Speech given at Oxford Union, by Marcus Gibson
Marcus Gibson, 19 May 2016
On Tuesday, April 12th, I was invited to speak in favour of Brexit at the Oxford Union. My speech is below. All comments and corrections welcome..
My experiences of the European Commission are based on journalist research starting in 1984 when I began writing on the ever-growing mountain of environmental regulations coming out of the Commission, followed by stints at the old European newspaper and then the FT.
I went into Europe with an open mind – but soon discovered that there was precious real benefit for Britain in the EU.
Let me start by saying I make a big distinction between the glories of Europe, its landscape, its people, and history, which are fascinating – and the awful reality of EU institutions, the Commission and the gutless Parliament.
I’ll make five key points that more than justify an exit from the EU – in reverse order.
In fifth place – the disastrously low performance of the Commission in the past 40 years.
Few other supranational organisation has ever performed so badly in modern times as the Commission. The butter mountains and wine lakes, the terrible, pro-French Commission under Jacques Delors, the resignation of all the commissioners back in 1999, the humiliating departure of Edith Cresson, of Franz Fischler. This occurred after massive fraud and corruption and mismanagement was exposed at senior levels.
Then there’s ridiculous status given to Luxembourg and Liechtenstein; France’s colonial populations who can vote in EU elections. Today unaccountable billions continue to be wasted on southern Europe.
Here’s one example: In the 1990s billions were given to Spain to build wastewater plants – they spent the lot on motorways. The Commission did nothing. Some of you may think EU regulations on the environment are one of the benefits.
Go to Brussels, look at the Zeene river – it is an open sewer – it’s the Ganges of Europe, a ghastly indictment, a symbol of the way the EU is incapable of solving the simplest of problems.
The ramshackle way the Euro was launched and financed. After the Euro was established no effort was made to halt the grotesque, and very obvious, overspending by Spain and Greece. The private palazzos, the yachts, the Porsches, the epic spending in five star hotels, the awesome weddings, the luxury resorts that have never paid tax.
Europe, controlled by France and Germany, is chronically weak politically. Its failure to intervene in Bosnia cost the lives of 220,000.
Today much of Europe, not just Britain, are in despair over Europe’s stagnation – and the failure of its weak, greedy political class to get to grips with problems. From one end to the other European institutions are in meltdown; the authority of the Commission is zero. Enforcement of most regulations across much of Europe, especially the newer member states, has largely been abandoned. Hungary and Latvia lead the way.
Reason No.4 –The UK cannot change the EU for the better
Some 85% of the budget is spent on farmers and the regional funds – all other initiatives get the crumbs. That means miserable funding for science, transport, social funding, innovation schemes and any boost to small companies.
The Franco-German control of the EU means we cannot amend the Common Agricultural Policy, cut the bureaucracy, correct the fiscal errors.
That’s why we must take back Britain’s decision making sovereignty.
The decision by Angela Merkel to open Germany’s borders in the summer of 2015 was fatal. Her decision caused fear and chaos across 40% of the land area of the EU, and some of its poorest nations.
Total recent migration to the UK could be somewhere between 10-12 million if family members are included. A quarter of a million have arrived from South America – via Spain and Portugal. We know 28 boroughs in London have majority foreign-born populations – the greatest exchange of population of any country in the northern hemisphere since WW2.
There is not a field of wild flowers in the east of England that hasn’t been assessed for new housing. Towns such Harrogate will soon be twice the size due to the building of an enormous new suburb on its northern edge.
We cannot stop the flow because of EU rules. The bottom line is this: on policy the UK is always the outsider, that’s why it is essential for us to take back our independence, our sovereignty over decision making.
Reason No.3 – The EU has rarely benefited the UK:
EU enthusiasts – nearly always from big companies and big institutions – say half our exports go to Europe. That’s true – but the greater truth is the UK trade deficit with the EU is enormous, and growing. Over the past 30 years the total has grown to £330bn.
In fact, our trade with parts of Europe is actually much smaller than you think. If you subtract tourism and property from our trade with southern Europe it’s rather modest.
A big chunk of our EU exports, such as sophisticated parts for Airbus aircraft, are in reality global exports going via the EU. And guess which country makes all the difficult bits of Airbus – it’s not France, it’s not Germany.
Back in the 1980s the French implacably refused to take part in any pan-European aircraft venture unless the final assembly factory was based in France. Then and now most of the technical and design brainpower comes from the UK.
Rarely recognised or discussed even by Vote Leave leaders – is the very worst aspect of the EU – CLOSED MARKETS. Vast protected industries closed off to outsiders – retained as local favourites. The French engineering industry is 95% in French hands. The supply chains of German car manufacturers, its beer makers, the Spanish ceramics industry – and almost any activity in Greece. Even the Germans get upset: how many trains does Siemens sell in the UK – answer: hundreds; how many to France – zero.
Finally, all of the world’s growth markets lie outside the EU: the Middle East, Indonesia, China, South America and the US. That’s where our future lies.
Reason No.2 – If we leave – No Harm will come to the UK
Ignore the Fear Forecasts of Cameron’s Cronies – they will never happen..
When, rather than if, we leave we will carry on trading with individual countries who want to trade with us in exactly the same way, collectively or bilaterally – and that is everybody with the probable exception of the permanent bugbear, France.
Germany will never stop exporting cars to the UK, which is their biggest European market; Italy will not stop selling fashion in London, the Swedes their engineering goods, Poland its food. The UK is far too valuable, far too long established to be isolated as a market. We pay more quickly than anyone else.
