uselessly polishing seats in expensive offices. If we stay in we will see ever more draconian laws and regulations, including fines/prison for anyone even daring to whisper against the petty tyrants, and more more corruption in the ranks of the the unelected, unaccountable commissioners. France and Germany will succeed by stealth regulation where they failed by force of arms. At the top of the manure pile will be some politicians, many of whom who will behave like Kim Sung Il, and we will then have guerilla warfare which will make the protest in Greece and Spain seem like a walk ion the park on a balmy sunny day.

They are in an ivory tower, just look at the demands for more money when virtually every member State is cutting back hard on their expenditure etc.

Labour won't hold a referendum, the EU is the job they will o to when they get kicked out of office for completing the job started by Bliar, Brown, the Ballses et al.

However if we are out an accommodation will be reached, money talks and we pay them too much for them to cut us off, for long. They will try blackmail......

And then they will bring Turkey etc, and we will be swamped and not so long after that Sharia law will play a significant part in Europe, even though alien to our/tEurope culture, and try and get as part of the Caliphate.

Before that really happens I will probably have shuffled off this mortal coil,but I fear for my children and their issue.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 17:33

We should back to the original concept of free trade in Europe, nothing else, no further add ons.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 17:46

I really don't understand how one can be in favour of the single / common market but against common standards of employment rights, healthy and safety, environmental protection, etc, because, without them, one cannot have a level playing field in trade. 'Free' trade without common standards and rules would likely mean a race to the bottom in terms of safety and environmental standards. As Norway has found, a country can be in the European Free Trade Area without being in the EU, but it has to abide by the rules that are made by the EC and pay the dues for a decision-making process in which it has no voice. If the UK really does not want to play by EU rules, it may find itself outside EFTA as well as out of the EU.

People who have money to invest now will not wait 4 years to find out where the UK will stand, but will find other places in Europe or, more likely, further afield in which to invest. Expect the £ to wilt as capital flows steadily out from the UK.

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an elder one

Jan 23, 2013 at 17:53

But for the stumbling block of the Libdems' involvement it would be clear enough here and now for Mr Cameron to elucidate what the majority of UK want in order to maintain a pragmatic working relationship with the EU, for the purpose of a referendum. Unfortunately he is stuck with the coalition contract until 2015.

However, from what he has now said, it should be clear enough where the UK stands under his governance and it is up to the marketplace to determine the likelihood, or not, of a conservative government next time; so what's new about that, it happens all the time.

The Americans and the EU government are simply attempting to coerce the UK into submission by the Euro ( the Americans always wished us to join the Euro) so as not to rock their boats; if we don't strenuously maintain our valid beliefs, they will succeed and we will become submerged by that EU bureaucratic monolith, with little influence, despite the waffle one hears.

With the EU government continuing to shift the goal posts who can know how the game will played in the future and what will be needed further to make the Euro work and resolve the problems of unifying the disparate economies tied to it.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 17:59

"I don't believe that there are quite enough xenophobic little Englanders in the UK to vote for a UK exit in the event of a referendum, so bring on the referendum".

A Comment by Anthony O'Grady.

This man is clearly incorrect but reading through his comments generally, he would appear to be a pompous leftie, therefore believing his fellow countrymen to be equally flawed!

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Jan 23, 2013 at 18:06

Purely academic. Everyone will just procrastinate till May 2015, when the next Labour government will be calling the shots. God help us all.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 23, 2013 at 19:23

Whatever they say, what the Tories actually want is a return to the political situation in the early 19th century, before the factories acts, before votes even for the middle class male. They are as trustworthy as a pit bull with rabies.

This is apparent from their constant attacks on political and civil rights, their economic war against the poor, the old and the sick.

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Clive B

Jan 23, 2013 at 19:31

"I don't believe that there are quite enough xenophobic little Englanders in the UK to vote for a UK exit in the event of a referendum, so bring on the referendum".

ha ha ha - not much of a pro-EU argument.

I don't know what the result of an "in-out" referendum will be, but I think we should have one to find out.

Be the first time people were asked if they wanted to be a member of the EU as it's going to be, where UK MPs have no more power than your county representatives have currently.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 19:58

Its interesting how so many people worry more about money than their liberty these days . In other places on earth men give their lives for the type of freedom they feel they need. Some of you guys would sell your soul to the devil for 20 pieces of silver. Why do you come so cheap?

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Jan 23, 2013 at 20:16


I guess I worry about both my money and my liberty, but I think the EU is a better guarantor of my liberty than a UK government.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 23, 2013 at 20:33

Most of the anti EU people are plainly Tories or BNP. Freedom is the last thing any of them care about. Their version of economics is "Granny for sale, price two pins".

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Mark Cleminson

Jan 23, 2013 at 20:38


At least you can elect a UK Govt and the accounts are transparent. Europe has no History of that ever.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 21:57

I'm a true floating voter having voted for all 3 main parties at general elections. I was considering voting Tory at the next one because of the mess the coalition government picked up. However, following this announcement I'll vote for whichever party is most likely to keep the Tories out. This seems to me to be purely party politics and not in the national interest.

If we did leave the EU, what would happen? Would we gain any sovereignty? Norway has to comply with almost all the EU rules and pay a hefty contribution to the EU in order to be part of the EEA and you'll note it has no say in or vote on those rules. Where's the sovereignty gain there? We might end up much worse off, having to comply with all the rules to trade with the EU and having to give up the current opt-outs that we've negotiated by being part of the EU. In big global questions where being part of the EU gets you heard, we'll have less influence. It's a global economy with global environmental and political issues, you can't believe we'd have greater influence outside the EU. Where's the sovereignty gain there? We'd still be part of the European Court of Human Rights, which is completely separate from the EU, so no sovereignty gain there. People talk about EU immigrants coming here, but they contribute a lot to the economy as they are usually taxpaying workers. We might also have to give up the right to go and live in the EU countries we want to.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 22:39

If you wish to know what lengths men will go to for freedom open this link, then despair of your words.

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Jan 23, 2013 at 23:05

Jeremy - why this gutter rubbish about tories and BNP? Even Miiliband is more rational. :-)

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William Phillips

Jan 24, 2013 at 00:47

Mr Jeremy Bosk believes we are entitled to his opinions about everything under the sun, all day long, and he never likes to keep us waiting, even when the opinion has to come off the top half-millimetre of his cranial cavity.

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George Morley

Jan 24, 2013 at 01:27

It seems to me that anyone would be stupid to stay in any organisation that has not had their accounts audited. Before the EU the UK was not doing badly and had the Commonwealth Plus. Now they call the tune and the UK is the only country taking notice and suffering financially as a result.

