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Dilapidated EU falling down around our ears; it's time to move to much better place

Published 27/05/2016

The EU: Is it time to say 'enough'?
The EU: Is it time to say 'enough'?

The Remain campaign can't persuade people of the dubious benefits of EU membership, so it tries to control them through scare stories instead, writes Lee Reynolds.

The contents of the Belfast Telegraph/Ipsos MORI poll are no surprise to Vote Leave. People recognise the benefits of quitting the European Union - less red tape, getting our money back, controls over immigration, strengthening the UK and our democracy and real action for farmers and fishermen. The positive Vote Leave case is recognised and is why support for Leave has been gaining in the LucidTalk Northern Ireland poll.

The voters' concerns are no surprise, either - economics, funding, our place in the world, agriculture and the impact on the border and travel. These concerns fit closely with the main scare stories pushed by the Remain campaign, with the media happily regurgitating them in different forms.

The Remain campaign has essentially conceded the EU is rubbish and is left resorting to making the alternative look worse. With half its inspiration drawn from Exodus and the other half from Revelation, it is not trying to persuade, but control through fear.

The Vote Leave cause is the anti-Establishment cause. Thus, the Establishment will utilise all its tools and all its connections to maintain a status quo that suits it - even if it doesn't suit the majority of people.

The problem for the elite is we do not live in an aristocracy, so they can't lord over us. Neither do we live in a technocracy, where we must live by the whims of experts - experts with a dubious track record on the EU and the economy.

We live in a democracy. People freely exercising their conscience is the way to change our world for the better, to assert that we determine our own lives. Voting Leave on June 23 is the way to secure this.

How can Vote Leave be so confident of this? We know there are straightforward answers to voters' concerns.

On economics, we have three examples why leaving is best. Three countries have thought better about becoming EU members - Iceland, Switzerland and Norway. Two did so in a referendum. In both those votes, the pro-EU campaigns painted a picture of economic disaster unless they followed the EU route. The people ignored them, and their countries have thrived economically - not suffered. In none of the three countries do their people regret their decision. This is the future that awaits us.

Just take a look at the unemployment figures. Iceland has unemployment of 3.1%. Norway has unemployment of 4.5%. The UK has unemployment of 5%, and the Eurozone has unemployment of 10.2% - double the UK's and Norway's and triple Iceland's.

The EU and its economic policies don't deliver jobs; the EU and its policies delivers unemployment. The youth unemployment figures are even starker. The EU is systematically abandoning a generation of young people.

In terms of trade, we just aren't getting the benefits. Our trade deficit with the EU is massive and growing. Meanwhile, our membership fee is going up and up.

Northern Ireland's manufacturing exports to the rest of the world are already higher than to the EU. This shows us where our future lies.

Would new barriers appear? No. First, from Iceland to Turkey, there are no tariff barriers to trade, and that includes EU and non-EU countries.

Second, if the UK leaves, we would become a neighbour to the EU. The relationship that the EU wants with its neighbours is set out in Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty, which says: "The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on co-operation... the Union may conclude specific agreements with the countries concerned. These agreements may contain reciprocal rights and obligations as well as the possibility of undertaking activities jointly. Their implementation shall be the subject of periodic consultation."

So, when Jean-Claude Juncker makes comments about "deserters" and the Remain campaign implies plagues upon us, they are actually advocating breaking EU treaty law. Odd for those who claim they are such good EUers.

Third, the EU could not harm the UK economy without harming the Republic of Ireland even more, so it would not be in Irish interests to accept any deal that targeted the UK.

The Barnett formula and the parity principle, plus the reasonable track record of our own leaders in getting money from the Treasury, means we will get our fair share of UK monies brought back from Brussels.

The greatest threat to the UK's standing internationally is the EU. It seeks to dilute and remove the role of member states and is envious of the UK's position in the world.

On farming, we can maintain the present levels of support and still save £1.7bn a year. David Cameron has pledged to keeping farm support if we vote Leave. More importantly, we could actually do more for our farmers, like the dairy sector pleaded for, and tackle the compliance regime that hampers and costs them.

On travel, we can retain the Common Travel Area, as we have since 1923. Citizens from one EU country travelling freely to another non-EU country happens every day - for example in Norway and Sweden.

On holidays, the EU has struck a no-visa agreement for tourists from Peru, but the Remain campaign claims the same for us would be beyond the EU and UK. Seriously?

It would be easy to get involved in neverending claims and rebuttal. The Remain campaign prefers this, as bogging everyone down in detail distracts from the failure of the EU and its dark future. Equally, it distracts from the opportunity and the global future we can build if we vote Leave.

Our present position is like being a private tenant with the EU our landlord. The EU landlord has been hiking our rent year after year. The tenancy agreement keeps being made more restrictive, and they want to fit even more people into the building even though it's not able to handle it. Meanwhile, the EU landlord - for all their promises and money - has allowed the building to go to rack and ruin.

The alternative is to move out and become a homeowner. In response, the EU landlord is coming along making exaggerated claims about the risks. Have we read the break clauses in our agreement? Are we sure we can afford the deposit? Could we pay the mortgage if interest rates went up? Do we not know the hassle it is dealing with solicitors? What about negative equity?

All the while, the EU landlord steadfastly refuses to reduce our rent, change our tenancy agreement, or fix the building.

Whether they beseech us, plead with us, or threaten us, the best future is to take a step forward and step up.

It is time to leave this dilapidated building. Time to own our new home and make of it what we can.

On June 23, vote Leave.

Lee Reynolds is regional director of NI Vote Leave

Belfast Telegraph

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