The following article was originally published in the Denbighshire Free Press on 15 June 2016.
It has been a long campaign, but now the end is in sight. On 23 June – unless you have already voted by post – you will have your say on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union.
The issue of membership of the EU is complex. I’m the first to acknowledge that neither the Leave nor the Remain campaign has a monopoly on wisdom. There are entirely respectable arguments to be made on both sides of the debate. It is a question of balancing those arguments. I believe, however, that the UK will be better off outside the European Union, and I have therefore already cast my vote for Leave.
When deciding how you should vote, you may wish to consider the following points, which I believe are compelling reasons to support Leave.
Membership of the EU is expensive. It costs us £19.1 billion a year to belong to it. We get some of that money back through our rebate, and some is returned through EU funding (but only if we spend it the way Brussels tells us to; we can’t spend it the way we want). However, it still costs around £10 billion net; the rest of the £19.1 billion is kept by Brussels and spent on projects in other parts of the EU. We would, I suggest, be far better off if we kept the £19.1 billion and spent it the way we want, on own priorities. It is repeatedly that said by those who want Britain to stay in the EU that “Wales does well out of EU money”. However, as the figures above clearly show, it is not “EU money” at all. It is our own money, top-sliced in Brussels before some of it is returned to us. We would have much more to spend on Welsh priorities, such as the NHS and agriculture, if we were outside the EU.
The European Union is failing economically. The Euro is a spectacularly unstable currency. Greece is in truth insolvent and its debts threaten further instability throughout the Union, particularly Italy, Spain and Portugal. Unemployment is stubbornly high. Youth unemployment is a particular problem: over 48 per cent in Greece and Spain, and 38 per cent in Italy. Growth throughout the EU is sluggish, and considerably lower than in other developed economies. The United States, China, India and the South-East Asian nations are all growing more quickly. We need to strike new trade deals with all these dynamic economies, but cannot do so because we have to negotiate through the EU, a process that moves frustratingly slowly. Outside the EU, with our own seat in the World Trade Organisation, we will be able to conclude new free trade agreements, helping our own economy to grow more quickly. We will also continue to trade with EU countries, as members of the European free trade area that extends from Iceland to Turkey.
We can’t control immigration so long as we are within the EU. Virtually any EU citizen ostensibly looking for work can currently settle in the UK, whether or not that individual has the skills that we need. In 2015, net migration to the UK was 333,000. Immigration at that rate is simply unsustainable. It pushes up unemployment in our own population, puts downward pressure on wages, makes housing less available- and consequently less affordable – and subjects our public services, such as health and education, to considerable stress. We certainly need some immigration, but we also need to control who comes in. An Australian-style points system for immigration will enable us to ensure that we admit only the people we need to help develop our economy and run our public services. However, we can only implement such migration controls if we leave the EU.
The European Union is addicted to regulation, much of it unnecessary. Only about 13 per cent of UK businesses export within the EU, but all of them are subject to burdensome EU regulations, making them less profitable. Outside the EU, we with be able to regulate far more sensibly and proportionately, relieving domestic businesses of a lot of unnecessary burdens, enabling them to grow more quickly and create more jobs.
Most importantly, the European Union is not a democracy. At present, about 60 per cent of legislation in the United Kingdom emanates from the EU. All EU legislation is initiated by the European Commission, a body of men and women who are appointed, not elected, and are therefore not accountable to voters. In this country, if you don’t like the way the Government performs, you can vote it out at the next general election. You can’t vote out a Commissioner, no matter how much you disapprove of his or her record. The EU is a profoundly undemocratic bureaucracy. I, for one, don’t want to live under such an undemocratic system. Previous generations spilled their blood in the interests of parliamentary democracy in this country; we should not be so careless with our heritage as to give it away.
All the above, I suggest, are good reasons to vote Leave on 23 June. If we do so, we will be more prosperous, will be able to control our own borders and will recover our lost democracy. As a country, we will have a considerably brighter future: the sort of future we should want to leave to our children and grandchildren.
At the May 2015 General Election, David was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Clwyd West, with an increased majority of 6,730.