Blackfriar: Bureaucratic Brussels is the real problem, not Europe

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The last time this scribe wrote a positive comment piece about the UK staying in Europe, the vitriolic bile and personal insults from “readers” was enough to deter most journalists from ever writing another one.

Anyway this hack wasn’t put off, but this time I’ll leave it to some other notable figures to stake their case.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is calling on supporters to speak out in favour of the EU before Britain finds it has “stumbled out” of Brussels and warns that the country will commit “economic suicide” if we leave the European Union.

It’s a stance that won’t go down well with Prime Minister David Cameron, who has promised a referendum on Europe by the end of 2017 if the Tories win the next election.

Away from politicians, business leaders are also backing the pro-EU stance.

Virgin founder Richard Branson said: “When it comes to the EU, it is important business leaders across Europe and the wider world speak out.

“Investors choose to locate businesses in Europe because of access to the single market. The EU provides access to global markets through free trade agreements with more than 37 countries and jobs could be put at risk by leaving as many are linked to exports within the EU.”

The lead story on this page is about Standard Life boss Gerry Grimstone warning that an exit from the single market will threaten London’s dominant position in global financial services.

But it’s not just London that will suffer, the whole of the UK will.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of The City UK, says that fewer jobs would be created in regional centres such as Yorkshire if the nation decides to quit the EU.

Nissan’s chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga agrees. This week he urged Britain not to leave the EU, warning that an exit could create obstacles to foreign investment in car manufacturing.

The Japanese car maker, which recently pumped £125m into expanding Britain’s biggest car factory in Sunderland, said a vote to leave the EU could lead to costly changes in tariffs and taxes.

Britain exports 50 per cent of its goods to Europe. A report published by Regus shows that UK firms trading internationally are two fifths more likely to increase profits than those sticking to the domestic market.

The report found that 45 per cent of exporters have increased their profits over the last 12 months compared with 31 per cent of companies that trade domestically.

Regus said that 62 per cent of businesses said Europe is the most profitable market for expansion.

Europe is by far our most important trading partner. Pulling out of the EU would not only jeopardise our exports, but the rest of the world will look dimly on us as an insular little nation that can’t buckle down to the rules that govern the rest of the Continent we live in.

This comes at a time when it looks like the UK is finally about to emerge from five years of economic gloom.

There was great news for the economy this week – the IMF has dropped its concerns over austerity and revised its forecast for UK economic growth upwards. It is now forecasting UK GDP growth of 1.9 per cent in 2014, ahead of all developed markets with the exception of the US.

It is a mistake to think the rest of Europe would be gutted to lose the UK as a member of the EU. Struggling European countries would love it if Nissan closed down its Sunderland plant and moved it to one of their cities.

That said, a recent YouGov Deutschland survey showed that the majority of Germans believe a British exit from the EU would be bad for both Germany and the EU, and that the German government should work actively to keep Britain inside the 28-nation bloc.

Interestingly, the poll also showed that fewer than one in three Germans trust the European Commission and the European Parliament fared only slightly better.

Surely this is the real problem here. The EU is the problem not Europe.

Brussels has become lazy, incompetent, arrogant and not fit for purpose.

We need to pinpoint exactly which parts we object to – whether it be the working time directive or legislation on the environment, social affairs or crime – and force Brussels to change.

We’re not alone in our dislike of this bureaucratic organisation. Two thirds of Germans agree with us. This power needs to be harnessed and Brussels has to be forced to change.

An exit from Europe would simply be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

It’s not often that Blackfriar agrees with Mr Clegg, but we are doing our bit to spread the word.

We know a lot of you won’t agree with these views, so rather than send personal insults please email Blackfriar at with your thoughts and opinions and we will publish the best ones next week.