Brexit cam­paign is built on fan­tasy, claims Ma­jor

The Sunday Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Men­dick CHIEF REPORTER

SIR John Ma­jor to­day launches a with­er­ing at­tack on the Leave cam­paign, ac­cus­ing it of in­dulging in a “fan­tasy” that is putting Bri­tain’s in­ter­ests at grave risk. Writ­ing in The Sun­day Tele

graph, Sir John in­sists Bri­tain “en­joyed the best per­form­ing econ­omy in Europe” be­cause of its EU mem­ber­ship and that “it is verg­ing on the reck­less” to leave.

In his first in­ter­ven­tion in the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign, Sir John, who re­mains an in­flu­en­tial and highly re­garded el­der states­man, warns of eco­nomic disas­ter ahead and the break up of the UK if Bri­tain votes to leave the EU.

He says that out­come would prob­a­bly trig­ger a se­cond ref­er­en­dum on Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence. “The UK out of the EU and Scot­land out of the UK would be a truly aw­ful out­come,” he writes. The for­mer prime min­is­ter says the claim that Bri­tain can vote to quit the EU and then rene­go­ti­ate trade deals to the UK’s ad­van­tage “is self de­cep­tion to the point of delu­sion”. He adds: “Their ar­gu­ment is that the EU needs the UK mar­ket more than we need theirs, on the ba­sis that – over­all – the EU ex­ports more to the UK than we ex­port to them. This is at best disin­gen­u­ous. More bluntly, it is fan­tasy.”

Sir John says Bri­tain al­ready has pro­tec­tion “from many aspects of the EU that we dis­like”, such as ex­clu­sion from the Schen­gen zone and the sin­gle cur­rency and that it would “surely be per­verse to turn our back on th­ese ad­van­tages and re­place them with se­ri­ous risks that alarm our in­ter­na­tional friends”.

Bri­tain’s de­par­ture would, he adds, “not only weaken the UK but Europe too” and that “only our en­e­mies could gain”.

This June, the UK will vote upon whether to leave or re­main in the Euro­pean Union. This vote will be mo­men­tous. It will de­cide Bri­tain’s place in the world for gen­er­a­tions to come. There are many pos­i­tive rea­sons for mem­ber­ship.

When we joined the EU, we were the “sick man” of Europe. To­day, as a re­sult of our do­mes­tic re­forms and mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Sin­gle Mar­ket, we have the best per­form­ing econ­omy in Europe.

Within the next 20 years – on present poli­cies, and with con­tin­u­ing full ac­cess to the Sin­gle Mar­ket – the UK is likely to be the big­gest econ­omy in Europe.

And surely – in a global mar­ket draw­ing ever closer to­gether – it is verg­ing on the reck­less for us to seek di­vorce from the world’s pre-em­i­nent trad­ing bloc?

On is­sues such as the en­vi­ron­ment, cli­mate change, in­ter­net costs and con­sumer pro­tec­tion, the UK can best progress – or some­times only progress – in unity with our fel­low Euro­peans.

In an un­cer­tain world, the UK, as part of the EU, is bet­ter able to face up to the ag­gres­sive poli­cies of hos­tile na­tions. We are safer, be­cause the EU has brought to­gether for­mer en­e­mies to face com­mon per­ils. In the last thou­sand years of his­tory, no pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion has been so for­tu­nate.

It would be sheer folly to put this all at risk

Be­yond the pos­i­tive ad­van­tages of mem­ber­ship, we have pro­tec­tion from many aspects of the EU that we dis­like: we are not in the eu­ro­zone – be­cause I kept us out of it over 20 years ago; we are not part of Schen­gen (and thus have con­trol of our bor­ders); and we have opted out of “ever closer union”. We can veto any treaty that en­hances EU pow­ers.

We are the only na­tion within the EU which has man­aged to se­cure th­ese con­ces­sions. It would surely be per­verse to turn our back on th­ese ad­van­tages, and re­place them with se­ri­ous risks that alarm our in­ter­na­tional friends and re­pel the in­ward in­vest­ments that boost our jobs and liv­ing stan­dards.

Sup­pose we left? What are the risks? They are many and real – and sim­ply can­not be brushed aside with flip­pant slo­gans such as “Pro­ject Fear”.

Con­sider this: as a Mem­ber State, the UK can (and does) in­flu­ence Euro­pean poli­cies – of­ten to our ad­van­tage, and some­times sim­ply to min­imise dam­age to our own do­mes­tic in­ter­ests. Out­side, we would not be able to in­flu­ence them at all. And yet, if – as a non-Mem­ber – we wish to re­tain ac­cess to the Sin­gle Mar­ket, we will be com­pelled to fol­low EU rules, over which we would have no in­flu­ence at all. This is not only de­mean­ing, it is a recipe for eco­nomic self-harm.

The “leave” cam­paign blandly as­sumes that once they have un­der­mined – if not wrecked – the power of the EU by leav­ing it, they can sim­ply rene­go­ti­ate all the ad­van­tages of mem­ber­ship with pli­ant Euro­peans ea­ger for our trade.

This is self-de­cep­tion to the point of delu­sion. Their ar­gu­ment is that the EU needs the UK mar­ket more than we need theirs, on the ba­sis that – over­all – the EU ex­ports more to the UK than we ex­port to them. This is, at best, disin­gen­u­ous.

More bluntly, it is fan­tasy

UK ex­ports to Europe rep­re­sent nearly 45per cent of our to­tal ex­ports. On av­er­age – across the EU – the other 27 mem­ber states send only 7per cent of their to­tal ex­ports to us.

