By James Elles - 16th July 2012
Conservative MEP James Elles says UKIP-inspired ideas about withdrawal from the EU are unrealistic, and insists the UK's stability, prosperity and survival relies on being at the European table.
The rise of China as a major world power is the most probable prediction for change in the global system by 2030. Trends do indeed highlight the direction where the world is headed, with a continuing shift of power from West to East. The prospect of the Asian 21st Century has been written about extensively over the past two decades (see previous blog).
But what we should recall is that nothing is for certain. Predictions often have a habit of not coming true. Take the example of the Hudson Institute report written by Herman Kahn in the late 1960s, predicting that by the year 2000 we would be living in underwater domes because of expected population increases. The most glaring omission he made was to fail to predict the microchip and its extraordinary effect on the technological revolution. Or what about Decca records, turning down the Beatles contract in 1962, thinking that the group would never succeed!So, our future lies in our hands.
From current work being done on long term trends underway across the globe, the biggest unknown is more often than not the pace of introduction of new technologies. Not surprisingly, increased efforts are now concentrating on how to have better information about technological change, like the need for constant update on information available from companies in the IT sector.
But long-term trends point to potential outcomes. Should we not like the look of such outcomes, then we must take immediate action to ensure that they do not occur. There are three key aspects, I believe, that we must take into account if we are to succeed in the global economy of the 21st Century:
- First, we must have built into Government thinking and planning assessments what potential global changes imply for our major policies ..for example, what impact will ageing have on all domestic policies given that we are altering to an older age profile demographically. We currently have no such instruments available in the UK policy process;
- Second, on the basis of the best knowledge available, we must avoid making decisions which may gain electoral advantage in the short term, but which are harmful in the long term. Self inflicted disasters for the UK over the past 30 years include: a loss of half our manufacturing industry; a radical decline in the number of apprentices; a vast increase in the financial sector, but sometimes insufficiently regulated; a total incoherence in transport infrastructure, with no certainty about airport expansion and the ill-thought through decision to cut large swathes through the Chiltern countryside with HS2; and not least the inadequate provision of mobile and high speed broadband for all businesses. (By the way, none of these aspects have any direct relationship to UK membership of the EU - just our own incoherence and incapacity to think long term);
- Third, we must, in pursuit of our national interest, be pragmatic about the political environment we find ourselves in and not overestimate the strength of our negotiating hand. Should we initiate renegotiations with the objectives these 3 MPs earmark, then there will be very little, even of the Single Market, to which the UK would participate - a clear ticket for withdrawal to EFTA status with Norway (see Daily Mail). Furthermore, the idea that the EU restricts our ability to trade with the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as alleged in the Sun earlier this week by 3 MPs is laughable. Germany shows the way in increasing its export share over the past decade with China and India (see blog of 17 February), even with a strong Euro and EU regulations. Maybe it has taken better decisions than we have in fostering its industrial base and produces what the BRICs want to buy?
Thus, we must focus on what is most important for our country…our stability, our prosperity and our survival. Promoting a creative environment to stimulate Growth and Jobs. Romantic UKIP-inspired alternatives have no reality for the UK in tomorrow’s world. We must take every opportunity that is given to us to fight for UK interests and ensure we are fully represented. This means for me being at the table, without commitment, as the European Banking Union is negotiated - and find ways to fully cooperate with Centre Right Parties in the European Parliament (in short, the European People’s Party (EPP)) to encourage them to support our points of view. These relationships today languish at an all-time low with no contact between our Alliance of European Conservative and Reformists (AECR) and the EPP.
So, be optimistic: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Above all, trust the people and give them the chance to decide about the UK’s future in the European Union once the choice of what is on offer becomes a clear yes or no.