Boris Johnson: Let’s put the brakes on EU power grab and ride high
BRITAIN is facing a historic decision on June 23 that gives us the opportunity to leave the European Union.
In the 1975 referendum, when Britain voted “yes” to staying in, people put their crosses next to the words Common Market. So it is hardly surprising they now feel conned. Instead of a community based on free trade we are now part of an ever-more powerful political entity that has nibbled away at our democracy chunk by chunk.
The EU does not stand still. It keeps moving forward, but in only one direction – towards a European super-state that would turn its nations into museum pieces.
Let’s be absolutely clear here. Voting to remain is not a vote for the status quo – it is vote for a federalist super-state with no possible future reprieve.
In Britain, by contrast, power is moving in the opposite direction as places like West Yorkshire and Sheffield reclaim authority from distant bureaucrats.
But Brussels never lets go. That is why we must leave. Then we can take back control over our destiny – our borders, over our laws and the future of our trade with the world, the motor that has always driven Britain’s prosperity.
We will also be taking back control of the £350m a week that Brussels demands from us. EU membership costs Yorkshire and the Humber £1.1bn a year, that is equivalent to a quarter of the region’s entire schools budget. We are wasting that money on an unaccountable and failing institution, whose accounts are so riddled with waste and corruption that auditors have refused to sign them off for 20 years.
If we left, we would not have to cut a penny from programmes like regional support that are currently funded by European grants or from the funding we provide to farming, which is such an integral part of Yorkshire’s identity. But we would have billions of pounds a year left over to spend on our own priorities, whether on the NHS, education or infrastructure.
We need control of our borders. This will allow us to introduce a carefully managed migration policy, replacing the current free-for all and easing the pressure on our public services.
European judges constantly interfere whenever we try to protect our borders, meaning we have little power to turn away people who can’t contribute to the economy or who have criminal records.
Official EU figures show that last year there was a 70 per cent increase in the number of people trying to reach Britain using fraudulent documents, with forged or stolen Greek and Italian ID cards particular favourites.
Taking back control would also give us the opportunity to gain new prosperity and jobs by increasing our trade with the world beyond Europe. Currently the EU occupies our seat at the World Trade Organisation, and it has proved appallingly slow at reaching agreements with countries like India and Canada.
We could do a far quicker, more efficient job if we followed the nimble example of countries like Switzerland and South Korea. Two-thirds of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Yorkshire are in favour of Britain, not Europe, controlling British trade policy.
Nor will our free trade with Europe suffer as the gloom merchants claim. The Europeans sell £60bn more to us than we export to them. They are not going to tell their best customer to push off.
The europhiles believe the continent would want to strangle trade with an independent Britain. But these are the same people who warned us in the 1990s that it would be a disaster if we left the Exchange Rate Mechanism and later that we would be doomed if we stayed out of the euro. We ignored them and are now outstripping our continental friends who shackled themselves to the euro.
The businesses that have benefited so much from what Yorkshire has to offer are not suddenly going to pack up if we leave the EU. As Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, explained, the reason they have their research centre in Leeds is because Leeds is a brainy, sparky place to come up with new ideas. “We don’t make a decision on moving research centres around depending if you are in the EU or not,” he said.
Already, between half and two-thirds of our laws are sent down from Brussels.
The 100 most damaging EU rules are estimated to load £33bn of costs on to the economy nationally. If we leave, we are not suddenly going to scrap entitlements to holiday and restrictions on working hours. The point is that we will be able to decide what makes sense for Britain.
We can see today how important it is for a country to control its own industrial policy. Yorkshire employs 10,000 people in its steel plants alone. But because of EU rules we are powerless to do what we need to do. State aid rules forbid us from supporting businesses in crisis and we have no power to set our own tariff levels to protect high-quality industries.
With a little self-confidence, we can take back control from the bureaucrats and judges of Brussels, hold our elected representatives accountable and boot them out for their failures.
If we want to reclaim our democracy and our freedom and find the surest way to create jobs and prosperity, we should Vote Leave.
Boris Johnson is the outgoing Mayor of London, a Tory MP, Cabinet minister and leading member of the Vote Leave campaign. He is due to speak in Leeds tomorrow.