A common perception holds sway over the public: being an EU member yields great clout for Britain. However, it is a false myth peddled by the pro-EU camp to paint Eurosceptics as irrational and isolationist. Contrary to Nick Clegg’s claim we must stay in the EU “for the sake of our clout in the world”, non-EU countries like Switzerland outperform Brussels when it comes to making trade deals. A new report by the think-tank Civitas confirms it: despite our membership status, the EU hinders us negotiating free trade around the globe.
Switzerland has free trade agreements with diverse partners like China, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada and Singapore. The EU, on the other hand, does not. The Civitas report states: “It seems that Switzerland, all on its own without any ‘clout’, has free trade agreements with some of the most important players in international trade.”
Why are the Swiss better than Brussels at signing trade deals? This strange discrepancy comes down to the EU’s protectionist attitude. For example, Brussels continually sabotaged free trade negotiations with the US because the French insisted on ringfencing their cultural capital (films and television), grinding talks down to snail’s pace. In addition, Brussels insists on banning US cheese makers from using names like Feta and gorgonzola, because Camembert not made in France must be a cheap imitation unworthy of the name according to EU thinking.
Potential trade deals are constantly undermined by conflicting interests with other EU member states. If we are to act as a powerful force in international trade then it is essential we liberate ourselves from the bureaucracy of the EU and regain national sovereignty. Daniel Hannan has made this point in the past – so long as we are a member of the 28-member bloc we have to sit back while non-EU countries such as Iceland sign free trade agreements with China.
The British public is waking up to this myth. People were unconvinced by Clegg’s claim that Britain is “richer and stronger” by remaining in the EU. The success story of Switzerland shows this is a very misinformed argument. We don’t have to simply admire Switzerland from afar; we can strengthen our freedom by leaving the EU and casting off the Single Market rules that weaken us.