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Friday, August 17, 2012

We CAN break free from Brussels' shackles: Quitting the EU would not only liberate Britain's economy but spark revolution that could save Europe

After 13 years as an MEP, Daniel Hannan's knowledge of the way Brussels works is second to none. Now he has written a forensic analysis of why it's rotten to the core. Yesterday, in our exclusive serialisation, he examined how the euro has brought ruin to Europe. Today he argues that Britain must break with Brussels if its economy is to prosper again...

Every nation joins the European Union for its own reasons. The French saw an opportunity to enlarge their gloire, the Italians were sick of a corrupt and discredited political class.

The burghers of the Low Countries had had enough of being dragged into wars between their larger neighbours, and the former Communist states saw membership as an escape from Soviet domination.

One thing in common is that they all joined out of a sense of pessimism: that they couldn't succeed alone.

Confident and prosperous nations, such as Norway and Switzerland, see no need to abandon their present liberties. Less happy nations seek accession out of, if not despair, a sense of national angst. Britain signed up in 1973 at what was our lowest moment as a modern nation. Ever since the end of World War II, we had been comprehensively outperformed by virtually every Western European economy.

Suffering from double-digit inflation, constant strikes, the three-day week, power cuts and prices-and-incomes policies, decline seemed irreversible.

It was during this black period that we became a member of the Common Market, with the electorate confirming the decision by a majority of two to one in a referendum two years later.

Our timing could hardly have been worse. Western Europe as a whole had grown spectacularly since 1945, bouncing back from the war years with the help of American aid. But shortly after we joined, world oil prices quadrupled after a crisis in the Middle East, and this growth shuddered to a halt.

Far from joining a growing and prosperous free-trade area, the United Kingdom found itself confined in a cramped and declining customs union. We had shackled ourselves to a corpse. And in doing so, we foolishly stood aside from our natural hinterland - the markets of the Commonwealth and the wider Anglosphere, which continued to grow impressively as Europe dwindled.

These historic ties had always set Britain apart from the rest of Europe. Britain might be just 22 miles from the Continent, but her airmail letters and international phone calls went overwhelmingly to North America, the Caribbean, the Indian sub-continent, Australia and New Zealand.

We conducted a far higher proportion of our trade with non-European states than did any other member. We still do.

This was why France's General de Gaulle vetoed our first two applications to the EEC. Perhaps he knew us better than our own leaders at the time did. Read More