Of all the the ridiculous names we eurosceptics (a misleading word; I’m not sceptic about anything) have been called leading up to this referendum, only one has really bothered me: the ‘Little Englanders’ jibe.
In the minds of our critics, our views are old-fashioned, antiquated and do not belong. We are of another era, where women stayed at home and homosexuality was illegal. According to those with whom we disagree (on this, rather vital EU question), we wish to turn the clock back, isolate Britain and turn inwards – ignoring the rest of the world.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather than turn our backs on global interconnection, we want to embrace it. Britain’s rapidly-expanding eurosceptic movement seeks an end to our EU-shackled failures and a more rigorous relationship with Asia, the Commonwealth and the Americas. We are ignoring countries with which we could enjoy very fruitful, mutual arrangements.
Thanks to the UK’s membership of the European Union, we are legally incapable of negotiating our own, bilateral or Free Trade agreements. For the world’s fifth largest economy to be restricted in such a way, as well as having no contributory seat at the World Trade Organisation seems to me to damage both Britain’s global influence and its economic prowess.
There is, however, an alternative.
By leaving the European Union, the British government regains control of its local supremacy. The word ‘influence’ has been thrown around quite a bit in the run up to our June referendum, without really meaning very much, but how can a country claim to have more influence in the world, if it seldom influences its own law-making?
Supporters of independence such as me see vast opportunities awaiting the United Kingdom post-EU membership. Let’s have the trade and cooperation necessary for a peaceful, stable Europe, but let us not forget our allies in Asia, such as Japan and India. By reclaiming control of national trade, which we don’t currently have, we can expand heavily upon our connections with the rest of the world, boost relations and maximise our role in international affairs.
The European Union, after all, doesn’t represent internationalism; it merely represents regionalism. As I wrote in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago, centralised decision-making inside the EU is beginning to sprout internal disputes and conflict between member states. This means that, thanks to the differing political interests of 28 EU members, it is becoming more and more of a battle for Britain to exert its internal influence.
But European Union operations aside, it is important to note that the UK works with other countries in over 100 multi-national institutions on issues such as foreign aid, military alignment and climate change. Britain plays a crucial role in organisations like the G7, Commonwealth and NATO, but what is intriguing in these instances is the absence of intrusive political union.
For countries to cooperate and trade with each other, political union is not necessary. Rather, it is quite rational to suggest that the United Kingdom would benefit from maintaining its existing international alliances, whilst controlling its own domestic affairs and determining its own place in the world – through trade and foreign policy. The idea that by revamping our relationship with our European neighbours, we ‘isolate’ (I never liked Nick Clegg) ourselves in the world is an absurd suggestion, and not one worthy of anybody who knows any history or politics.
You have to wonder how the world’s 167 self-governing nations get on without too much trouble.
But comparisons are beside the point. Britain is held back, both economically and geo-strategically, by EU membership. Did British people feel influential when their country was inadvertently dragged into the 2014 Ukraine mess? Do British people feel influential when unelected commissioners negotiate trade deals on their behalf, and often in secret?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted recently that he’d like to see a ‘strong UK in a strong EU’. Never mind that the statement is clearly an oxymoron, I wonder how American citizens and officials would react if their borders and law were determined in Mexico City, and their international trade in Ottowa.
Despite ‘influence’ being difficult to measure in objective fashion, I firmly believe that Britain’s role in world politics is expanded and magnified by independence. Sovereignty is something good men and women fought for over many years, and when harnessed well, can really maximise the UK’s global leadership.
We are told that continued EU membership will assist us in combating terrorism, climate change and catching criminals. It is a shame that misguided attitudes towards global warming, Interpol and the EU’s now glaring role in promoting Islamic terrorism seriously negate these arguments.
Upon regaining self-governance, Britain must and can rekindle old relationships and reassert its place in the international order. The UK is a nuclear power, the world’s fifth largest economy, a major exporter and a touristic powerhouse. We CAN do this.