Get out of this rudderless boat !

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 24, 2013 at 04:43


As far as I can see, the two parties most opposed to the EU are the Tories and the BNP. UKIP is relatively rational compared to those two. The papers most opposed to the EU are the Tory papers. If that is gutter rubbish then so be it.

The behaviour of this government seems to me to show that they operate in favour of their own narrow interests and against the national interest at every turn. I am puzzled that apparently decent people - such as yourself - can support them. I regard Labour as merely the lesser evil. I am not an enthusiastic supporter of any party.

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Magic Monty

Jan 24, 2013 at 08:41


Freedomn to set low corporate tax incentives for new businesses to come to the UK (No European blocking power or control).

That point alone will make GB hugely cahs generative and kick start the economy big time. This is exactly what china did whare i work and see first hand what economic freedom does.

No more paying French farmers and all the other B.S subsidies...YES

Your either unified in all of Europe including the currency or your out. Half way don't work folks and we are better out watching Europe implode from the outside.

Please vote to get out everyone........................

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Jan 24, 2013 at 08:54

Jeremy - irrespective of the political ideals, it is a fact that over the last 60 years every labour government has been ended by a huge buildup of national debt. Then the Tories have come in and had to deal with it - not always in the best manner, but deal with it they have. Paying off these debts has damaged UK growth and hit the poor more than anyone. And the tories have been blamed for the consequences (eg ending inefficient state monopolies).

Child poverty grew under the last regime, whilst the gap between the poor and the wealthy raced away. All of this under a "socialist" government.

So irrespective of ideals the facts speak for themselves. No sane person would vote in a party with that track record.

So I vote for the party which, I believe, will keep the UK afloat as I do not want to be on a sinking ship. All the spin and rhetoric is irrelevant.

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Ian Craig

Jan 24, 2013 at 09:30

I think Magic Monty has rather unwittingly hit the button. Most 'outers' still want to be part of a European free trade zone; but that's not 'out' - it's where we started.

I did see a list of some of the euro 'red-tape' the Tories wanted rid off a while ago. It looked like the kind of stuff that only dodgy sweat-shop owners would like see the back of.

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Graham D-C

Jan 24, 2013 at 09:35

It was Labour who dellberately flooded this country with immigrants not caring whether they were legal, illegal or criminal. It was Labour that took us into an illegal war against Iraq based on a deliberately fictitious claim that the UK and its interests were at imminent risk from Saddam Hussein's WMD. It was Labour who again joined the dumbest American president in living memory in the invasion of Afghanistan, ignoring the country's history of kicking the British out in the 19th century, the Russians in the 20th century and the Americans in the 21st century. It was Labour who bankrupted this country during 12 years of reckless government. Albeit at face value only slightly different, I would sooner vote for the communist party before voting Labour

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Chris Powell

Jan 24, 2013 at 09:49

If you want a better deal from Europe the Tories are the only party to vote for. If we don't get a better deal we should leave. I agree with the people in this article who feel we would be no worse off leaving but I still want to give Europe a last chance to make things better.

I agree with Graham but I would rather move to Argentina than vote labour- now that is bad!

If we leave trust me we will not be the last country to leave!

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Jan 24, 2013 at 13:27

Exactly, CP. It will be Europe quaking in its boots if UK leaves. How about Germany following us out? Maybe not realistic but worth a thought.

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Graham D-C

Jan 24, 2013 at 14:11

Given the chance, the German people with their beloved Deutsche Mark would leave the EU and if necessary Merkel, tomorrow. But for the lunatic Hitler, Germany and England could be leaders in a prosperous and truly free Europe, trading with the rest of the world..

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 24, 2013 at 14:16


Barber Boom, Lawson Boom? Both created messes that had to be cleaned up by their successors.

I agree that on balance Labour has left more such messes. I also wholeheartedly agree that the Quisling Blair dragged us into unnecessary wars. I regard Labour as the lesser evil because they are less destructive of the welfare state and less blindly opposed to the EU. Not because I think they are paragons of virtue.

I also think that lots of other Tory policies are destructive. I can agree that this island is overcrowded and we do not need or want unskilled and uneducated immigrants. But the Tories are keeping out paying students that keep our universities afloat and whose brightest and best should be encouraged to stay here after qualifying. America and Australia both gain greatly from this policy. We should also make it easier for investors and highly skilled people to enter our country. The demographic time bomb is being defused quite nicely by immigrant Poles.

The attacks on benefits for the sick and unemployed are immoral and counter productive. They will lead to all kinds of problems currently mainly found in the developing countries.

The attacks on the education system - interference in recruitment by universities, dogmatic reforms of GCSEs and A-Levels - the latter was attacked today by Universities UK and by Cambridge.

I am unsure about the cuts to the armed forces numbers. On the one hand, if we have no army we cannot supply Janissaries for Uncle Sam. On the other, the resurgence of Islamic terrorism in Mali and elsewhere needs some response beyond hand wringing and food aid for refugees.

We do not need the present system of nuclear "deterrence" because nothing deters criminal lunatics such as Al Qaeda.

Cuts in legal aid to leave defendants in criminal cases without proper representation are wrong.

The slavish copying of the American system of elected police chiefs was a stupid attempt at rabble rousing and will lead to even worse policing than before.

The "austerity" insanity has driven up the national debt by decreasing tax income and increasing welfare spending.

Roads and other infrastructure are crumbling. Transport bottlenecks are deterring investment.

Efforts to get the private sector to fund such investment merely add to the cost. Allianz Global Investors is to raise an infrastructure investment fund for the UK which will raise finance at 2 or 3 per cent above base rate. Which is to say higher cost than if the spending was directly put on the government's books. This will over any projects 30 or 40 year lifetime more than double the cost.

You really think that Osborne is doing a better job than Brown in his last years? At least Brown began his term as Chancellor with relative intelligence. The last couple of years dealing with Blair plainly drove him over the edge. Osborne has begun with insanity.

Spending cuts targeted at non-Tory voting local authorities are morally bankrupt.

Three years into a Tory government and the immigration service still cannot account for hundreds of thousands. We do not need more workers in the black economy, wherever they were born.

I could list more sins of omission and commission but have other things to do.

I wish I believed that the Tories were merely incompetent. Sadly, the evidence points to leaders who are sociopaths and lunatics. Their followers are wilfully blind and live in a dream.

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wayne roberts

Jan 24, 2013 at 14:26

I hear there was a secret referendum going on in the EU about whether to kick us out so the whole discussion may be pointless? Personally I think that we are to Europe what the Falklands are to South America and we are to the US what the Falklands are to us.. Anyway its all Hitlers fault.

