With the referendum campaign now in full swing, many people all around Lincolnshire and indeed around the country are turning their thoughts to the European Union. I’ve been disappointed to see the Treasury deploying such wildly unbelievable figures in an effort to convince the public that leaving the European Union will result in an economic disaster worse than the Great Depression.
Luckily, I well remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while in opposition, attacked Governments of the day for pressuring the Treasury to craft figures that fit a predetermined political narrative. This is why we set up the Office of Budget Responsibility to provide an independent economic forecast as background to the preparation of the UK’s budget. I also recall the Prime Minister’s assurance that he would campaign for leaving the EU if Brussels didn’t give us a proper deal. Surely the Prime Minister wouldn’t have said that if leaving would prove disastrous for the British economy.
So, alas, we must take these prognostications of doom with a grain of salt. Indeed, the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has described the Treasury figures as “overblown” and “incredible” while the rabidly pro-EU Financial Times asked: “Are the chancellor’s claims plausible? No. … More likely, the numbers are just made up.”
No amount of scaremongering and talking the country down can hide the fact that leaving the European Union will provide numerous opportunities for developing closer economic links with the rest of the world. We are faced with a choice between a sclerotic, closed-in trading bloc and an open dynamic relationship with the rest of the world.
And, just as always, we will still be a European country even outside the EU, like affluent Norway and prosperous Switzerland. And outside the EU we will have greater freedom to pursue closer ties with our vast family of nations across the seas, the Commonwealth – be it old friends like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand or rising powers like India, Nigeria, and South Africa.
But the indicators are looking good. Employment is still falling, and despite the uncertainty over the referendum it looks like the private sector is still growing. The Bank of England’s worst-case-scenario provides for only a ‘technical recession’ over two quarters, with the overall year after Brexit still resulting in overall growth. And even the Treasury’s worst-case scenario would put the jobless rates well below European norms, significantly outperforming our friends who remain in the EU.
As the fifth largest economy in the world, and buying much more from the EU than they buy from us, we are in an excellent position to negotiate a proper trade deal with Brussels once we leave the political union. Voting to Leave will allow us to hold decision-makers to account, and will put more power in the hands of the ordinary voter instead of the Brussels bureaucrat. Your choice is between sticking with a slow, outdated bureaucracy or voting for a dynamic future forging links with the whole world.