The following piece is based on data released by the UK Office of National Statistics today.
Although I’ve seen the data several times over the last sorry decade, I still walk around with this vague feeling at the back of my brain that Britain’s main trade gap is with the US and Asia, not the EU. However, today’s new Government statistics on EU trade have reminded me that this hasn’t been the case for some time.
Last year (calendar not fiscal) trading with the EU cost the UK just over £38 billion. Or put another way, if we put up the shutters against our EU partners for just five years, we could pay off 40% of the total National Debt.
This is before we start paying for the administration, bailouts, balancing funds and all the rest of the small print that goes with the ‘privilege’ of being a member State in the European Union.
For example, already in 2010, this same trade route has already cost us well over £9 billion….or roughly what we have just been forced to cough up on top as a ‘rebalancing’ fee for the shambolic eurozone. So this month alone, we made a loss of eighteen billion pounds on the deal. A year of this and we could wipe out the deficit. Every last penny of it.
It is, of course, perfectly fair to point out that this trade deficit is largely down to having endured 13 years of government by a New Labour shower unable to hold a balance sheet the right way up, let alone understand the thing. But that reality doesn’t negate my point in any way: great and exceeding daft events are taking place across the Channel, and nobody is taking Britain’s intransigence seriously.
Take away the soi-disant trade ‘advantage’ with the EU, and there’s nothing left as an argument in its favour. We’re paying for two lots of bureaucrats, being inundated with two lots of laws, losing our liberties on daily basis – and on the very edge of surrendering the most important dimension of sovereignty: control of our own cash.
Today, pictures of Geli and Sarko loving it up are all over the world’s front pages. This is clearly meant to send yet another ‘clear message’ to those still to be convinced about the eurozone’s viability. That makes it the seventeenth this year – and as such, about to overtake Gordon Brown’s relaunch count. But if it also has a secondary role to dissuade those thinking of taking advantage of EU weakness (eg, us) should we care? We should not.
A future without trading in Europe is of course a silly and simplistic idea. But that’s not the point at issue here. In the immediate term – and Britain has an immediate problem – we would gain from quitting the Union….whereas the EU would collapse: either indirectly via a catastrophic loss of credit confidence in it, or directly by losing our massively unfair level of contributions.
If this seems over-confident, let me remind every reader of one simple fact: we may be in a near unfathomable depth of brown stuff here in the UK, but our debts are first, longer term – and second, seen by the markets in the light of a golden record of non-default that nobody in the EU – not even Germany – can match.
These Slog murmurings may well earn me more Little Englander charges from old Slogger chum of nearly four decades, GC. But you’ll go a long way to find a greater Europhile than moi, mir, mio or mia: this is not a mindless power-bid we’re talking about, it’s a standoff designed to bring sanity to bear on a continental madness in which we, as non-Euro members, deserve precisely 0% of the blame. Of course we’ve been complete idiots ourselves: but we didn’t engage with the deficit delusions or fiddle the system…and in that sense alone, we have at least part of the moral high ground.
Mindless power bid it is not, but game of high-stakes poker it most certainly is – and the United Kingdom is holding five aces in this hand. If Angela Merkel has talked Nicolas Sarkozy round to a treaty renegotiation, then these two founders will ignore Britain at their very great peril.
And if Hague, Osborne and Cameron miss this open goal, then the country really will never forgive them.