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Rose G

Jan 24, 2013 at 14:51

I do not believe the UK will actually quit the EU though I certainly do not support staying in. My long term future is not connected to the EU, neither are my short term goals.

I do not wish to be part of the Eurocentric approach to life or liberty - the idea that they are superior to me or mine is another factor. The entire EU is just another con merchants tricks to part me from my money, which I work hard for - it is not only being squandered by perks for politicians here, but the gravy train is just another scam.

The most recent countries who joined the EU (what a joke) some of them are still in the dark ages, and they will certainly benefit from getting money for nothing, to join the boys brigade.

As for Ms Merkel, how long is she going to be Chancellor - there is lack of transparency, no democracy whatsover, and I do not feel I want to be part of Europe - my genetic make up alone revolts at the thought of having my life determined by colonialists who can only stay together if the money they get is right; otherwise, murdering each other with their fancy arms, ammunition & technology is the legacy they have left behind in every country they have colonised - the entire ME is in the current state of chaos because of the European powers who did not want Jews in their countries, so get this, the Arabs got to pay the price, and what a price!

Never mind, let the powers that be make decisions, who really cares, in out, shake it all about, & we will return to this topic circa 2017, when the Tories will be left licking their wounds, and no referendum, as we sink to the same depths as these raving lunatics who actually think they can make the world or the parts they occupy, better, who cares, and quite frankly, the hysteria leaves me cold.

There are far more important problems in the UK - like the privatisation of the NHS.

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Graham D-C

Jan 24, 2013 at 18:05

Assuming the Tories are still in power post 2015 elections, an exit from the EU will only be necessary if the voters say so and if applicable that will depend on the EU response to their approval by referendum of the terms set out by the government for renegotiation.

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Jan 24, 2013 at 23:14

Magic Monty - you can already adjust your corporate tax rates. Ireland has far lower rates than we have and they're in the EU. We get a rebate for the French agricultural subsidy bias. We wouldn't get that outside the EU. More than half the EU countries are in the EU but not in the Euro.

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Mark Cleminson

Jan 24, 2013 at 23:27

invsb -Sorry to be pedantic but you would not need a rebate outside the EU, you would not have been a net provider, one of the few.

And in general- what is the influence that I hear Britain has inside the EU and why is it not generally known. The rebate is legacy, there has been nothing for over 20 years.

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Alan via mobile

Jan 25, 2013 at 01:59

I agreed with many here who say there will be no referendum, it's just a fun trick to try and capture victory for the Tories in the next election. It seems to have backfired already if the opinion polls are anything to go by as people are not so easily fooled now. The amount of corruption very publicly exposed under the previous government, and now this one, have sharpened the awareness of voters and are now much more healthily sceptical.

No party, other than UKIP, really want us to have a referendum as they know the outcome would put paid to their cosy, overpaid and underworked jobs in the EC they all aspire to further on in their careers. Neil Kinnock and family are a shining example of this.

I personally think we will never get the opportunity to vote on EC membership unless a more principled party such as UKIP are voted into power at the next election.

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Magic Monty

Jan 25, 2013 at 03:43

I don't think the referndum is a trick at all. Cameron wants to get the positives and negatives of being in Europe out on the table and let the people choose.

invsb can learn from Mark - Don't pick out odd items we pay (waste) millions in subscriptions and subsidies to countries like Greece and others that are totally fiscally irresponsible. Call me selfish but I do not want to subsidize laxy overpiad early retiring Europeans whilst working myself into an early grave loosing more and more of my pension and additional taxes.

Once out of this rip off club that don't work, we will not waste our politians time, focus & expenses as well as our countries payments to others that give almost nothing in return (Europe). If I said give me all your twenty pound notes and i'll give you tenners back when you need money would you do that. Because that's exactly what we do in Europe. Wake up peoples.........

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Ian Craig

Jan 25, 2013 at 08:08

A 'in/out' referendum. How far 'out' exactly? Who decides? If we want to part of the European Free Trade Area like Switzerland or Norway; I think we'll still have to pay for the privilege.

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Chris Powell

Jan 25, 2013 at 08:44

America, Japan, China etc do not pay for trade! Free trade is an absolute nonsense. We get nothing for ‘free trade’ other than foreign companies investing in the UK to make money. Yes you might say we will miss this investment?

However, let’s get out of Europe and drop corporation tax to 10%. This will help UK PLC take on the rest of the world! Let’s see how Ireland likes that!

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Paul Eden

Jan 25, 2013 at 13:49

Other economies are outside the EU, albeit with trading relations. They cope quite well with the situation. Why can't Britain? We wouldn't be paying the huge sums we pay at present.

I see no reason to pay anything. Britain imports more from the EU than it exports. We had been trading globally for centuries very sucessfully - what has changed? When Harold Wilson held the EU referendum in 1975 the public were hoodwinked into believing he had negotiated meaningful treaty changes that benefitted Britain, whereas what he had actually done was purely 'cosmetic'. A Prima Donna politician who succeeded in duping the British public...clever man and we have been paying ever since because of this deception.

The eurozone countries, to hold together, will need change to be able to do this. And perhaps they will not succeed because the whole idea of strong economies such as that of Germany forever supporting weaker Meditteranean economies does not work...the Germans don't want that (nor does the French), but that is what must happen with a common currency. The fact is that no one really knows what the relationship will be between Britain and the euro countries in the future - because these other countries are going to have to be innovative in trying to make something work that doesn't now.

'You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear'. Isn't this what the euro countries are trying to do? Pensioners & other savers have been hit by QE and new pensioners buying annuities are being hit by the EU's insistence that male and female annuties are the same, notwithstanding that average life expectancy is several years greater for females. This is a reason for holding a referendum as soon as possible - because people are being hurt now. Also, of course, female drivers will pay more because of the same EU political correctness ruling.

If people have a referendum and people vote for keeping Britain in the EU, one thing I thnk is certain - it will be a very long time before another is held. Not in my lifetime I suspect, given the reluctance of the political class to hold referendums.

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Ian Craig

Jan 25, 2013 at 14:38

The euro is doing significantly better than the pound.

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Jan 25, 2013 at 15:26

I am not a politician, economist, or academic professor, merely a retired engineer, so my answer may not be intuitive.

Anyway here's where I stand.

Winston Churchill once said: "Britain will never be part of Europe, it would rather choose the open sea" That prophecy has always stuck in my mind.

