Why Britain is the fool of the EU – Being in the EU is good for business but we’ve got to start standing up for ourselves, says Professor Kevin Morley…
In cricket, if a batsman nicks the ball to the wicketkeeper but the umpire doesn’t spot it, the batsman is expected to ‘walk’. The British code of fair play dictates they should respect the rules, stiffen the upper lip and fall on their sword, even if it is not in the team’s best interests.
In Brussels, our country has been doing something comparable to ‘walking’ for a long time. Our national obsession with obeying the rules and doing things by the book has dominated our relationship with the European Union. And it’s an obsession that has led to the serious possibility of Brexit because the electorate has become increasingly frustrated with our inability to stand up for ourselves.
The problem is simple: we accept everything the EU suggests. “We’re in the club so we must play by the rules, and we’ll do it whether it’s good for us or not,” say our civil servants. The trouble is, we’re about the only EU country daft enough to think like this.
Here’s an example: last year the EU suggested that a percentage of the EU subsidy that farmers receive should be put to one side and used to protect badgers. Every country in Europe – except Britain – said no. The French said something slightly stronger than “no”. We on the other hand said: “How much?” The EU suggested around 6%. “Make it 10%,” we replied. So today, as a UK sheep farmer (which I now am, by the way) 10% is taken from my subsidy to keep badgers alive, even though I’m also paying UK tax to kill them.
This crazy situation – and countless others like it – is not the fault of the EU. It’s the fault of our country. And the problem lies with our civil servants. Yes, there are bureaucrats in Brussels producing hundreds of laws. But our bureaucrats in Whitehall are swallowing them whole and begging for more. They can’t believe their luck. Not only can they enact them, they can gold-plate them too. It’s a bureaucrat disco. EU bureaucrats are talking to UK bureaucrats and they’re all having a whale of a time at our expense.
The tragedy of this is that the EU is good for business. When asked recently by the SMMT [Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders] for my view as a businessman on whether we should stay or leave the EU, I said we should stay. Arlington Industries Group, which I chair, is involved in the automotive and aerospace sectors, and being in the EU is important for those industries. It’s advantageous for many others, too.
So what is the solution here? On paper, it’s simple: Britain should stay in the EU because it makes sense for business but do what virtually every other EU country does: only obey the rules that suit us. We must stop our bloated public sector from teaming up with Brussels for their red tape fuelled parties.
Here are some interesting figures. In 2012, 76% of everything that came out of the EU was enacted and gold-plated by Britain – even stuff we didn’t have to enact. In France it was 38%. Germany – 17%. Greece? They didn’t even open the emails.
The Europeans are doing what suits them. We’re not. We’re doing what suits them too because our own bureaucrats are addicted to enacting legislation. It’s their raison d’etre.
We need a government that sticks up for the interests of the UK within the EU and neuters the power of the bureaucrats, rather than bowing down to every single piece of advice, directive and piece of legislation. That’s what the French do, that’s what the Irish do and that’s what the Germans do. That’s what virtually every other country does. Except Britain.
If we are to stay in the EU – and staying is the right thing to do from a business perspective – we have to stop behaving like the batsman who ‘walks’ before they’re given out. We must stop loving the rules more than winning the game. Other countries do what’s right for their electorate. We must be more like them.
Professor Kevin Morley is former CEO of Rover Group and founding member of Alchemy Partners. He is now a FEBE Ambassador, chairman of Arlington Industries Group and a Director of dfs.plc, amongst others. He is also Honorary Professor in Business Studies at Warwick Business School and has been recently honoured with a D Litt by Aston University. An expert on automotive trends and markets, he regularly appears in the media and is one of Europe’s leading automotive executives. He also runs a 150-acre sheep farm…