Every day, another one tells us—defying the facts—that Brexit has failed. They think if they repeat it often enough people will believe it. They want us to go cap in hand to “our friends” in Brussels, who might, if we ask nicely, forgive us for our democratic vote in 2016. They might let us rejoin (on their terms) or simply allow us to obey all their changing and unpredictable rules—what Keir Starmer now calls ‘dynamic realignment’. They must be laughing!
Rejoiners have complained for years that Leave voters didn’t understand what they were voting for. Well, now is their chance to change that: let them tell the country just what they are proposing. We ask them these ten questions so that we can all make up our minds based on fact.
How much would Britain pay into the EU budget if it rejoined?
During our last year of membership in 2020, we paid £17.4 billion to the EU, and at that time we had a rebate of £4.2 billion, which would not continue if we rejoined. Since then, the EU budget has ballooned. Some of the budget would be spent in the UK, but they would decide, not us. Our payment into that budget could hardly be less that France’s, which is now 24 billion euros. So roughly twice as much as before 2016: over £1,000—and rising—from every British family every year forever.
What would annual net migration be after Free Movement is restored?
When the EU expanded into Eastern Europe, the government estimated a maximum of 13,000 people a year might come to Britain. By 2016, EU immigration was over 300,000 per year, and since Brexit it has fallen substantially. If Free Movement is restored, it would apply in due course to new members, including Albania and Serbia. How many people in total would Rejoiners expect to come? How would this flood of cheap labour affect wages, housing, public services, and our low productivity problem—which means that while our population shoots up, we get no richer?
What proportion of the global economy and of British trade will the EU represent in twenty years’ time?
When we joined the EEC in 1973, it was 20 percent of the global economy. It was only 8 percent when we left, and is constantly falling. We had a permanent trade deficit with the EU, as we were effectively a captive market: this deficit had reached an unsustainable £100 billion a year when we left, though since Brexit it has been improving. When we were members, our exports to the stagnant EU barely increased for 20 years despite being in the Single Market. But exports outside the EU grew four times faster. The OECD forecasts that 94% of world economic growth to 2040 will be outside the EU.
What would be the effect on future trade of abandoning negotiations for closer relations with the Pacific region?
The Indo-Pacific region is booming, and is expected to account for more than half of the world’s total growth to 2050. By 2030, around half of the world’s 2.3 billion middle class consumers will be there. Its share of our exports is growing too, and reached £95 billion in 2022. And we have a trading surplus. We have signed trade agreements with Australia, Singapore and Japan, and are close to a deal with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge free trade area of 500 million which with the UK would be economically bigger than the whole EU. Going back towards the EU—what Labour is calling ‘dynamic alignment’—would mean throwing this away, and turning our backs on future trade growth.
What would be the economic cost of our eventually joining the Eurozone?
New EU members are required to join the Eurozone. As many economists warned from the beginning, the Euro has been economically damaging. It has helped to turn the EU into a zone of slow growth, and this has cost most member countries a huge amount of wealth. A German think-tank has calculated that since adopting the Euro every Frenchman has lost on average 21,000 euros, and every Italian has lost 74,000 euros. How much would the average British family stand to lose when we eventually adopted the Euro—a condition of EU membership?
Will the UK rejoin the Common Fisheries Policy?
The Common Fisheries Policy was sprung on Britain just as it was applying to join the then EEC. It was so bad that Norway refused it, and has never joined. Certainly, progress on fisheries has been too slow since 2016. But by 2026 we shall regain full control over our fishing waters, to the great benefit of the North of England and Scotland. Rejoining the EU, on whatever terms, would give this away.
As we already have a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, what precisely would be the advantage of rejoining its Single Market and Customs Union?
The Free Trade Agreement signed in 2019 facilitates trade between the UK and the EU. Despite unscrupulous scare stories, official statistics show that our exports to the EU have not been damaged by leaving. They even broke all records in July 2022: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/balanceofpayments/bulletins/uktrade/july2022.
Foreign investment in the UK is higher than in any EU country. So why rejoin the Single Market and the Customs Union? It would be costly, burdensome, undemocratic, divisive—and for what?
The Customs Union is the founding pillar of EU membership, not an optional bolt-on to minimise border paperwork, as its proponents seem to think. It is designed to promote tariff-free trade within the EU while pricing out competitors in the rest of the world through high tariffs. The most critical and immediate casualty of rejoining the Customs Union would be our independent trade policy. We would be unable to join the Trans-Pacific trade partnership, for example, because we could not deviate from EU tariffs. The EU alone would decide who we trade with and on what terms. For the United Kingdom, with global supply chains and an expanding export market outside the EU, it would be a step back into Fortress Europe, higher prices and policies to benefit EU companies rather than British ones.
Before 2016, we had a huge deficit and stagnant exports with the EU. To join it as a non-EU member would put our whole trade policy under the control of Brussels without our having any say.
Will Brussels lawmakers have priority over the UK parliament and will the European Court of Justice be superior to British courts?
When we joined the EEC in 1973, European law became superior to British law, and our courts had to apply it irrespective of Parliament. We voted in 2016 to regain control over our laws. The government is trying to disentangle us from thousands of regulations we did not choose. If we rejoin the EU in whatever ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ form (‘dynamic alignment’) we will again have to accept all its laws—along with hundreds of new ones adopted since we left—interpreted by a European Court that makes up its own rules.
Would Rejoiners agree to the EU being in overall charge of foreign and security policy?
The EU aims to be a federal state with a foreign policy and armed forces under its control. Even in the present dangerous wartime situation, it is meddling in what is NATO’s job, and some British civil servants, despite Brexit, are quietly entangling us in EU defence arrangements. Yet the EU’s divisions and feebleness over the invasion of Ukraine—in contrast to Brexit Britain’s rapid and decisive aid—prove that it cannot be trusted with our security.
Will Rejoiners commit to a referendum to approve the terms negotiated for a new relationship with the EU?
The largest democratic vote in our history decided in 2016 that we should leave the EU. Remainers in parliament, the courts and the civil service tried to block this decision. They demanded a second referendum to reverse the first. Will they now commit to a second referendum after they have renegotiated new arrangements with the EU, whether for a soft or a hard ‘Brentry’? Will they let the people decide? Or do they want to do it behind our backs?
If you are tempted to think that Brexit was a mistake, ask yourself these ten questions. Ask them of your Remainer friends. Ask them of your MP. And finally ask yourself why Rejoiners are still trying to put the country into reverse after only three years of freedom.
An edited version of this article was published in The Mail on Sunday (5 Jan 2023)