As an engineer I think in terms of a federal system having similarities to an electrical charging circuit.

e.g. If you connect a number of batteries in series: (positive to negative) and apply an electrical charge to the circuit, each battery in turn will become fully charged and pass on the unused current flow to the next in line untill all the batteries are fully charged. If however you connect the batteries in parallel: (Positive to positive, Negative to nagative) none of the batteries will receive an additional charge. All that will happen is that the applied voltage will force the charge from the stronger batteries to the weaker ones and you will end up with an average level of charge in each. The extra current flow applied will be lost.

It seems to me that Federal systems which use a common currency such as the Dollar or the Euro suffer from parallel connectivity.

As regards trying to make a difference through the ballot box, my contribution is minimal and hardly worth the candle. I live in a predominantly Labour constituancy, so safe that the Conservatives don't even field a candidate. In past elections I have voted Liberal, not because I necessarily agreed with their policies but more as a protest vote. However next time round I think UKIP will come second in polls (in this constituancy). I agree with much of what they say, but I don't think that they have enough universal appeal to be elected (in my constituancy) but I think they will certainly gain a significant number of votes. Enough for the other parties to take them seriously. Therefore I shall vote UKIP.

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Graham D-C

Jan 25, 2013 at 15:45

If the euro is doing significantly better than the pound, that's good for UK exports to the EU

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George Morley

Jan 25, 2013 at 17:05

It seems that the Lords are asking for the vote to be restored to ex-pats beyond the 15 yrs which it now is. I have lost my vote due to this and it seems to me that UKIP is the only party listening to the people and willing to do something about the EU money pit.

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Jan 25, 2013 at 17:26

Actually, the euro is strenghening a little after having weakened significantly. And to talk about "doing better" is, in any case, rather off the point. The strengthening is bad news for the Eurozone because it makes life tougher for Eurozone exporters and, as Graham D>C> notes, easier for countries exporting into the Eurozone. It's a bit perverse, I accept, but German business won't be too keen on a strong euro.

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Ian Craig

Jan 25, 2013 at 20:03

Who else thinks all the media focus on lazy scheming Greeks feels like a deliberate distraction from the magnitude of our own woes?

A Euro used to cost me about 68p, it's now just a bit less than a pound - that's some strengthening.

Success through devaluation: the Zimbarbwean way.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 25, 2013 at 20:58

Ian Craig

The gutter press exists to serve as a distraction from reality. The more excited by rabble rousers, the less the right wing notice: of what the government is doing that it should not be doing and what the government is not doing that it should be doing. Blaming immigrants and foreigners is the modern, more socially acceptable version of blaming the Jews. There are no gas chambers - yet.

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Ian Craig

Jan 25, 2013 at 21:44

There's always been some whinging about Europe, but it's insane at the moment. People actually look me in the eye and tell me that they're glad we're not part of the Eurozone. Our savings, pensions and income: all devalued. Our food, fuel (and stock market!) all rising. Go figure.

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Jan 25, 2013 at 22:18

Economy is one aspect and I agree about the relative devaluation but how about democracy within Europe? Who elected the people who dictate, or the people who create the (top-down) laws in Europe? The English (or British) are not accustomed to Roman law. In that sense, we have more in common with other countries. I can't say that I have read the Lisbon Treaty, but did we agree to our Common law being over-ruled? It seems that we have less and less say in how we behave in our own country at the same time as being a net contributor.

I am not totally anti but I think that something needs to change, in our favour if we are to stay in.

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Jan 25, 2013 at 22:24

Chris Powell - America, Japan and China don't have free access to the EU market. We can drop our corporation tax rate now if we want - the EU doesn't prevent that as Ireland shows.

Mark Cleminson - Norway is outside the EU but in the EEA to benefit from the single market and is a net budget contributor to the EU with no rebate. Britain has a great deal of influence in the EU - ask the Nordic countries about it. The rebate isn't a legacy - we get a rebate of about £3bn a year.

The problems with the referendum:

There's no clear question. If you vote yes, you'd get DC's renegotiated package, but if you vote no, you don't know what you'll get. Leaving the EU immediately? Having more negotiations and then another referendum? Go into the EEA? I doubt whether we'll be told before the vote.

The referendum may be used as a protest vote against the government in power, much like local and European elections are to some extent. The decision may be made because the government passed another policy people don't like and they use this as a protest vote. Great.

A referendum just takes a snapshot of how people are feeling on one day. Ask the same question a week later and you may get a different answer.

If they are so good, why not have them on more important issues like changes to the education system etc? Doesn't make sense.

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Jan 25, 2013 at 22:45

dd - not sure what the Lisbon Treaty or the EU has to do with the law thing you're going on about. Do you mean the European Court of Human Rights, which is not the EU?

We elected the Labour government which signed us up to it.

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Paul Eden

Jan 25, 2013 at 22:48

Ian says our savings, pensions & income are all devalued and he is correct, as he also is about our food, fuel (and stock market) all going up. A sorry state of affairs (excepting perhaps the stock market, although this situation might not last long). But being in the EU was supposed to give us growth in our economy and prosperity. It hasn't happened.

This sorry state of affairs is not wholly the fault of the EU, though - British policians are to blame also for many stupid things done. Many contributors to these columns have cited them again and again.

Thus, coming out of the EU (if we do) will not correct everything - and certainly not overnight. But we all might feel a little better doing so. I believe we never went into the EU for economic reasons, but political, with the Americans wanting us there as a kind of Trojan horse. Our own interests, those of millions of people like ourselves, have always taken second place.

Politicians seem so often to be living in cloud cuckoo land. With all this talk of a £120 billion deficit this last year, the biggest ever, and the huge debt rising not falling, and Mr Cameron saying we are so rich we have to give yet more money to other countries in overseas aid!!

I see also that poor girl in Afghanistan being flown to England for surgery and yet, cerebral palsy children born in Britain are denied funding for operations they need overseas - because Britain either cannot or will not do the operations here.

Does any of this make sense?

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Jan 25, 2013 at 23:04

In fact, invsb, it was not Labour but a Conservative government that in 1959 in accordance with Article 19 of the European Convention on Human Rights acknowledged the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. It was in large part a project of UK jurists who, in the aftermath of the carnage of the previous decades, sought to enshrine British standards of human rights in Europe, long before the UK joined the 'Common Market'

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Graham D-C

Jan 26, 2013 at 14:35

With the Greeks up to their necks in debt which will take a generation to pay off, Spain with matching unemployment ( 25 year olds at 26%) its property market in ruins, France's rising unemployment and top tax rates at 75%, Ireland''s property mkt collapsed and its finances dictated by a EU bailout, and, Italy and Portugal in poor financial health, the last thing the euro members want is a strong currency. The single most important question that should be in most enquiring minds, is who will win the next General Election.