In the game of who needs who the most, the an­swer is clear. Our Euro­pean part­ners will not be the de­man­deur in any ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Sin­gle Mar­ket – we will be.

More­over, if we left, it is blithe op­ti­mism on a Pan­glos­sian scale for the “leave” cam­paign to as­sume that our part­ners – hav­ing been re­buffed and de­serted in an EU di­min­ished by our de­par­ture – will be well dis­posed and ea­ger to ac­cede to our de­mands.

I fear the re­verse will be true. Re­sent­ment will be deep. The bro­ken re­la­tion­ship is more likely to be poi­sonous than har­mo­nious. The UK will have cho­sen to leave and, by so do­ing, will have gravely weak­ened the whole of the EU. Our part­ners will not wish to re­ward us for that – in­deed, they may well be more in­clined to re­sist our de­mands to dis­cour­age other na­tions from leav­ing it.

In time, the EU will no doubt do a trade deal with us – but it will cer­tainly not be a sweet­heart deal: and ne­go­ti­at­ing it is likely to be harder and harsher than the op­ti­mists be­lieve. And if we wish such a deal to in­clude ser­vices (such as bank­ing and in­sur­ance), or to pre­vent hid­den non­tar­iff bar­ri­ers – which we do, since both are cru­cial to our well-be­ing – it may be a long time com­ing.

Of course – and “leave” cam­paign­ers please note – the price of any deal with sig­nif­i­cant ac­cess to the Sin­gle Mar­ket is that we will be forced to ac­cept free move­ment of peo­ple, and pay into the EU bud­get. With­out that, as Ger­many’s fi­nance min­is­ter has made clear, there will be no deal. Th­ese are re­al­i­ties that the “leave” cam­paign must face up to and ad­dress, so that the Bri­tish peo­ple are able to reach their de­ci­sion based on facts. In­stead, they ig­nore – even ob­scure – the facts, to hide the weak­ness of their case.

“Give us our coun­try back” is an emo­tional ap­peal that warms the heart of all those who love our coun­try, as I do. But it is a mean­ing­less sound bite. An il­lu­sion. A pre­lude to dis­ap­point­ment. And what coun­try, ex­actly, will we “get back”? Will Scot­land re­main part of the UK? As a Union­ist, I hope so – but no one should

‘Our na­tion can de­cide to be true to our his­tory – and re­main look­ing out­ward on the world stage – or shrink to lower promi­nence’

ig­nore the threat that if the UK-wide vote is to leave, Scot­land may de­mand an­other ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence. The UK out of the EU and Scot­land out of the UK would be a truly aw­ful out­come.

Let ev­ery­one be clear, no one can be cer­tain of the scale of the fall­out from leav­ing the EU. But there are many le­git­i­mate risks, and not even the most op­ti­mistic “leave” ad­vo­cate can wave them away. We have been warned against exit – by Amer­ica, China, Ja­pan: are all th­ese large in­vestors in the UK to be ig­nored? Should we also ig­nore the G20? The Gov­er­nor of the Bank of Eng­land? Our mil­i­tary lead­ers? Our lead­ing sci­en­tists and academics?

A ma­jor­ity of large and small busi­nesses? Are they re­ally all guilty of “in­ter­fer­ing”, “scare­mon­ger­ing”, or be­ing part of one enor­mous plot be­ing or­ches­trated by No10? Such a no­tion is ab­surd.

Would we re­main such a pre­em­i­nent ally of the United States if we no longer had in­flu­ence in the EU? Close, yes – be­cause of trade; im­por­tant, yes – be­cause of his­tory; but out­side the EU, part of our in­flu­ence would wane.

In our ab­sence, the US would need a pow­er­ful friend within the EU – and it could no longer be us.

Our de­par­ture would not only weaken the UK, but Europe, too. If the UK left, the EU would lose: The fastest-grow­ing econ­omy in it; One of only two nu­clear pow­ers; The coun­try with the long­est and deep­est for­eign-pol­icy reach.

As a re­sult of a UK exit, the political in­flu­ence of the EU would be di­min­ished – es­pe­cially when con­sid­ered against the power of the US or China.

With­out the UK, Europe – the cra­dle of mod­ern civil­i­sa­tion – would fall to a lower sig­nif­i­cance. I can­not be­lieve that any sen­si­ble Bri­ton wishes to di­vide Europe, and thus di­vide the West: only our en­e­mies could gain from that, as John McCain, the US sen­a­tor, has made clear in re­cent days. No doubt the “leave” cam­paign will ac­cuse him of “scare­mon­ger­ing” too.

The Ref­er­en­dum de­ci­sion on June 23 is not a pre­lude to fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tion. It will be fi­nal. Our na­tion can ei­ther de­cide to be true to our his­tory – and re­main out­ward-look­ing in­ter­na­tion­al­ists on the world stage – or shrink to lower promi­nence.

It will be a fate­ful choice: Great Bri­tain or Lit­tle Bri­tain

As our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren look back at this piv­otal mo­ment in our his­tory, I hope they can be proud that, in a world of un­cer­tain­ties – of Daesh [Isil], of Syria, of Putin’s Rus­sia – our coun­try did not turn its back on Europe and crip­ple its au­thor­ity, but chose to re­main in it, re­form it, and play our part in max­imis­ing Bri­tish in­flu­ence and Euro­pean power for the com­mon good.

A united Europe can face down un­cer­tain­ties such as Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia

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