The Remain or Brexit debate seems to give me more and more reasons to confirm my inclination to leave the European Union. Three core issues dominate.
Global Britain: We are the world’s fifth largest economy, with a seat on the UN Security Council, a critical member of Nato, we also have influence across the Commonwealth across the Atlantic. Compared with the rest of the world the EU is declining. The rest of the world is growing. I want Britain unhindered by the suffocating bureaucracy which has become the hallmark of the European project. I believe in Britain. I believe in global Britain.
Democracy: Governments should be accountable to the people. Yet the directly elected MEPs form a parliament which cannot initiate or propose legislation and are unable to repeal laws with power firmly in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. I was astonished to learn that there are 10,000 of them who earn more than our Prime Minister. Largesse from the EU extends to many special interest groups who are in turn funded by the EU. The EU effectively pays organisations to lobby them. The bureaucratic system is anti-democratic. Britain outside the EU immediately removes a cause of frustration and instability returning to a democratic link to constituents.
Prosperity for all: A system which adds ten to 20 per cent to the cost of food through its tariffs, quotas and complexity hits us all, but especially the poorest for whom food bills make up a larger percentage of their income. The bloated Common Agricultural Policy and the disastrous fisheries policy make us all poorer. And the over-regulation for which the EU is a byword is the enemy of growth.
So how does Edinburgh fare in the growth, democracy and prosperity-for-all stakes? First, it stands well to continue as a global city. It is a recognised brand throughout the world. Billion-dollar companies like Skyscanner, FanDuel and Wolfson, hi-tech international companies which were start-ups just years ago are not EU dependent. They stand to benefit from global markets and being freed up from EU legislation.
What of democracy? Edinburgh benefits from direct democracy at three levels – council, Holyrood and Westminster. There is no need for an anti-democratic fourth layer of government.
The three pillars of Edinburgh’s economy are finance, tourism and the universities. The example of Switzerland suggests the first of these should not suffer. Tourism is always volatile and there are growing markets to be developed in Asia and the Americas. Certainly there are many university research projects funded through European collaboration. But the great expansion of students has been from China and India – with Heriot-Watt also developing a campus in Dubai.
Our universities operate on a truly world stage. For example, the largest – and fastest growing – proportion of fees at Edinburgh University come from non-EU students. The opportunities are vast in all these areas.
Leaving the EU is not without its risks. But remaining has its risks as well. “Same old, same old” is not a recipe for meeting the challenges of a changing world. We must adapt and change. Global Britain is a safer option.
- Cameron Rose is councillor for Southside/Newington Ward and Conservative group leader at Edinburgh City Council.