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Jan 26, 2013 at 16:11


The outcome of the next general election will be decided between those who believe we can spend our way out of trouble and those who believe in living within our means. This will be an interesting contest as "the living on debt" brigade genuinely can see nothing wrong with the idea, whereas the living within our means lobby see debt as "going to hell in a handcart."

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Jan 26, 2013 at 16:43

When it comes to choosing which to follow, it seems to me that it is necessary to understand what the structural deficit is.

They are then surprised to see that debt continues to increase. It is not such a surprise when it is understood that

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Jan 26, 2013 at 16:45

Sorry, I hadn't finished!

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Jan 26, 2013 at 16:55

Cancel second paragraph.

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Graham D-C

Jan 27, 2013 at 08:24


When several hundred thousand Bulgarians and Romanians hit our shores with a liberal sprinkling of serious criminals amongst them to join those already here from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Nigeria to name a few who cannot be deported because of their Human Rrights , perhaps Labour and Lib Dem voters and those who never vote will finally wake up and decide that only the Tories/UKIP can stop this country from its slide into the abyss.

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Chris B (Slough UK)

Jan 27, 2013 at 14:39

Saving your country £13 Billion pounds a year can't be a bad thing. I don't believe people will stop trading with us, just because we aren't members of the club anymore. It would be a period of adjustment as said before, we were in the EU when we all got in this economic mess and we were lied about it not being a union from the start. Trading between countries, should not be directly linked to politics. Would Siemens have been awarded the contract that Bombardier could have done if we weren't in the EU? We shouldn't be farming out work we can do ourselves. It always seems to be the UK that loses out. We follow all the rules whilst other countries flaunt them and to our expense. Better off out! May as well vote UKIP, because you can't do a worse or more oppressive job than the 2 main parties have. Xenophobic or racist I'm not, just don't want to be a minority in my own country (in 2066) thanks very much! This is only a small country and it is crowded enough all ready!

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Alan via mobile

Jan 27, 2013 at 16:10

There is talk here of the apparent strength of the Euro relative to the Pound. My feeling is that strength is due to the frequent enormous bailouts that are being handed out in all directions just to keep the Euro system operating. If it were not for those handouts, several countries would have gone to the wall and collapsed leaving them no alternative but to return to their own (much devalued) currencies. Only then could they return to the once competitive positions they enjoyed before entering the Euro. Thus, in a vain and fruitless attempt to prop up the whole unstable structure ( and save face), huge quantities of richer members' cash is being simply wasted. The value of the Euro then, in my opinion, is totally artificially high and unrealistic.

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wayne roberts

Jan 27, 2013 at 16:26

LOL - we have woken up and gave the tories a chance and they are doing a good job of stopping us sliding into the abyss aren't they? A brilliant job, in fact if you are in the 5% richest people in the country you are doing very nicely, well done to the tories, the other 95%? ah stuff you..

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Ian Craig

Jan 27, 2013 at 16:47

Alan, to summarise your point: Eurozone countries have rallied round and propped up their currency; whereas ours has collapsed somewhat ....

What's more, it looks like they're trying to make sure it doesn't happen again.

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Jan 27, 2013 at 17:22

Hi Wayne - not a bad job. Under Labour the gap between the poor and the rich widened more than at any time post war, more children entered poverty, and the Nation was bankrupted which will hit the poor more than the rich. Face the facts and realise that all Labour governments have left us in severe debt, but none as badly as the last.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 27, 2013 at 21:07

A little imagination is required in dealing with "serious criminals who cannot be deported". When they are caught, offer shorter sentences if they go away and stay away. Not difficult at all.

We should always uphold human rights such as the right not to be tortured, imprisoned without trial or murdered. Those who complain about human rights should go to some hell hole like Saudi or Iran and try living without them.

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Jan 27, 2013 at 23:07

A lot of Romanians and Bulgarians coming here to do work could be just what the economy needs to get out of recession.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 28, 2013 at 01:28


Quite so. There is not a fixed number of jobs that can be filled by either natives or immigrants. Immigrants get a job and spend money on rent, food, clothes, entertainment etcetera. If they stay they buy cars and houses which they fill with furniture. They have children who need doctors, nurses, teachers and so it goes. Growth.

The only argument against them is overcrowding and the short term strain on local services such as schools.

Besides that, somebody will need to pay the taxes to pay me my old age pension for the next 15 years or so.

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Jan 28, 2013 at 07:58

Jeremy - they also send as much cash as they can home. Just about the worst result for a country which already has a currency deficit and is not paying its way in the World !! And the tax they pay does not cover the welfare benefits paid to those who could do their jobs.

"If they stay they buy cars and houses which they fill with furniture. They have children who need doctors, nurses, teachers and so it goes. Growth"

So if natives got the jobs they would not do the same ??? Your logic or lack of it defies belief :-)

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Jan 28, 2013 at 08:56

@invsb, Jeremy Bosk

How naive can you get.

Before I retired I worked in a factory which was semi-automated and still fairly labour intensive. Management did not wish to employ permanent staff because they knew technology was changing and the next phase of development would involve much more automation.

So they recruited temporary agency workers, which turned out to be immigrants from Poland and Estonia.

We trained these workers, and passed on our skills to them. Little did we know that we were being used as turkeys voting for Christmas.

Five years down the line the company built a brand knew fully automated factory in Poland and shipped the machinery we used to another factory they owned in Estonia.

Our UK factory is now closed.

Wham Bam thank you Mam. The Brits got shafted yet again.

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Chris Powell

Jan 28, 2013 at 09:18


America does have the ability to sell I phones, Google, eBay etc to Europeans and not pay tax on their profits.

'free access to the EU market' is a not that exclusive. It does not mean that much anymore. There are world trade agreements which are far more important and getting more so.

Europe is old fashioned cartel that needs serious reform. Anyone who doubts this should analyse the socialist countries that, retire at 55, don't produce much but expect funding from the rest of Europe.

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Jan 28, 2013 at 09:39

Ah, Hotrod, that's capitalism for you! But I do wonder whether, had the company not relocated its production but instead built its automated factory in UK, would it still be in business? Or would it have been rendered uncompetitive by somebody else's automated factory located much closer to low-cost suppliers and a larger concentration of consumers of its products?

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 09:46

Chris Powell - I retired at 50, three months ago. Does the UK count as one of your socialist countries?

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 28, 2013 at 10:00


If the unemployed British could do the jobs being done by immigrants, why don't they? Despite the Tory propaganda, you cannot live on benefits in any kind of comfort. So that argument is a red herring.

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Chris Powell

Jan 28, 2013 at 10:09


You are one of very few in the UK- If it is becasue you were in the armed forces then I take my hat otf to you.

