UKIP’s flaw is the belief that EU countries will be queuing up to give us free trade access to their markets if we pull out. I believe they would do quite the opposite. If we pull out they are very likely to start posturing and to refuse us free access. Finding an enemy – perfidious Albion – would be a perfect deflection from their own economic failure.
The usual reply to this argument is that “it is in the EU countries’ own interest” to have free trade relations with us. Their balance of trade with us is positive. But that reply omits one crucial fact: continental Europe has not acted in the best economic interest of its citizens for the last fifty years. Why would they start doing so now? Because we ask them to?
No, posturing against us would be the logical outcome of us pulling out. Look at how they reacted to the Lisbon Treaty referenda. Look at how they react to the Conservatives’ pulling out of the EPP. Not conciliatory. Not in their own economic interest. For them unlike for us, the EU is a political project, not an economical one.
The Conservative position is a far more effective one than UKIP’s – while not risking to lose free trade if we achieve it. If we can force a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, we all know how it will go. That would stop the European superstate in its tracks. Then we have the leverage to demand the repatriation of powers – such as social and employment legislation. This has never been tried before. Why risk 50% of our exports if we can achieve our goals in a much saner way?
Pro-European Giscard d’Estaing floated this very idea when he spoke at a Global Vision conference last year. We could easily have a Europe of two speeds: a group which goes the full monty and sets up a European republic, and a second group which is only part of certain policy areas. It would give us all we want.
Put crudely: the greater UKIP’s success is, the less likely it is that the Conservative Party will be able to force a referendum. So to you, Ukippers out their: take off your blazers and enjoy the Conservative sunshine! Stop splitting the Eurosceptic vote.