3 February 2016

Brexit the Movie: Should we stay or should we go?

By Martin Durkin

Two things alarm me most about this EU referendum malarkey. First is the casual indifference with which a British Prime Minister blithely hands over the right of British people to govern themselves. Second, is the defeated spirit of so many timorous Britons who believe they must trade in their freedom for the (false) promise of a few jobs.

Can you imagine an American doing this? Ask any yank tourist the next time you see one. Would you submit to the authority of transnational super-state, run by people you’d never heard of, who you haven’t elected, who you can’t remove from office, passing laws you haven’t debated and have little or no chance of amending or blocking? They would look all confused. Are you mad? That’s the monster Super-State nightmare scenario Americans use in their dystopian sci-fi movies. It’s a lazy narrative device, because you never have to explain to the audience that it’s a bad thing. Everybody knows.

We will hear a lot, in the coming months, about the “risks of leaving”. We will hear not enough about the certain horrors of staying. We’re told that we won’t be offered another referendum for a generation, by which time we may have forgotten the habits and expectations of self-government.

The appalling prospect of staying inside the EU has encouraged me to get my begging bowl out. I have started work on a film – BREXIT THE MOVIE. It will be big and theatrical and noisy and emotional and compelling (I’m quite good at making films). But I need help to finish it. And to that end I am, for the first time, venturing onto this strange Kick-Starter thing. God knows if it’ll work.

What will the film say? It will be a cold-shower warning. Never mind the faux risks of leaving the EU, how about the consequences for us all of losing the power to determine how we live, and the power to shape our own future?

The loss of sovereignty, we’re told, is a price worth paying. Let’s look at the pieces of silver we’re being offered in return. The notion that EU membership brings with it an abundance of jobs is clearly arrant nonsense. The Eurozone has the slowest rates of economic growth of any continent in the world. It is a stagnant pool. Dammit, it’s an unemployment disaster zone. Just try telling the teeming millions of unemployed in beleaguered France and Spain and Greece about these glorious ‘EU jobs’.

Why, we should be asking, is moribund Europe such an economic basket case? Look no further than the EU itself. The EU has spent decades smothering industry with regulations and erecting trade barriers to protect inefficient European firms from outside competition. Behind the walls of ‘Fortress Europe’ cossetted European industry has grown ever lazier and weaker, less and less able to compete.

The EU’s trade barriers and heavy regulation have created quite a few cushy jobs for tax-munching bureaucrats in Brussels, but it’s been a catastrophe for the real economy. That is why EU unemployment levels are so breathtakingly high. That is why Europe is a failing economic has-been.

You will be told that to leave the EU is a leap into the unknown. But that is not true. Two major European countries are not members of the EU. The people of Norway and Switzerland had the guts and good sense to refuse to give up their right to govern themselves.

How sorry they must be, impoverished by their lack of ‘EU jobs’ and ‘EU trade’. The embarrassing truth is that Norway and Switzerland have done fantastically well outside the EU. They are two of the richest countries in the world. Their per capita incomes put the EU to shame. They are richer than we are, richer than the Germans and the French. Both Norway and Switzerland are swimming in jobs, with unemployment rates far lower even than Britain and Germany (let alone EU unemployment disaster areas like France and Spain and Greece).

But what about trade? Per head of population Switzerland exports twice as much as Germany (the EU’s biggest exporter) and four times as much as France. Norway exports four times as much per head as Britain. Both countries export more per head than any EU country by a huge margin. Norway and Switzerland are quite simply two of the most successful exporting nations in the world. And to cap it all, a huge number of their exports go the EU. (Have you ever had trouble buying a Toblerone or a Rolex or a Swatch or anything from Nestle?).

You will hear about the risk of leaving, but how about the risk of being trapped inside crumbling Fortress Europe, of tying our fate to a group of countries suffering self-inflicted, long-term economic decline, some of which are close to economic collapse and veering dangerously towards ugly political extremism? Marie Le Pen is the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of very scary stuff happening in EU.

It is the opposite of ‘safe’ to give up our ability to write our own laws and to shape our own lives. It is not wise to cower behind EU trade barriers, to become mired in a backward-looking, insular ‘European project’, cutting ourselves off from trade with the most dynamic, growing, exciting parts of the world economy.

Don’t be bullied and conned by this talk of ‘risk’ and ‘safety’. We are the 5th biggest economy in the world (second only to Germany in the EU) and we are the world’s 5th biggest military power (the biggest in Europe). If Norway and Switzerland have the wisdom, pride and confidence to stand on their own two feet, surely we can do the same. As I will argue passionately in my film, it is safest and wisest, by far, to regain our independence and to become once more self-governing, free-trading and genuinely outward looking.

So, buddy, can you spare a dime?

Martin Durkin is a documentary maker.