They say it's better late than never, and it's definitely so in this instance. I probably should have read 'Why Vote Leave' by Daniel Hannan MEP before the EU referendum, but better late than never. After the referendum, and with Hannan facing criticism over his apparent about-face on immigration, his persuasive book was reduced to 99p on Kindle. So I took up the offer, read it, and enjoyed it. Well, enjoy is probably not the word, but it is a well constructed, well argued book, showing why the UK's vote to leave the European Union was a principled decision.
In the introduction, Hannan appeals for his sacking from the European Parliament. He desperately wants to be made redundant, with a British withdrawal from the EU, and as he begins his short book, the reasons are immediately obvious. Recounting his first day in Brussels, the over-inflated expenses raise the question of how much the European project costs. And that's before you get to the other concerns he raises - the EU's creeping control of all sorts of national interests consumed by European regulations; its subversion of British sovereignty expressed in Parliament; the decline of the European economy in comparison with every other continent; and the Euro bailouts.
Over ten chapters, Hannan builds his case. He begins with a thought exercise - asking if Britain would seek to join the EU if it wasn't already a member? He considers the examples of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, none of whom are members, and argues that they are more prosperous for their non-membership. Retelling the history of Britain's involvement with the EU in its various guises over the years, he identifies the reasons Britain opted to join - a decline in its economy, an apparent success story on the continent, and Europhile civil servants. This leads him to consider today's economy, as well as the political union we were being asked to vote on.
He maintains that the EU is not opting for the status quo: 'Choosing to stay in its not the same as choosing to stay put; rather, it is choosing to remain on a conveyor-belt.' This Brussels financed conveyor-belt seeks ever closer union, using the well resourced NGOs it supports to sing its praises. Further, the EU isn't democratic, as Hannan paints a picture of a new legal order, superior to national legislation, always advancing the agenda of 'more Europe.' This agenda brings the EU ever closer to statehood, with the trappings of currency, criminal justice system, president, foreign minister, treaty-making powers, citizenship, passport, flag and anthem. The eurozone bailout is demonstrably illegal, as Hannan argues based on the explicit prohibition of bailouts in the EU Treaty. More examples are found in the refusal or re-running of referendums, until the 'right' result is given, such as in Ireland with the Nice Treaty.
Hannan also considers the euro-corporatism which exists, where big businesses lobby for their own interests, which are protected by the EU decision makers. This is manifested in all sorts of ways, with plenty of examples for the reader to examine. The problems are exacerbated by Britain's lack of influence within the EU, despite its size and importance - in many votes, Britain has ended up in the losing minority, more so than any other member nation. There are several reasons for this, but it's primarily because Britain has different priorities and statecraft compared to the others.
As the book closes, Hannan reviews David Cameron's attempts to renegotiate the European Union prior to the referendum - achieving 'fried air' (nothing at all). This leads in to Hannan's positive vision of Britain, independent and free from the ever closer political union, and free to trade with the world and the EU. Contrary to all the doom and gloom warnings, Hannan makes the point that the EU gains more from trading with the UK, and so they will want to continue to trade with us when we leave. He also examines the possibilities that exist for partnership with Europe - the Swiss, Icelandic and Norwegian models. Yet none of these are precisely how things will turn out, as each country is different, and brings different priorities to the negotiating table.
All in all, the positive case for Leave was made clearly and concisely by Daniel Hannan. The people have now voted for leaving - if the government will carry it through remains to be seen. With such a positive and persuasive political talent, Daniel Hannan should be closely involved in the next steps to fulfill his vision.
Why Vote Leave is available from Amazon and for the Kindle.