In 1806 – 210 years ago, some of you may remember Napoleon attempted to isolate Britain from European trade. The result: his system soon collapsed. Russia broke away and began trading openly with Britain. When Napoleon’s army got to Moscow, having lost 200,000 troops on the way, he sent a message of peace to the Russian Emperor, starting “Actually, I didn’t come to Moscow to fight you – I really wanted to fight the English.”
Remember the dire fears expressed over the UK’s future if we didn’t join the Euro. Threats that turned out to be hollow.
Big companies, big institutions, have been the big beneficiaries of EU membership. But the 5.4m private British businesses employing 15.6m – face an often ferocious task of exporting to Europe.
They much prefer to trade with natural allies in the US, Commonwealth and the Middle East. Take Emma Pullen, CEO of Kent-based British Hovercraft Company. A recent order from Brazil for five of her craft collapsed after it emerged that some £42,000 in EU duty had to be added to the £50,000 purchase price, much to her consternation.
Listen to Britain’s best industrial entrepreneur – who is determined to leave – the brilliant inventor and industrialist James Dyson, that most talented of industrial pioneers. He employs more than 7,000 people. Dyson was recently forced to lodge a legal challenge to new EU labelling regulations for vacuum cleaners. He’s furious that new labelling rules make Dyson cleaners look less energy efficient than European rivals.
Last, and most importantly, Reason (No.1) – This is your only chance to leave the EU.
It is the most important political decision you or your children will ever make. Why? Because this is the last referendum in which British-born sceptics and realists will have a majority vote to decide their own destiny.
With half a million foreign-born, pro-EU people forecast to arrive each year – with their families waiting to follow – no future generation will ever achieve a majority to leave if another referendum is held in 20 years time.
Who has benefited from the EU – It is not the UK. It’s not you and me. The principal beneficiaries are the armies of over-paid civil servants, academics, consultants, and worst of all, politicians. Does Cameron fancy himself as the next EU president. Is this why he is so suddenly pro-EU? How much more cash will the Kinnock family extract from the EU – it’s more than £4m already.
Last week I took a day off. I made a cup of tea and got engrossed in a TV documentary. A few minutes later I looked down and saw I’d left the teabag in the cup. It reminds me of the UK’s experience in Europe – it gets darker, grittier, more bitter, year after year.
One EU regulation that had a devastating impact on the elderly in the UK… One that insisted every care home bedroom had to have its own bathroom. As a result, hundreds of private care homes, many of which had been in business for generations, were forced to close. They were much loved by the residents, and run by people who really cared. They were affordable, too. It wrecked the lives of thousands of old people.
Since May 2010 no less than 3,500 regulations and directives affecting UK businesses have been handed down from Brussels – or 13m words.
Frankly, Europeans have little interest in Britain – a country with so many close links to countries around the world. British universities have dozens of institutes focused on European matters, on French culture, Italian archaeology, Spanish history, German music. How many Institutes of British culture do France and Germany have? None in France; one in Germany, a centre at Humboldt University in Berlin. British newspapers are packed full of European news; the UK rarely gets a mention in French and Spanish newspapers.
All of the fears about Brexit are a fallacy. Today, no one wants a trade war; no one wants a sanctions war, a tariff war, of any kind. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise.
Any countries that imposed tariffs on UK goods and services could be met with counter-sanctions – not something any European country is likely to risk.
If we have to handle the French we will. The rise of eastern Europe as a power block within the EU has come as a shock to Paris and Berlin. Once suppliant and weak their confidence in the EU was shattered by the migrant crisis. In future they will ignore Brussels and they will be telling Germany and France what the policy will be. Just read the newspapers in Warsaw, Budapest and Skopje – they are up in arms.
Observers say we have had five decades of peace – but that’s nothing to do with the EU. Our guardian is NATO. The UK is the second most important member after the US.
Next, very few foreign firms will switch their HQs to Europe. Why? I’ve yet to meet a Singaporean or Texan who likes German grammar. The restaurants in Frankfurt all have the same menu. London is the global capital of prestige, of innovation and interest, and of business convenience, too. Living in England is the experience of a lifetime.
Look closely at the frankly silly individuals who claim our world will end if we leave. The head of easyJet, on her recent £6m salary and bonus, who claims cross-border travel will be stymied. In fact open border travel was achieved in the teeth of indifference and obstruction from the Commission. For years it defended Lufthansa and Air France. She needs a lesson in history. Besides, does she actually think regional cities that now utterly dependent on regional airlines – Carcasonne, Seville, Bratislava – will block flights from the UK?Next among Cameron’s cronies is the former boss of M&S – the fastest declining retailer in Britain. It buys only 5% of its range from UK manufacturers. Then there’s the head of Vodafone, the most complained about telecoms firm in Europe. Last, and worst of all, Bank of England boss, the slippery Mark Carney, the man who doesn’t have the guts to raise interest rates, to stabilise the property market and save millions of people from lives on rent. Do you really have any faith in them, or their predictions?
Take the advice of those whose judgement is sound. The Out campaign is backed by 750 business leaders. They include former Chancellor Lord Lawson, Sir Rocco Forte, Tim Martin, founder of the Wetherspoon pub chain. People who have really achieved in life.
The outcome will be fascinating. Will England vote to leave while the Celtic colonies vote, as expected, for another generation on EU subsidies?
So, I ask you, on June 23rd, rise up and throw off the dead hand of Brussels, take back our sovereignty, take control over your own affairs. Let’s return to our historic status as an independent nation. Let’s forge a new role among the rest of the world, and the prospect of a fast expanding economy, among the great nations of the world – far beyond Europe. That is our proper destiny.
Let’s get the teabag out our cuppa. Thank you..