If Labour were allowed to stay in much longer, then yes I think we would be like the Spain, Greece, etc.

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 11:10

Chris - No, I never could stand being told what to do. Soldiers are idiots; who wants to get shot at, and for what? That's why I'm worried that we're being lead in a direction that is not in my interest. Democracy is great, but media can control and overwhelm it - our only weapons are: a long memory, education, and access to good information.

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Graham D-C

Jan 28, 2013 at 12:21

So Ian Craig what exactly have you done for your country that makes you so superior to soldiers, who have sworn allegiance to the Crown and act upon the orders of the government, trusting that the orders they are given are legal(unlike those for the invasion of Iraq vis-a-= vis UN Resolution 1441 )? Unless you exist in the twilight world and are a criminal, then clearly you obey a variety of orders every day of your life.

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 14:31

I'm superior to soldiers because I never ever wanted a job that had any expectation of being shot/blown-up. Tony Blair promised that Britain would 'pay the blood price', and that seems the only thing he was right about. I'm pretty sure that our troops have been consistently misused and therefore pose a threat to our security. The only reason I've been happy to see our military twits in Afghanistan is that they're stuck there and probably not able to do anything stupid in Iran.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 28, 2013 at 14:54


"Democracy is great, but media can control and overwhelm it - our only weapons are: a long memory, education, and access to good information."

With that I entirely agree.

But there have been times in our history when we have needed our armed forces. That they obey the orders of their civilian hierarchical superiors (not necessarily their moral superiors) is far better than where the military tells civilian authority what to do. Bonaparte, Franco, Salazar, the Greek colonels, Pakistan, Pinochet, the Argentine junta - there is a very long list of dreadfully out of control militaries. That the armed forces sometimes do illegal things at the behest of traitors like Blair is more a fault of the political system than of any service personnel. The much despised human rights legislation does permit the armed forces to refuse an illegal order. Indeed the Nuremberg trials established that they have a duty not to commit war crimes. Which is easy to understand, if not act upon, if ordered to slaughter defenceless civilians.

But, in a genuine national emergency, can anyone take time to argue the legality of general orders? How would the armed forces go about it? Even where, as in this case, everybody knew that Blair lied to Parliament, lied to the public and lied to the world. There is no quick court of appeal against criminal politicians. That neither Blair nor any of those MPs who supported the Iraq II war have been tried for treason or war crimes is an indictment of the corruption of party politics and of our democracy. Blair and a large percentage of our senior politicians are owned by Uncle Sam. Who is as evil as the Islamic jihadis say he is. The pot calling the kettle black.

I don't know what to do about it.

NB Blair had support from all major political parties in the UK so it is not a case of evil Labour and virtuous Conservatives.

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Graham D-C

Jan 28, 2013 at 15:00

and do tell us Mr Craig exactly what it is you do for a job that makes you superior to soldiers and foregoes you having to take orders.

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George Morley

Jan 28, 2013 at 15:12

Don't expect an answer Graham D.C. His comment tells us all we need to know. We would not want him in the armed forces because he is the guy who would let you down in a crisis.

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 15:16

Was a computer contractor, am retired now. Would I let you down in a crisis? Only if you insist on running at the guns.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 28, 2013 at 15:48

Incidentally, our politicians' subservience to Uncle Sam makes all this talk about reclaiming our independence from the EU a joke in poor taste.

For further evidence of this subservience: take a look at the way our police and courts have to hand over our citizens to America without without any evidence being presented to a British court or any trial in the UK. The reverse does not apply. This was more of Blair's treason. Did the Tories vote against this law? Have the Tories repealed it? No. So again: treason is not a matter for just one party.

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 15:59

The europeans have stuck together, albeit in a fracteous brinkmanship kind of way. I'd rather stick with them, than go with the americans any day. Why worry about the European Arrest Warrant, when you can be extradited by the americans with their laughable justice of a plea-bargain?

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Graham D-C

Jan 28, 2013 at 16:18

A computer contractor, yet you say "I could never stand being told what to do". When in reality you obeyed a hundred and one mundane orders in your working life and many of them still today; from fastenting your seat belt in a car to paying taxes. If a driver you would no doubt obey the order from a dumb red traffic light to stop. Soldiers are not idiots Mr Craig, millions were called for National Service which most will admit with hindsight they would not have missed for the world, it turned boys into men. The SAS ran at the guns in the Libyan Embassy siege, had you been one of the many hostages there whose lives were saved by those highly trained brave men, I suspect your views would be very different today. As it is, you clearly have no concept of military life and the discipline it takes to be a success. Whether a civilian or a soldier, unless you can first learn to take orders you will never be able to give them as a leader of men. No soldier deliberately joins the Armed forces be shot at, those who glorify war are those who have never fought one.

George, I hear you.

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George Morley

Jan 28, 2013 at 17:48

Thanks Graham, There's a saying going around that says " If you won't stand behind the soldiers then stand in front of them !" Oh where did he go ?

Great comment.

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 18:57

Why on earth would someone join the army if they didn't want to get shot at. The Libyan Embassy thing was a sideshow, and the gratitude didn't stop them shooting Yvonne Fletcher. We need an army, but don't expect me to be in it. As for orders: you're being way too literal, I do what is in my interest. Next you're going to tell me they're all heroes.

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George Morley

Jan 28, 2013 at 19:20

Mr Craig - The headline for this article is : "Would a British exit from Europe damage the economy?"

Had the British exited Europe in WWII, you would probably be speaking German now and the holocaust would have been far worse.

Thank a Veteran !

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 28, 2013 at 19:28

Graham and Ian

It was the Iranian embassy that was stormed by the SAS to rescue hostages and the Libyan embassy wghere someone shot Yvonne Fletcher. All Muslims, yes, but the Iranians are mainly Shia and the Libyans mainly Sunni. They hate each other worse than most Protestants and Roman Catholics do.

A lot of people join the armed forces to get trained for civilian jobs. Ex soldiers are in high demand in some areas such as private security. A lot are trained as HGV drivers, electricians, mechanical engineers etcetera. The officers get bursaries to help finance their university studies.

I am personally glad to have just missed National Service which I regarded as slavery. Even as a teenager, I knew that many of the armed forces' orders were of dubious political morality.

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Jan 28, 2013 at 19:45

I'm not sure that Graham has understood that it takes a superior being like Ian to recognise that all those who gave their lives in the Second World War were just idiots.But the scales have fallen from my eyes. Thank you, Ian.

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 19:57

My father died from injuries received whilst on active service in Burma. It took 40 years to polish him off. We need soldiers, it just not a very wise career.

