The UK should leave the EU and rely on membership of the WTO, according to a major conference in London on alternatives to EU membership. The conference was organised by David Campbell Bannerman MEP and attended by a number of prominent UK eurosceptics.
“We have a clear alternative to EU membership. The WTO alternative,” declared Conservative MP, Christopher Chope. “It’s clear, it’s simple, and it represents a clean break.”
The WTO option would see the UK resort to the same trading relationship with the EU as the US and Japan, with no preferential agreement.
Such an arrangement would require no negotiation and would give the UK full control over internal regulations. Since the UK joined the common market in 1973, trade tariffs have fallen dramatically on most products. Average tariff costs are currently 1%. Major exceptions include cars (10%), and chemicals (5%).
If the UK leaves the EU, it would lose passport access to the single market for banks based in London.
Switzerland has an EFTA agreement with the EU, but needed a bilateral agreement with the EU for their banks to have passport access. This is now under threat over Swiss opposition to the free movement of people.
An individually negotiated EFTA agreement with the EU was presented as a viable long term alternative. Doubts were raised over whether the unknown terms of any EFTA agreement could damage the case for out during a referendum.
The conference concluded membership of the EEA would not be in Britain’s best interests. Any such deal would grant the UK access to the single market but would require the UK to adopt all its rules, including those relating to the free movement of people.
“You don’t need the free movement of people or political union to trade with other countries,” said the Earl of Dartmouth, the UK Independence Party’s trade spokesman. “A trade agreement with the EU is desirable, but it isn’t a requirement.”
The Confederation of British Industry suggests the net benefit of EU membership to the UK is between £62-78 billion a year.
But Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman said leaving the single market would enable to the UK to take back control of the 92% of the UK economy that wasn’t trading with the EU.
“The UK needs to be more global and less regional,” said Campbell Bannerman. “In the coming years, 99% of global economic growth will come from outside the EU.”
“Membership of the EU cost the UK £20 billion a year. The UK will be far better, freer and more prosperous outside the EU,” said Campbell Bannerman.
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The pro-European business campaign, Business for New Europe (BNE), said Britain’s future outside the EU would be ä nightmare for business”.
“Britain is a part of Europe, and nobody can change that. The best way to build a better future for our country would be to stay in the EU, work with our friends and neighbours instead of against them, and build a better EU from the inside,” BNE Chairman, Roland Rudd said.