Alan Sked: EU is an economic disaster zone

IN the latest in our series featuring key voices on the debate on Scotland's future, Alan Sked finds little to recommend backing Remain campaign

Vladimir Putin had already violated every major security treaty from the 1975 Helsinki Final Act to the 1999 Charter of Paris. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Vladimir Putin had already violated every major security treaty from the 1975 Helsinki Final Act to the 1999 Charter of Paris. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Professor Mona Siddiqui is a respected expert on Christianity and Islam but seemed rather out of her depth discussing Scotland and the European Union.

Some of her latest thinking seems to be an uncontroversial appeal to Europeans to get on with one another and live in peace.

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This, I suppose, is what one should expect from a professor of religion and no one in the Leave Campaign would disagree with such sentiments. However, politically they are redolent of flower power, hippydom and Kumbaya.

In the dark world of contemporary European politics they are dangerously simplistic. As the president of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in a wake-up speech last December:

“Either we do things better or, if we don’t, the EU is going to lose its ability as an entity to act in the world.”

Pointing out that Vladimir Putin had already violated every major security treaty from the 1975 Helsinki Final Act to the 1999 Charter of Paris, he continued: “We have to realise that the post-cold war world is over. We are in something else now. Peace, love, Woodstock, Kumbaya, let’s dramatically slash defence spending and enjoy the peace dividend – that’s all over.”

In a world where Putin has already seized the Crimea, where the breakdown of the Schengen Agreement under the pressure of unprecedented international migration has brought grave risks from terrorism, where the Eurozone is on the brink of yet another existential crisis over the bankruptcy of Greece or Italy, the EU is every day looking more and more like a failed state.

Professor Siddiqui’s workers’ rights are a sick joke to the tens of millions unemployed in the EU. In Spain, Greece and Italy, youth unemployment is 40 per cent. In France and Southern Europe, mainstream unemployment is between 10 and 25 per cent. No wonder 300,000 Europeans are coming to the UK every year to work!

The EU is an economic disaster zone, brought on by its own ambition to create a single currency for a would-be federal super-state, despite the best advice of Nobel Prize-winners galore who pointed out that without fiscal, political and banking union, the single currency would never work.

It has now reduced most of Europe to permanent recession or stagnation.

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The EU’s growth rate has dropped one percentage point every decade since the 1980s. Its share of world GDP is in free fall.

If Britain had been stupid enough to adopt the euro as its currency it would today be as bankrupt as Greece. Yet Professor Siddiqui daydreams politically as if this continental catastrophe is not taking place across the Channel.

The prospect is that if we remain within the EU we will be swallowed up in the desperate plan even now being drawn up by Eurozone ministers to create a fiscal, political and banking union however late in the day against the wishes of European populations now in evident revolt against Brussels. All this passes Professor Siddiqui by.

She also blithely ignores the dire security situation of the EU, which, contrary to her assertions represents pacifism not peace.

Almost no country in the EU spends anything on defence despite the neighbouring menace of Mr Putin.

According to the Handelsblatt, Germany’s leading financial newspaper, Germany couldn’t last six months if Russia cut off her energy supplies. Not that Germany, which now dominates the EU, cares.

Her relatively small armed forces have little hardware that works, according to papers leaked to the Bundestag.

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According to the Pew Research Centre, the majority of her population would refuse to fight for Poland, the Baltic States or Ukraine in any case. And since the migrant crisis erupted Mrs Merkel – whom two-thirds of Germans rightly want to ditch – is only interested in cosying up to the autocratic ruler of neo-fascist Turkey, who, since he ordered the shooting down of a Russian warplane, now has Putin as a mortal enemy. Not quite the person to be dependent on should a crisis erupt with Russia. The result is that Britain and Europe are, as usual, reliant on the Americans and NATO for our security. The EU is absolutely irrelevant in this respect. Its weakness is an invitation to Putin to strike while its reliance on Turkey offers Putin yet another excuse to make trouble.

So economically and strategically, the EU is in such a mess that it could experience an existential crisis on several fronts any day.

Politically, too, it is losing the support of people everywhere. According to the latest polls, a majority of French and Italians want referendums to quit. 49 per cent of Italians want to leave right now.

The figures in France and Germany are 43 per cent and 34 per cent respectively.

In the last six months both Danes and Dutch have voted against closer relations with the EU in referendums.

And remember, 49 per cent of the French voted No to the Maastricht Treaty, 55 per cent of the French and Dutch voted No to the European Constitutional Treaty and the Irish and Danes had to be forced to vote twice to approve the Maastricht, Nice and Lisbon Treaties.

So this populist revolt has been brewing for decades.

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Today at least half the population of the EU are praying for Britain to give them the lead so that they can get out of the EU themselves. Anti-EU political parties are now the biggest in France and the Netherlands, not to mention in parts of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

Why then should Scotland vote to remain? Membership of the EU since 1973 did not save Scottish coalmines, shipyards, steelyards or our fishing fleet. It did not raise our living standards or lower our food prices.

If we get grants – and we do – we pay twice as much as we receive to the EU just for the privilege.

Outside the EU we would have an extra £1 billion a year to spend in Scotland on health, education and the poor.

We could import cheaper food and cheaper goods from outside the EU. We would regain control of Scottish territorial waters and of fishing quotas. We could abolish EU red tape. The truth is that we are perfectly capable of making our own laws in our own Parliament without foreign supervision. That is what we told Westminster. That should also be our response to Professor Siddiqui and the Remain Campaign.

Could not Scotland be independent in the EU, however, as the present SNP leadership maintains?

No. No country is truly independent in the EU. The whole point of the EU is to make independent countries provinces of aEuropean federal super-state.

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Texas is not independent in the USA. Ontario is not independent in Canada. Bavaria is not independent in Germany. Scotland has many more powers today in the UK.

Would an ‘independent’ Scotland have its own passport in the EU? No. It would have an EU passport. Would Scots law be supreme in Scotland? No. It would be subordinate to European law. Would Scottish laws be made in Scotland? Not really. The vast majority would originate in Brussels.

Would Scotland be able to protect Scottish interests in the European Parliament? No, we would have only six MEPs in a Parliament of 757 and no Scottish Commissioner in Brussels.

Why then Professor Siddiqui and her SNP supporters in particular persist in allying with David Cameron and George Osborne to back Remain is a true mystery.

Perhaps only a professor of religion can resolve it.

• Alan Sked is Emeritus Professor of International History and formerConvenor of European Studies, LSE


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Unfair free movement of labour rules

The EU’s open border policy overrules a compassionate immigration system that welcomes refugees, brings the skills that Scotland needs and protects local jobs.


Scottish taxpayers and businesses send £9 million a week to Brussels, after all rebates and Scottish subsidies are taken into account. We should keep this money for our NHS, schools, housing, apprenticeships and vital public services. Let’s invest in Scottish fishing, farming and industry.


Powers over fishing would automatically default back to Holyrood and would return jobs to our coastal regions.


We pay £4.6bn annually to the Common Agricultural Policy and only get £2.9bn back. This is not fair on our taxpayers or our farmers. Agriculture is another devolved matter that would give full control to Holyrood.

Workers rights – threatened by the EU

The EU has forced zero hours contracts and torn up trade union agreements in Ireland, Portugal and Greece as the price of the bailout.

Toxic TTIP

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The EU’s secret trade deal with US big business threatens backdoor privatisation of our NHS, public services and our railways.