One of the most bizarre features of the Better Stay in Europe (BSE) campaign is their wish to line up business and political endorsements for staying in from the very people who have been continuously wrong on the European issue for many years. As the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and the Euro has shown, the UK has been too engaged with the rest of the EU to its own great cost. It has not suffered from too little engagement.
John Major and the CBI were cheer leaders and prime movers in taking the UK into the European exchange rate mechanism in 1989. They told us that would give us a golden scenario of lower inflation and faster growth. Instead it delivered a devastating boom/bust cycle. Trying to keep the pound down in the early days of membership meant a rapid build up of loans and cash in the economy, boosting inflation. This was followed by the flight from sterling leading to cripplingly high interest rates and a nasty recession.
A few of us opposed it at the time, but were told we were wrong. I wrote a pamphlet explaining how we would either have a run away credit fuelled inflation or a nasty recession from the ERM – only to find we got both!
These same people then either recommended the UK join the Euro at its outset, or thought we should keep open the option of joining as they thought it could prove to be a good idea in due course. Fortunately the band of opponents to joining the Euro was larger than the group opposing the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, and we won. Just look at what happened to Ireland going into the Euro. The UK would probably have had a similar boom/bust experience, and may have brought the whole Euro down. I suspect they would have refused to support our commercial banks, with overextended credit thanks to the rules of the Euro and the low interest rates that would have fuelled too much credit growth in the early days. Ireland and Spain had severe boom/bust cycles thanks to the Euro. The Euro was just like the Exchange Rate Mechanism, with the added nightmare that you could not get out easily.
Now the same people, or people with similar views, tell us we must stay in the European Union as it has now evolved. They seek to play down the central importance of the Euro and the common borders to the whole project, deny the Five Presidents work on the need for political union, and try to keep the debate centred over technicalities about how we would carry on trading. They ignore the fact that 170 other countries round the world trade perfectly happily with the EU, and ignore the ability of the UK to regain her own seat on the World Trade Organisation and other bodies to have more influence in the world. The Leave campaign does not need to waste much time on scares about jobs and trade. The Germans have made clear they do not want to impose new tariffs and barriers on trade with us, as they sell us so much more than we sell them, so what is the problem?
Our task is to positive about taking back control. We will regain our freedoms and be better off. As always there is no positive case for membership from the Stay in people. They either spread scares, or spend their time refusing to defend the Euro, the common borders, the welfare controls and the endless laws and regulations that make up the modern EU.