By the Earl of Lauderdale
Last week the BBC ran an evening devoted to surrealism, which featured as a more modern example of the genre Spike Milligan, who looked remarkably handsome when not made up for the films.
Our Prime Minister made her own contribution to surrealism at the same time.
First, she pressed forward with her intentions to take Britain out of the EU, and also out of the single market. This currently comprises the 28 countries nearest to and including the UK with a combined population of 515m people, to which we ship £229bn of goods and services, compared with 323m people in the USA, where our exports are a mere £88bn – three times what we sell to Ireland alone.
Then she went on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia – UK exports £5bn, and sent ministers off to India, UK exports £9bn, Malaysia, UK exports £2.5bn, Indonesia, UK exports £0.8bn and the Philippines, UK exports £0.4bn. India responded with a demand for fast track immigration facilities for wealthy Indians, but no trade concessions.
The total value of British exports to these countries is £18bn, less than the £28bn we sell to Ireland, population 5m.
If we increased our sales to the EU by only 7% (about three years sales growth) that would exceed our entire current sales to the countries targeted by Mrs. May.
If we sell £28bn to Ireland with only 5m people, why can we sell only three times as much to the USA whose economy is 60 times the size? The answer is that Ireland is closer, and a fellow member of the EU. There are no trade barriers.
But there are endless barriers with Saudi Arabia, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. We cannot expect to develop the same scale of business with these countries which are many hours flying time away, and in time zones which make daily communication difficult.
She plans to disrupt our economy by imposing customs barriers with the EU and hopes to recover the lost trade by absurd assumptions about the extra business we can do on the other side of the world. It is notable that the only experienced and successful businessman in her cabinet, the Chancellor, Mr. Philip Hammond opposes the plans to disrupt our trade links with our nearest and most accessible markets.
When people voted in the referendum, they were promised continued free access to the EU markets – which the PM now plans to destroy.
But the EU is not just about trade…. it is about influence. Britain was a superpower in 1900, with a navy large enough to take on the next two largest navies in the world. Today we only have 19 surface ships, barely enough to escort one aircraft carrier.
Today the superpowers are the USA, the EU, China and perhaps Russia. Leaving the EU will reduce our trade bargaining power dramatically – instead of being part of a group of nations with population of 515m and GDP of $16,000bn, we will revert to a nation with a population of 64m and GDP of $3,800bn – we shall be much less interesting to counterparties and have much less negotiating power.
Trade unions assert that “Unity is Strength”, and they are right. Before Germany united in 1871, the small principalities and dukedoms of central Europe were at the mercy of France which regularly invaded their territories. After unification, France never invaded again.
We need the support and trading opportunities of our European neighbours whose values and interests we share and throw them away at our peril.