Friends, allies, trading partners
Rt Hon John Redwood MP (Conservative Party)
An Oxford University graduate, John Redwood’s political career began as an Oxford County councillor during the 1970s. Throughout the 1980s, he served as chief policy advisor to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, becoming parliamentary under-secretary of trade and industry in 1989.
Redwood joined the cabinet of Thatcher’s successor Sir John Major in 1993 and challenged for the leadership of the party when Major resigned in 1995. Standing on a Eurosceptic basis, Redwood lost, but secured approximately 25% of the parliamentary party votes. After Labour’s Tony Blair entered Downing Street in 1997, Redwood served in the Conservative shadow cabinet under William Hague for three years and again, briefly, in 2004 under Michael Howard. The author of several books explaining why the pound should remain the UK’s preferred currency, Redwood here shares his thoughts on next month’s referendum.
Could you outline your principal reasons for supporting the UK leaving the EU?
I want the UK to be a good European friend, ally and trading partner of the European Union. I’m very conscious that the UK wants very different things from its relationship compared to the agenda of most continental governments and countries, and so I think we can best be a good European friend by getting out of the way and allowing the euro area to complete its political union. I do think the euro area rightly understands that it needs to take a lot more central control. It needs to have one single economic monetary and political approach to the problems of running a complicated single currency area, and it would need to have much bigger transfers of money from rich to poor. Within the euro area, none of those are things that the UK wishes to be involved with.
In regards to the state of the debate in the UK around the referendum, how do you feel the public discourse is going? Are you satisfied with how the conversation is developing on both sides?
I think we just need a lot more air-time on the Brexit side to explain the many good points we have in our favour. Obviously the government machine has presumed unto itself to swamp the airwaves and to spend a lot of taxpayers’ money on promoting its side of the argument. We don’t think that’s fair and we are fighting back to try and get across our messages, but we obviously don’t have taxpayers’ money and the resources of the government behind us.
Following this long process of renegotiation that the government has pursued and the upcoming referendum, what do you feel the impact will be upon the UK’s relationship with its partners in Europe?
Once we leave the relationship will improve because we will no longer be holding the rest of the European Union back, and we will have a more honest relationship where we will want to be friends, we will want to be allies, we will want to do a lot of things together. We will want to carry on the trading arangements we’ve got. I see no reason why the rest of the EU shouldn’t have the same view. Whenever I’ve discussed these matters with representatives of European continental governments they’ve always made it very clear to me that they don’t wish to impose any new barriers in the way of their exports to Britain, and of course they understand that if there aren’t going to be new barriers in the way of their exports to us, there couldn’t be new barreirs in the way of our exports to them. So I think it could be easy to reach a very satisfactory, friendly relationship based around trade and other matters of common interest.
You mentioned the need for the EU to continue its process of integration. Do you feel that the EU institutions are actually responsive enough in order to confront the longer-term challenges facing the union, such as the stability of the eurozone?
It’s not an issue for me. I want my country to leave because I’m quite sure that we’re getting in the way and making it more difficult. I’m also quite sure that the institutions cannot stretch to both running the euro area and handling a major country that’s not in the euro area. The institutions have been designed for everybody to move ahead together and they are finding it very difficult to deal with the UK in the union but not in the euro. So my job, along with my fellow countrymen and women, is to do the decent thing and get out of the way for people in the euro area to decide, democratically, how they wish to go forward.
One of the main points being made by the Brexit camp has been that the UK can increase its position on the world stage. What do you feel, in the wake of comments being made by world leaders and international institutions, the actual reality will be in the event of any potential Brexit?
Britain will clearly be more influential in the world at large because we will get back our feet, our vote, our voice on a number of world bodies where we’ve given those away to a single EU representative in our place. So on world standard bodies and the World Trade Organisation and world climate talks and others, the UK will resume with a full vote, voice, footing; and of course that would mean many other countries around the world will want to talk to Britain more than they do at the moment, because at the moment their first call is to Brussels, not to London.