The campaigners for ‘Brexit’ who seek to reinvent the wheel

Brexiters insist that as soon as the UK has left the EU, it will start to renegotiate all valuable relationships that have just been severed

Campaigning for "Brexit" on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, former chancellor Nigel Lawson, leader of one of the two Out groups, took a novel line. Acknowledging that the challenge of globalisation in trade and economics requires a globalised response and international organisations like the World Trade Organisation to manage it, Lawson suggested that the EU, merely a regional forum, has now been made redundant by history's remorseless advance.

Instead of denying the globalising imperative, like many little-England fellow Brexiters, Lawson is making a virtue of necessity with an argument that seems to suggest both the obsolescence of the nation state, and that the UK should turn the UN and WTO into global EU-like bodies. He may be a bit ahead of his time, and certainly out of step with his comrades.

What the Brexit campaigners are doing is reinventing the wheel. And calling it by another name. Anything but a "union". But if it walks like a union, and squawks like a union ... "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

To paraphrase Voltaire's "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer", if the EU had not existed it would have been necessary to invent it – to trade, to extend markets, to create manufacturing efficiencies in steel, coal and other raw materials, to protect agriculture and the environment across borders that pollution does not respect ... and to provide a degree of security.


The necessity for economic and other co-operation in the face of the growing interpenetration and interdependence of European economies and competition from other regions drove the establishment and expansion of the EEC. Political union, which followed, was not an expression of dreams of empire or European superstate, but an attempt to bring that inevitable ever-closer cooperation under a measure of democratic political control. Sharing, not ceding, sovereignty.

As much is implicitly acknowledged by the Brexiters who insist that as soon as the UK has left the EU, it will start to renegotiate all the valuable relationships that have just been severed.

In the wake of the Brussels bombings, and the allegedly catastrophic failure of Belgian intelligence, for example, we are asked to believe that new security cooperation, from information-sharing to standardised procedures in airports, which all agree is vital , would somehow be more effective in another framework outside the EU.

The great act of faith Brexiters are asking voters to accept is that the UK’s negotiating hand, not only with the then-depleted EU, but with 60 separate trading partners around the world, will be stronger and that Britain will get a better deal. This divorce will be followed by a commitment to live in sin with the same partner – but, as usual in divorce, it is the children who will suffer.