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 28, 2013 at 20:52

War is a waste.

Most wars are about religion and nationalism.

Isn't it time the propagation of either, especially in schools, was made a capital offence?

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Jan 28, 2013 at 21:00

What a splendid idea, Jeremy! You're up there with Ian in my book. What a pair!

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George Morley

Jan 28, 2013 at 21:16

It should be obvious than any war is a waste of life and property and money and there are no real winners but there are times when it is necessary to stop some idiot regime. I sympathise with you Ian over the loss of your father. My brother died in Malaya in 1952 helping to stop the Communist infiltration and he was one month away from his 21st birthday, so I know personal grief at first hand. The news these days is not news it seems unless there is some confrontation somewhere in the world and there is a lot of truth in what Jeremy said.

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Ian Craig

Jan 28, 2013 at 23:14

George - sorry about your brother.

Back to topic: I was under the impression that most countries are part of various trading blocks nowadays. Given that we turned our back on the commonwealth, wouldn't we be isolated? We'd be like a 50 year-old divorcee siting in his bedsit, wondering what to do. [Brother-in-law tip: go on an 'explore' holiday. My wife calls it 'sexplore']

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 28, 2013 at 23:44


We ban pornography on the alleged grounds that it promotes criminal behaviour. We ban publication of information on bomb making because some of the people looking it up are homicidal. We know that terrorists regularly use religion as an excuse to commit real murders. Nationalist and religious motivations often combine as in Northern Ireland, Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Ethiopia / Eritrea and so on. Doesn't it make sense to ban what frequently amounts to incitement to murder? The mere fact that some people can be exposed to this hate propaganda (just read the Old Testament to see some shocking examples) and not turn homicidal does not detract from the fact that many do become murderous.

Religion rots the brain.

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wayne roberts

Jan 29, 2013 at 00:42

But without religion we wouldn't have Songs of Praise.. and since when was pornography banned? It ain't banned in the UK as far as I know..

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Jan 29, 2013 at 00:53

Jeremy - perhaps the Internet should be banned to stop heretics !!!!!

Whilst religion may be based on historic myths it was propably the main driver in the civilisation of Man. Evolution has selected people with brains wired to believe in the supernatural, as these people struggled for caused beyond the immdiate tribe and overran the isolated non-religious. It gave a political power structure to empires, with moral values to keep people in line. The role of religion in Man's ascent could fill many books.

Now we do have a problem in that the World has become too small for dominant religions, but in general countries are becoming more secular. However we need tolerance to live with the fact that everyone sees life differently.

But I am not sure how religion applies to whether or not we should exit Europe as Henry VIII sorted that bit out !!

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 29, 2013 at 01:13


I don't really mind people indulging their fantasy life so long as they don't try make it into a reality that affects mine or the general well being.


I remember well being at a railway station in Manchester when half a dozen cops arrested the proprietor of the news stand and seized all his girly magazines under the obscene publications act. They also took a Methodist Magazine with a picture of a woman in a nightie on the front cover. Inside was the sewing pattern. That was in the days when the religious maniac James Anderton was Chief Constable.

Religion is all about political control. The spiritual stuff is the drug to tranquillise the oppressed.

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Graham D-C

Jan 29, 2013 at 07:40


You are right it was the Iranian Embasy, oddly enough I wrote that accordingly in my original draft before I changed it to Libyan Embassy. That said, my sentiments remain the same.

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Graham D-C

Jan 29, 2013 at 07:50


If it was not for all those whom you describe as " idiots who gave the lives in the Second World War", the British versions of you and Ian could have ended up along with the mentally ill and crippled in the gas chambers of the Third Reich.

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Ian Craig

Jan 29, 2013 at 17:21

Interesting. You might enjoy this link:'s_law

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Jeremy Bosk

Jan 29, 2013 at 20:52


Very apt.


You appear to believe that it is not possible to behave in a civilised manner without a set of rules described as divine. It is actually quite easy to devise and live by a set of rules for civilised behaviour from logic and ordinary experience. The Greek philosophers did it millennia ago. Religious people may choose to believe that without their beliefs they would descend into a violent anarchy of robbery, rape and murder. Maybe THEY might. Those of us not afflicted by brain rot know better.

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Ian Craig

Jan 30, 2013 at 08:28

Indeed. One of the rules of ordinary experience is that you should keep within the herd, or stick together - especially in times of strife. My guess, for as we all know it can only be a guess, is that this rule works even more so in a military setting.

"By definition, the difference between a confederation and a federation is that the membership of the member states in a confederation is voluntary, while the membership in a federation is not." [].

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David John Tough via mobile

May 06, 2013 at 12:38

The english attitude to the rest of europe is still epitomised by the 1950s headline fog in channel continent isolated. We are part of europe better or worse get real.

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Chris B (Slough UK)

May 06, 2013 at 13:03

Actually only 30% of our trade is with the EU and that is falling dramatically. Leaving the EU is likely to make no difference and in fact without the EU rules and Regs stifling this country, we would likely get more trade. Our country currently donates £1.2 Billion a year to be a member of this elite bunch unelected of fools, who in reality have absolutely no rights to sovereignty over the people of this country.

It is also likely that the European Central Banks will collapse, like many consumed by their self generation of debt. Leaving the EU, we may even be able to maintain a majority of actual British people in this country, although many of the disillusioned have already moved to other countries! We could then manage immigration properly, and give our own people a chance to get jobs and maintain decent wages. Definitely better off out!

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May 06, 2013 at 21:48

Chris B - don't think that by leaving the EU you stop paying into it. Have a look at Norway - to be able to trade with the EU at favourable rates they have to pay into the EU and have very little or no say in the policies - they just have to accept them. So if you are outside the EU you may still end up paying over a load of cash and signing up to a load of policies you no longer have any say in determining. Not a great scenario. Inside the EU we have a say on the budget, get to determine policies and often can choose to opt out of them.

Migration works both ways. What about wanting to work or live in other EU countries? Lots of people want to do that and leaving the EU would make that much more difficult.

And who are 'actual British people'?

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Jeremy Bosk

May 06, 2013 at 22:32

Chris B

"unelected fools"? Fools perhaps but haven't you heard of the European Parliament and European Elections? Ask Nigel Farage, he is a Member. The European Commissioners are chosen by democratically elected governments and so indirectly elected. Which is rather like the US President who are also often fools but also elected indirectly.

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May 07, 2013 at 08:35

invsb - perhaps we could charge the EU to trade with us then ??? I am sure that BMW and Mercedes just to mention two would not want to lose our business !

