More grim dusk than bright dawn

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From Mr Tom Brown.

Sir, Without any hint of irony, Iain Mansfield in his essay on “Brexit” (April 12) suggests the UK join the European Free Trade Association, which we founded in 1960 as a rival to the European Community, but which essentially failed as a trading zone, as its members left to join the “real deal” European Union, leaving just Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and Norway; which, with all respect for these nations, is not a serious alternative to being inside a community with all Europe’s largest economies, including central and eastern Europe, which the UK strongly pushed to include fully within the EU.

Mr Mansfield admits that the UK outside would have to accept some EU regulation, and also that it would be excluded from the single market in financial services, which would be disastrous for the City of London and the UK’s largest single source of foreign exchange. He adopts a dirigiste view of trade worthy of a Soviet seven-year plan, dictating the redirection of trade away from all the countries surrounding the UK geographically – with the cheapest logistical costs and same standards – to distant continents where other competitors such as Japan, China and the US will always enjoy massive analogous advantages. Lurking beneath the surface is a nostalgia for a revival of the British empire, which with every year even countries like New Zealand make clear has less and less significance for them.

The fact that Germany has dramatically increased its trade and investment flows with China (among other countries) confirms that whatever is holding back the UK has nothing to do with the EU but more likely its own local conditions, including low business investment in capital equipment and training, and over-investment in housing. EU membership is an essential and indispensable precondition for the UK to succeed economically and politically in the modern world, which is why the Conservative threat to take the UK out, if it cannot achieve a loosening of the EU sought by no other member state, is reckless and opposed by the Labour party.

Tom Brown, Labour in the City, London SW5, UK

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