LeaveHQ, 12/03/2016  

What has the EU ever done for us? Different people will have different answers to that question. Europhiles will spin off the usual nonsense about cleaner beaches and improved water quality. This to them is absolutely nothing at all to do with improvements in technology and the total dismantling of just about every heavy industry we had. But this isn't a piece to whinge about that or even blame the EU.

In basic terms, we have regulated such jobs out of existence in the UK. We have said they these industries cannot kill our loved ones, poison our food, pollute our beaches and injure people due to lack of safety. We have also said that these industries must pay our workers properly and treat them with due dignity and respect. We have said to these industries that if you want to pay peanuts and pollute the local environment into oblivion then you can do it somewhere else. And they have done exactly that.

Through becoming a services based economy we have replaced dangerous and dirty jobs with office jobs, many of which will transform into home-working jobs. We have adapted and we have thrived and everywhere is better as a result. The beaches are cleaner, and those filthy slag-heaps of South Yorkshire are now established country parks where we walk dogs on a Sunday afternoon.

And is it the EU that has done all this? It likes to pretend it has. Go to any of these country parks and you will usually see a sign with a ring of stars pointing to whichever EU social fund notionally paid for the development. It pretends it's there are certain directives driving improvements in our environment too. But the EU didn't do that. We did.

As much as the EU directives may instruct us to do something, the EU is only implementing global agreements that we would likely have signed anyway. Especially since British NGOs have been leading the fight since the 70's - both at home and at the top tables. More than this, while the EU claims to have paid for such improvements, the money did not come from the Easter Bunny.

More pertinent is the fact that these conventions and directives apply to all EU states. So if it really is the EU that has done all this, why when are there areas along the Greek coast where shipping pollution has wiped out marine habitats? Greenpeace Greece director Nikos Haralambidis says some beaches are beyond hope. "Some areas in the bays of Athens and Thessaloniki are complete dead zones. For some, there is no chance of ever recovering," he said.

Put simply, Greece is a corrupt basketcase with no regard for its environment and has no political will to sort out its own messes. That in part is why the EU has essentially assumed administration of Greece by diktat. The EU's currency is on the line, you can hardly blame it.

Britain on the other hand, is a nation that respects the rule of law and carries out its international obligations. As much as corruption is endemic to Greek culture, adherence to rules and the sanctity of the contract is endemic to ours. That is primarily why London is THE place to do business. We make deals and we uphold them.

And this is why Brexit fears for women's rights, LGBT rights and the likes are unjustified. We have signed international conventions at the International Labour Organisation and we will uphold those values. We do not need the EU to hold our government to account. We will - by raising our voices and using our votes. That democracy thing.

Because of our observance of treaty and convention, Britain is a trusted and influential voice at all of the international top tables - and though the EU takes our vote and removes our right of veto at these bodies it is wholly wrong to say that we have no influence at all. In soft power rankings, Britain is at the top. And that is why we do not need the EU - and this is why this rainy little island still leads the world.

As to why we should leave the EU, well, we have a job to do. Like we say, the EU only implements global conventions and international standards and regulations. It makes very few of its own. As much as we need our own voice to help shape those rules we also need a veto to ensure that process is properly democratic. We need to protect ourselves from one-size-fits-all policies that may work for mainland Europe, but not for Britain. But Brexit is about more than that.

It is about using our soft power and our global leadership to correct some of Europe's mistakes. And this comes back to those jobs we exported. Right now Chinese steel plants are expelling toxic chemicals into waterways local farmers use to grow rice. China is polluting itself into oblivion. As is India. The ships we used to break here in the UK are now beached in Bangladesh, with no real observance of proper recycling and disposal laws and no health and safety for the works, who themselves are on poverty wages. And not the "poverty wages" Brits whinge about.

As an independent country, we will seek to change all that. But not through moralising and blackmail as the EU does. We will do it by combining our aid and trade policy. By leaving the EU we will need a much more active foreign office and diplomatic corps, working hard to open up new lines of trade and new markets.

In so doing we will have to invest heavily in removing physical and technical barriers to trade. We will have to train people here and abroad. We will have to dredge ports, build roads, runways and terminals. That in itself will create jobs here and overseas, but established infrastructure will sustain those jobs. And being a services and innovation based economy it will be our engineers, our scientists, our bureaucrats, lawyers, planners and designers at the forefront.

We will no longer abdicate our aid policy to the EU, who in turn funds unaccountable NGO's. We will do it ourselves. We will lift poor countries out of aid dependency, we will modernise their economies and they themselves, as they get wealthier, will clean up their act and demand better rights from their government - as indeed we did, long before the EU came into being.

And being a service based economy, leading in cyberspace too, we will need a digital single market - but not one confined to fortress Europe. We will need a global digital single market. Rather than waiting years for it, as we did to remove roaming charges, we will use our voice, our vote, our veto at the global top tables to shape the rules and standards even the obsolete EU will adopt. We do not need a law taker sitting between us and the top tables.

We won't go it alone either. We will join and encourage our friends in Efta, possibly even reforming the EEA grants system to make it our collective global aid effort, delivered by our agencies working with our governments on our behalf. Instead of slavishly obeying the EU in every global vote, we will join trade alliances to get things done. We will shake off euro-parochialism and we will challenge the EU's dominance with our other partners to ensure regulation is made for the right reasons and not to advance the EU's supranational ambitions.

That is what Brexit can do for us. And so when they ask "what has the EU ever done for us" in that oh so smug ironic way, remind them that the answer is nothing that we couldn't have done for ourselves, faster, better and probably a good deal cheaper. It is we who have transformed Britain and it is we who have shaped those rules and regulations the EU adopts. We don't need an EU gun to our heads to carry on being the dynamic, agile and global Britain we have always been.

We can no longer afford to look inward to Europe when the answers lie in harnessing the power of globalisation. The EU has committed to being a supreme government for Europe with its own currency, aid and trade policy, but its ways are not our ways and nobody is served by Britain's potential being stifled. We have the power to make the world better, and it's about time we used it. That's why you should vote to leave. We're worth it.

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