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May 07, 2013 at 10:00

Lord Lawson's latest comments need bearing in mind. He points out that the world has changed since the UK signed up to the European Common Market. Trade, Industry, and Commerce is no longer primarily about Commonwealth and European relations. It is truly global.

As far as the former ECC was concerned: It never really worked anyway. For instance: We were saddled with the "Intervention Policy" whereby surplus agricultural commodities were bought at a GUARANTEED PRICE by the commission, withdrawn from the market, and stored indefinitely. The idea was totally barmy. All it achieved was to cause farmers to produce more and more, because they knew that they could get a guaranteed price no matter how much they produced !

As regards being an "influential force at the heart of Europe" I don't buy it. We are constantly being out-voted on practically everything that we propose.

Somebody mentioned that Norway has to pay the EU to trade with its partners. Yes, that is indeed true. But Norway self generates the means to pay. Something many EU partners can no longer do. At the end of the day. The Country that pays the piper, calls the tune.

One by one, the weaker European states are having the yoke of Brussels fastened to their necks, but what they don't know yet is that if Monsieur Dragnet, and Madame Le-Garde start to rev up the printing presses, it will not be long before they will have a ring put in their noses too.

The UK can avoid all that hassle by holding a referendum as soon as possible. If the sceptics were to win, it would simplify the Scottish independence question also.

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May 07, 2013 at 10:55

With English subtitles but body language speaks for itself:

Seriously, I do not want to tar all with the same brush but ... we should know how our contributions to the EU are being spent and on whom.

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Jeremy Bosk

May 07, 2013 at 10:57


Look up "Lawson Boom" for one of many examples why taking that man's opinions should be accompanied by a bucketful of salt.

Norway does have the means to pay - until the oil runs out and then for a while longer because Norway has a Sovereign Wealth Fund. Norway saved its North Sea Oil revenues instead of squandering them as this country did, to cut taxes and pay unemployment benefits - under the self same Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson. Remind me, who gave him the job? Who waged economic war against this country then - as her sycophants do now?

We are often outvoted in the EU. Sometimes, perhaps, other people have better ideas. Or, perhaps this is because our confrontational and obstructionist tactics have irritated people who might have been our friends and allies? Perhaps they read the British gutter press and have learned to reciprocate the hatred and contempt spewed out by it?

If Lord Lawson has only just noticed that "trade, industry and commerce is no longer primarily about Commonwealth and European relations", then he is several centuries behind the times. We have traded with China since the Middle Ages. We have traded with the USA since 1783. If by "Europe", you mean the EU, we have also traded with Russia since it was called Muscovy, in Elizabethan times.

CAP made sense as a means of obtaining food security. Now it makes less sense and has accordingly been modified and doubtless will be modified again. Changes in any international policy take time.

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Jeremy Bosk

May 07, 2013 at 11:50


I have asked one of my regional MEPs to comment and will let you know the result.

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May 07, 2013 at 13:32

Thank you Jeremy. I suspect, that as in so many workplaces, there are varying degrees of commitment to the job.

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May 09, 2013 at 22:01

Hotrod - in Norway's case it's he who pays the piper doesn't call the tune. They have to pay and accept legislation from the EU they have no say in forming.

I think the UK has a lot of influence in the EU. Just look at how the US and the smaller countries with more liberal economies in the EU really want the UK to stay in the EU because of the UK's influence on policy there.

If the UK leaves the EU and still wants to access the European Single Market it'll still have to sign up to most of the legistlation without having any say on it. It will lose influence on global trade agreements (countries will be much more interested in the large EU market place) and other global policies. Future investment will probably shift to the EU from the UK to be within the Single Market. EU countries using Frankfurt as their financial centre rather than London - banks relocating. Doesn't sound good to me.

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May 10, 2013 at 09:04

invsb - So China has signed up to the most of the legislation then so that it can sell its goods to the EU?? I think not. All this talk is scaremongering and speculation, not fact. The UK is a valuable market for the EU and we can call the tune as much as the EU if we put our mind to it. There is no point in tying ourselves down to the rules of a failing club, and paying huge subscriptions to help prop it up if that means that we are trading with the far larger market in the rest of the World with one hand tied behind our backs. Perhaps our influence may improve the club a little, but it is fundamentally flawed so the best thing is to recognize this and let it get on in its own way whilst we devote our energies to optimising the UK's competitiveness.

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Ian Craig

May 10, 2013 at 10:08

Is it a failing club? Last I looked, a Euro is worth 85p.

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May 10, 2013 at 10:22

invsb: IMO. You are trying to play snooker by holding the wrong end of the cue.

Take the USA for a start. Who the hell are they to dictate to UK who we should or shouldn't trade with?

The USA as a political confederation is economically dysfunctional. i.e. The Southern States where many wealthy Americans live, pay disproportional taxes to Northern States where most of the wealth is created. California is spending petro-dollars faster than Alaska can earn them. To quantify the figures in layman's terms I would say that Europe is in debt up their eyeballs, but the USA has debts right over their head. Now you should remember that if you climb into bed with someone worse off than yourself there is always the danger that they will drag you down to their level.

The UK does however have strategic defence agreements with the USA. Some would argue that these agreements are flawed also, because military activities in recent years have tended to be more offensive than defensive.

Norway is connected to the UK by a twin bore gas pipeline. A trade agreement exists whereby Norway will supply us (the UK) with gas for the next forty years. It would appear to me that this agreement should be maintained as a priority.

With regard to Frankfurt, may I remind you that Frankfurt's ultimate goal is to castrate Canary Warf. They have already had a go by trying to take over the London Stock Exchange. Thankfully they failed at both attempts.

Finally: When asked if Britain should be a part of Europe ? Winston Churchill famously replied: Never; Britain will always choose the open sea.

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May 10, 2013 at 10:51

well, Churchill was wrong about that. As an Atlanticist, he was doubtless much influenced by his American mother...

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May 10, 2013 at 22:18

Jon. I'm not an expert on it, but I believe China doesn't have free access to the Single Market. Talk about what might happen in the future is by definition speculation, not fact - I think we all know that. The EU is the largest market in the world with a stronger currency than ours.

Hotrod. I like the way you question things I didn't say. Excellent debating technique. I'm not saying the US are telling us who to trade with. I'm saying that they know we have a lot of influence in the EU and would like us to keep exercising that influence there. For a dysfunctional economy, the USA is doing pretty well - the biggest economy in the world.

In the EU we have free access to the biggest single market in the world, we have free movement of British citizens to go where they want, we are pushing for a single market in services which would greatly benefit our economy (UK influence there), we are able to negotiate with much greater influence as a whole with other trading areas and countries, and co-operate with other EU countries on law, education, cartel prevention, the environment and many other areas.

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