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Wednesday 1 April 2009

Quality Street Again

I’m not too hot on toffee pennies. And there are always more of them than the purple ones, or the green triangles. Yes, Quality Street is a bit like the EU. We want the bits that appeal to us, and hate the ones that don’t. But if we buy into it, we have to have both. And that takes us back to Spain.

Or France. Or Italy, Greece or Portugal. But in Spain we get the largest numbers – of expat Brits. More than three quarters of a million of them. With most living in what are effectively Anglophone ghettos, making no attempt to learn one of Spain’s main languages, or otherwise integrate into the wider society. Many also work in Spain – a direct benefit of EU membership. Many more take advantage of the route network of the low cost airlines to keep holiday homes – both the right to own property elsewhere in the EU, and the liberalisation of air travel are, again, direct benefits of EU membership.

There are benefits at home: Nissan, Toyota, Honda – all have set up production facilities in the UK to enable them to sell into the wider EU marketplace. Were we not in the European club, there would be no point in them staying. Anyone for a rather more permanent “production holiday”? And there should be no need to mention the financial services industry, and the potential loss of business arising from losing EU membership.

But countries outside the EU are also able to trade with those inside, aren’t they? Yes they are. But consider this: it’s one thing negotiating from inside a club, where you’ve got a say, but quite another being outside, where you ultimately have to do business on terms decided by others.

So what is our problem with the EU? Perhaps it’s a language thing?

If so, that would be strange, especially as the main working language of the EU is, as I’m sure is universally known, English. For that, we have the much derided Neil Kinnock to thank.

That’s two facts that the Murdoch and Rothermere press won’t be stressing any time soon. Unfortunately, many politicians and commentators have also developed a blind spot on the positive aspects of EU membership. And that’s a pity.

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