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What is at stake if we leave the EU is massive

April 5, 2016 10:24 AM

Conservative David Lidington MP has now been 'Europe' minister in the Foreign Office for nearly six years. Most of us might take the view that his experience makes him worth paying attention to when he expresses a view about the role of Britain in relation to the EU. In a number of newspaper articles he notes firstly that the mindset of the UK stems to some degree from the fact that we have not suffered the invasion and foreign rule that many EU countries endured in the 20th Century. [see more]

In Britain we throw words like oppression, persecution, terror etc around rather liberally but we have little perception of what they really mean. We have had perhaps more than our fair share of terrorist attacks in the last forty years but we do not dread, on a daily basis, a knock on the door from the 'security' apparatus of a Nazi, or Stalinest, or similar regime which can make us disappear for good in an instant. We are not going to suffer the equivalent of a 'Syria'. It is not so long ago that countries who are now are partners in the EU had nuclear missiles pointed at us. Despite failings - notably in the former Yugoslavia - the EU has provided peace in Europe unprecedented for centuries.

Mr Lidington dismisses the suggestion by Michael Gove & other 'Brexiters' that Cameron's re-negotiation has no legal force. On the contrary there is clear historical precedent from Denmark & Ireland that it will have immediate legal force. He accuses the 'out' brigade of holding with equal passion two completely contradictory positions. On the one hand they allege that we cannot achieve meaningful change within the EU because of obstruction from other countries but that outside those same countries would fall over themselves to accommodate the UK in a new deal that would give us all the existing benefits but none of the downsides. He points out that Norway & Switzerland have to accept EU rules & regulations, pay into the EU budget, have higher EU migration rates than we do and so forth.

He also argues that negotiating an exit, and the turmoil caused during that process is seriously underestimated. Under the treaties we have two years to exit after the vote unless all other countries agree to an extension (pretty unlikely). It took little Greenland three years to exit. Historically bilateral trade deals with the EU take six years or more to negotiate. Meanwhile we would be outside, subject tariffs and customs checks and paperwork and restrictions on going to live & work in the EU and a big bagful of other stuff that we take for granted.

He concludes that what is at risk is massive.