A future inside Europe but outside the EU?

François Hollande has refused to back plans proposed by David Cameron for a major EU treaty change during a meeting of the European Council in Brussels. Heads of states where intended to discuss improvements to the Eurozone and further Russian sanctions. However, Hollande hit back at Cameron’s plans claiming that Cameron was ‘obsessed with his own problems’ with reference to the electoral threat posed by UKIP. Hollande also threatened to veto plans that would allow for member states to opt out of the legally binding clause to an ‘ever closer Union’ which are enshrined in the Treaty of Rome, 1950. Hollande has branded Cameron’s proposal as taking EU agreements ‘a la carte’.  With the French President not set to have an election in till 2017, and, even if Cameron is elected in 2015 and manages to pass an EU referendum, it might still be impossible to get the required treaty change or reform needed to persuade the British electorate to remain within the EU.

Whilst entertaining the very real possibility that Britain votes to withdraw membership of the EU, there are a number of potential advantages to consider. Britain would almost certainly choose to apply to the free trade zone; the European Economic Area (EEA) and Britain, much like Norway and Iceland would be quickly admitted. Without the strain of the EU’s external trade protectionism Britain would be able to improve our existing links and trade relationship with the US and the Commonwealth, as well as be able to make bilateral trade agreements with emerging markets such as Brazil, China and Indonesia. Furthermore the financial capital of the world, the City of London, would no longer be under threat from losing its status to New York in the absence of obsessive EU regulation.

Moreover, British farmers would no longer be hampered by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which accounts for over 40% of the EU budget. Currently the CAP benefits French and Polish farmers at the catastrophic expense of the British agricultural industry. As for crops, without EU regulations on GM research and development Britain could expand its experiments into the future of farming. And as for fish, British fishermen would no longer be constrained by the Common Fisher’s Policy which wastes thousands of fish every year which have to be put back, often dead, into the sea due to limits on yields per voyage.

With Britain not paying £8.7 billion every year to the EU budget there would be an opportunity for spending this money on further infrastructure programs, increasing funding for the NHS or returning the money back to the British people through tax cuts.

Finally, on the domestic front, Britain would not face ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) threats and fines for not allowing prisoner’s the right to vote and the rapid deportation of dangerous individuals. The UK would regain control over its own borders and thus would be able to set its own immigration laws which are currently curtailed by the EU principle of freedom of movement. National sovereignty would be restored to Parliament rather than pooled to the European Commission and ultimate judicial power would be located in the highest court in the UK Supreme Court and not the ECHR.

With the EU bound by the Treaty of Rome and the further enforcement of treaties such as Maastricht (1991) and Lisbon (2007), member states are bound to the ideal of an ‘ever closer Union’, something of which Hollande as head of a member state has the right to veto in any proposed treaty change. The bottom line is, that major treaty change in the EU is unlikely as it would every head of state to agree. The EU is heading toward ‘ever closer Union’ which will eventually amount to a ‘United States of Europe’. So ultimately, wouldn’t Britain just be better off as European country outside of the Union?