On 23rd June, after much deliberation which only ended the night before, I voted to leave the European Union. That night and in the early hours of the following morning, as the votes were counted and the result became clear, the gravity of the decision which I, and the country, had made began to dawn on me. I feared that I had made a grave error, but in the nine months since then I have become increasingly certain that the decision I made was the correct one.
On its website, the EU says that “countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so less likely to avoid conflict”. The two core values, so it seems, are peace and trade. These are noble aims; if only they were of primary importance to the EU. Sadly, peace and trade are secondary to the success of the political project to create a federal “United States of Europe”.
Were the EU genuinely to promote free trade, there would be no question of tariff-free trade between the UK and the EU – something which would be mutually beneficial to all citizens. The benefits of free trade are well publicised; the reason there is doubt that this will continue is because of the intransigence of Brussels. Exporters across the remaining 27 countries will suffer from tariffs, while consumers will face higher prices from goods imported from the UK. EU leaders are prepared to inflict this upon the people whom they are supposed to be serving for the sake of preserving their project. We need to be governed by people with our best interests at heart, and that cannot happen inside the European Union.
On the issue of peace, while it would be hyperbolic to suggest that war between the UK and Spain is likely, the European Council’s draft negotiating guidelines have done little to ease tensions between the two countries. The clause, which has taken the UK government by surprise, states that “no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom”. This provocative declaration has made the issue of Gibraltarian sovereignty a topic for negotiation, and gives Spain the opportunity to demand sovereignty before allowing any deals between the UK and EU. Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has said that Britain will go “all the way” to defend Gibraltar, suggesting that military forces could be deployed if necessary. While it is highly unlikely that tensions will escalate this far, former Conservative leader Lord Howard observed that it is not unprecedented for a female Prime Minister to go to war against a Spanish speaking country to defend an overseas territory.
The European Council has not directly incited violence in these guidelines, but in ceding to the Spanish government and including this clause, tensions have been heightened which threatens the EU’s aim of peace in Europe. The motivation behind the clause seems to be to make Brexit as miserable as possible for the UK, and so to deter other countries from following suit. Once again the EU has put its own self-interest ahead of the greater good.
The EU is not disappointed that the UK will not be a member, rather it is disappointed that a member would dare to leave, questioning the strength of the union. The upcoming negotiations should not be between two opposing sides; rather they should be between sides with common goals. But because those in the Brussels bubble would rather see their pet project succeed than peace and free trade with the world’s fifth largest economy. We are far better off outside this highly protectionist and inward looking organisation.