Do­minic Grieve, MP for Bea­cons­field, says STAY

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

AS At­tor­ney Gen­eral from 2010 to 2014, I had plenty of op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve the work­ings of the EU and its im­pact on our country. The EU and its in­sti­tu­tions ex­ist to give ef­fect to the Treaties by which its 28 mem­ber states agreed to cre­ate a sin­gle mar­ket in goods and ser­vices and pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion in other fields in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, health and safety and se­cu­rity and polic­ing. The UK en­joys a spe­cial po­si­tion in not be­ing bound by some parts of the EU Treaties. But le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what the Treaty obli­ga­tions are, can be com­plex and we do not al­ways get the out­comes for which we have ar­gued, ei­ther from the Com­mis­sion which ad­min­is­ters the work­ing of the EU or the Court of Jus­tice which in­ter­prets EU Law. In ad­di­tion, while we en­joy a veto over key ar­eas of the Treaties, other parts are, by our con­sent, sub­ject to qual­i­fied ma­jor­ity vot­ing, which means they can be agreed to de­spite our dis­sent. So some of the is­sues with which I dealt could be frus­trat­ing and there are per­fectly valid crit­i­cisms that can be made of the EU’s op­er­a­tion and the way it has de­vel­oped.

But none of th­ese crit­i­cisms per­suade me that we would be bet­ter off leav­ing. By virtue of join­ing up in 1973 we opened a pe­riod of pro­gres­sive na­tional eco­nomic re­vival af­ter be­ing seen as the “sick man of Europe”, that has con­tin­ued to this day. The pe­riod has wit­nessed a mas­sive ex­pan­sion in our trade in goods and ser­vices with the EU which now stands at around 45% of all our ex­ports. Our ser­vice sec­tor which makes up about 75% of all our global ex­ports and is of ex­cep­tional im­por­tance to us has ben­e­fit­ted par­tic­u­larly, be­cause many coun­tries are in­tensely pro­tec­tion­ist in ex­clud­ing for­eign ser­vice providers at the be­hest of their own in­ter­est groups.

We have also en­joyed a growth in pros­per­ity based on the ar­rival of in­ward in­vest­ment which has seen the UK as a per­fect base for en­ter­ing the EU mar­ket.. The au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try has re­vived on the back of it, as has the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor of the City. Lo­cally the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sec­tor ben­e­fits greatly from be­ing a base to serve the EU as well as our do­mes­tic mar­ket, as ev­i­denced by the pres­ence here of so many multi­na­tion­als.

The EU’s ne­go­ti­at­ing power as a mar­ket of 450 mil­lion peo­ple has also helped un­lock mar­kets fur­ther afield where tar­iffs and pro­tec­tion­ism have been an ob­sta­cle. This is very much work in progress but the more than 50 agree­ments achieved to date are of great value to UK busi­ness seek­ing to trade in coun­tries such as Mex­ico..

I am also quite sat­is­fied from my ex­pe­ri­ence as At­tor­ney Gen­eral and my work as Chair­man of the In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee that the EU is of value to us in de­vel­op­ing co-op­er­a­tion on se­cu­rity and jus­tice. The shar­ing of high level in­tel­li­gence may be able to be done at a bi­lat­eral level, but the de­vel­op­ment of for­mal struc­tures of po­lice co-op­er­a­tion, eas­ier ex­tra­di­tion of sus­pects, shar­ing data­bases and im­prov­ing the se­cu­rity de­fi­cien­cies of coun­tries whose part­ner­ship we seek and need in fight­ing ter­ror­ism and se­ri­ous crime, is greatly helped our par­tic­i­pa­tion in the EU.

I also have heard noth­ing to make me be­lieve that we would be bet­ter off out of the EU. Brex­iters ar­gue that leav­ing would still en­able us to ne­go­ti­ate to be in a sin­gle mar­ket but some­how avoid the reg­u­la­tion which we find irk­some. This seems to me highly doubt­ful. If we want to fol­low the ex­am­ple of Nor­way, out­side of the EU but in­side the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area, we will have to ac­cept most of the reg­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing free­dom of move­ment, with no abil­ity to in­flu­ence their cre­ation. If we want free­dom from the reg­u­la­tions we will have to ac­cept a re­la­tion­ship where tar­iffs are paid on our im­ports from and ex­ports to the EU. That will raise prices for us here, di­min­ish our own abil­ity to ex­port to the EU and re­move our sta­tus as a favoured place for in­vest­ment from the rest of the world.

We will also have to ne­go­ti­ate fresh treaties to re­place the agree­ments with other coun­tries, with no cer­tainty of get­ting as good a deal.

I worry too, that much of the cur­rent de­bate is be­ing con­ducted on a false view of na­tional self in­ter­est. The lessons of our his­tory are that the well­be­ing of our neigh­bours on the Con­ti­nent of Europe is crit­i­cal to our own. The arc of con­flict and vi­o­lence run­ning from Rus­sia and the Ukraine down to the Mid­dle East, threat­ens us all. It is very much to our ad­van­tage to sup­port our neigh­bours just as it is for them to help us. Leav­ing the EU will cre­ate chal­lenge and cri­sis for them and make it harder for them to work with us, par­tic­u­larly as they will be up­set by our re­jec­tion, af­ter mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant con­ces­sions to recog­nise our ar­eas of con­cern in the re­cent agree­ment reached by the PM in Brus­sels . That in it­self makes the sug­ges­tion that they will then give us highly pref­er­en­tial exit terms fan­ci­ful.

If we vote to re­main, the one thing which is not af­fected is our sovereignty. It is our ab­so­lute right to with­draw com­pletely from the EU at any time we would wish by giv­ing no­tice un­der Ar­ti­cle 50. It is in this sense no dif­fer­ent from the more than 13200 treaties the UK has signed and rat­i­fied since 1834, many of which also con­tain bind­ing mech­a­nisms for re­solv­ing dis­agree­ments of in­ter­pre­ta­tion. All of them were en­tered into be­cause, whilst a sov­er­eign na­tion, we con­sid­ered it to be in our na­tional in­ter­est to do so and bind oth­ers in the process to the same rules. This will­ing­ness to en­gage in­ter­na­tion­ally is at the heart of our suc­cess as a na­tion. We should strive to build on it and not de­stroy the good we have achieved.

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