Councillor Tom Campbell: The EU economy is bigger than the US

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One of the most unsavoury aspects of the current European Referendum is the appeal by Brexit campaigners against immigration as its main reason why we should go it alone.

That campaign has capitalised on fear of immigration and the “utopia” where immigration is ended and economic prosperity restored, despite the fact that we do much of our trade with the EU.

The European Union has become larger than any individual economy in the world and its GDP surpassed that of the USA in 2003. Trade from the UK to the EU in 2014 accounted for 44.6% of UK exports of goods and services, and 53.2% of UK imports of goods and services. The Treasury, the Bank of England, the IMF and most respected economists have warned at the impact that Brexit will have on an already fragile economy.

However, if those arguments do not persuade us to remain, what can be achieved by leaving and going it alone? If it is really a concern at the impact of immigration, can a post Brexit UK manage to restore trading links whilst at the same time refuse entry to immigrants?

Most of those favouring leaving the EU rely on the example of Norway, which voted “No” but which has now restored economic ties. Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, has confirmed that in exchange for access to the internal EU market, Norway has to adopt a large number of EU laws, such as the free movement of workers, without any say in how these laws are created. Solberg has been quoted of the UK going it alone outside Europe: “They won’t like it”.

I doubt that we will: Following Brexit, there is a minimum two years (the period laid down in the Lisbon treaty) of uncertainty before we can start to negotiate terms. Canada was able to negotiate trade terms with the EU but only after 10 years.

These terms have yet to be ratified. This month the Canadians have expressed the view that the British electorate needs to confront the fact that if they vote to leave the EU, it will disrupt not only their country, but the world at large, wreaking havoc on the global economy for a generation.

They have also indicated that another fall out of Brexit is that it could stall the implementation of the Canada-EU free trade deal and imperil the jobs of thousands of Canadians working in hundreds of British companies.

Alderman Tom Campbell LLB, Alliance, Newtownabbey