The debate about whether the UK should continue to be a member of the EU is set to become more intense in the light of David Cameron's promise of an In/Out referendum in 2017, should the Conservatives be in government. There is no shortage of prophets of doom who warn of the serious economic consequences of withdrawal. How would we be able to continue trading with EU countries on anything like our present scale if we lacked 'club-membership' status? We would play no part in setting the rules by which such trade is controlled. And would investors be so willing to commit funds to the UK, if it were no longer a part of the world's largest trading group? The doomsayers, who include ex-prime ministers and exchancellors, ex-cabinet ministers and ex-EU commissioners, predict dire outcomes on both fronts if we withdraw.
Remarkably, these people have never taken the trouble to collect the evidence that would support this view, although they were in the best position to do so. Where's the Insider Advantage? has been written by a voter who has grown tired of the evasion. Michael Burrage uses comparative methodology to test the benefits that EU membership is said to entail by contrasting the performance of the UK and other member states with that of similarly developed non-EU states, both in Europe and worldwide. To those with whom I spar on such matters, I am inclined to say: "Defend the Single Market any way you wish, but do not argue it is good for British exports. It isn't, and has never been, so on that score you don't have a case." I make a similar reply whenever the FDI scare is raised. None of us understand the causal dynamics of investment decisions, so before frightening yourself and others with what might happen to the UK, look at the best available evidence about how other independent countries have fared. I sometimes add: "If you don't believe my presentation of it, then go and look the EC's own reports. They have long since abandoned the idea that the Single Market is a magnet for foreign investors."