HOW’S this for a painless spending cut? Britain has paid the EU around £3,000 in the time it has taken you to read this far.
Our annual tribute to Brussels now stands at £19bn a year. If we kept that money at home, we could give the entire country a two thirds cut in council tax.
Or we could build and equip 200 state-of-the-art hospitals.
To put it another way, during the last Parliament, we saved £36bn through the entire domestic cuts programme.
Yet, over the same period, we gave Brussels £85bn.
The EU, in other words, wiped out our austerity savings twice over.
It’s true that some of the £19bn is spent in Britain. Around half of what we hand over dribbles back to us.
But a chunk of that goes on advertising the EU, or on hiring pro-Brussels consultants and contractors.
Some goes to professional associations, charities and NGOs in the hope that it’ll make them more pro-EU.
Oxfam, for example, got more than £35m last year.
And what does Britain get for its £19bn?
Amazingly, that vast sum buys us membership of the world’s only stagnant trade bloc.
North America will grow by three per cent this year, Africa by four and a half per cent, Asia by five per cent. But the Eurozone, after six years of flat-lining, will grow by less than one per cent: its economy today is no bigger than it was in 2008.
As long as we’re in the EU, we can’t sign independent trade deals with booming countries like India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand which are among our oldest friends.
Remember those Mercator maps of the world we had on our classroom walls at school, which showed Europe in the middle?
Well, times have changed.
Just as the 18th century saw an economic shift from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, so our own age is witnessing a shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Back in 1973, when we joined, Europe looked like the future. Since then, the EU has shrunk from 36 per cent of the world economy to 17 per cent.
No one is suggesting that we give up on our trade with Europe; only that we also lift our eyes to more distant horizons.
You don’t have to be in the EU to be part of the common market.
The European free trade area stretches right across the continent, from non-EU Iceland to non-EU Turkey. No one – no one I’ve ever met, at any rate – is suggesting that we will leave that common market when we leave the EU.
We will, though, regain our voice at the World Trade Organisation and our right to sign trade deals with non-EU states.
Iceland and Switzerland, for example, while retaining full access to the European market, have signed free trade agreements with China.
We can’t do that: we lost control of our trade policy when we joined.
That wasn’t all we lost. We lost our fishing grounds, which should be a great renewable resource. We lost our farming policy, and are now paying more into the CAP, and getting less out of it, than any other EU state.
We lost our special relationship with other English-speaking peoples. Many Britons from Commonwealth backgrounds find that they can’t bring auntie over for a wedding because we’ve had to crack down on non-EU visas so as to free up unlimited space for EU nationals with no connection to Britain.
Worse, we’ve opened our borders to the EU just as the EU has opened its borders to the entire world. That was never the deal.
Saddest of all, we’ve lost a measure of our democracy. On issues from benefits to prisoner voting, we find that we have ceded control to Brussels.
As Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, recently put it: “There can be no democratic choice against the European Treaties.”
He means it.
The EU already has a president and a foreign office, a parliament and a civil service, a currency and a supreme court, a passport and a driving licence, a national anthem and a flag.
Where does that leave Britain? As a province of Europe, a rate-capped local authority?
Aren’t we something more? We’re the fifth largest economy in the world, the fourth military power and one of five permanent seat-holders at the UN Security Council. Can’t we run our own affairs, trading with our European allies but governing ourselves?
It has become clear that the EU is losing control. Losing control of the economic crisis. Losing control of its borders. Losing control of its security. It’s time for Britain to take back control: to strike a new deal with the EU based on trade and co-operation, not political union.
That’s why we should vote to leave. It’s the safer choice.
Dan Hannan is a Conservative MEP and supporter of Vote Leave, the group campaign for Britain to leave the EU.