Britain wedged between a rock and a good place

European nations crumble as emerging countries stride towards world dominance, but the UK would be foolish to forget our old friends in pursuit of new allegiances.


Economic growth has been lost on the continent and shows little sign of returning any time soon. As debt-ridden eurozone states battle to keep afloat, emerging nations are showcasing growth fundamentals that could lead to an entire rebalancing of the global economy. One might forgive us, therefore, for being a little cagey about cementing relations with the wrong party. But losing Europe in search of fairer seas could be equally as punishable, leaving Britain stuck between a rock and a good place.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them?”                                              William Shakespeare – Hamlet

In the short-term the UK can look to growth countries and the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ that lie in the east. Turning our cheek to the sea of troubles that awaits in Europe and the rest of the OECD, this would be the best route towards going it alone and becoming some sort of an offshore centre, in its loosest terms.

In some ways this makes sense. Falling output in the eurozone has pulled the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group of major economies into decline, contracting 0.2 per cent as a whole in the final quarter of 2012. What’s more, there’s little room for encouragement across the developed world, showing that the current economic slump will cut deeper and with more ferocity than we have ever seen before.

So Mr Cameron is entitled to swap Brussels for Bangalore in some regards, as the developing nations open their borders to foreign direct investment (FDI) there’s room for British firms to grow and be interchangeable in our knowledge and resources. What’s more, by distancing ourselves from Europe we avoid being dragged into further turmoil, which remains a real threat in the troubled bloc.

If the eurozone continues to be threatened by weak demand and slow output, by 2050 it could account for only 15 per cent of the world economy, with the US at 16 per cent and China at 28 per cent, according the European Commission. While we will have to wait and see which scenario plays out in the west, one must ask whether this is a risk we need to take?

To take arms

The other option is to take arms against a sea of troubles, ending them by creating a staunch opposition. Europe, without doubt, remains a troublesome place for any business or nation to make ground, but overcoming the troubles is best achieved through unity, and there are mutual gains to be made if a solution can be found.

A place within the world’s biggest single market and as part of a potential superpower is more than we could ever achieve single handily. Since January 1993, the Commission estimates that the single market created 2.5 million jobs and €877 billion of extra prosperity, thereby upholding the principle of an open liberal market economy in Europe and making everyone wealthier.

The growth rates seen in the east are only achievable among developing nations, and it is with great unity that losses have been mitigated in Europe in the face of the biggest financial crisis in history. With common trade laws, environmental practices and more, we have established a common level of good practice which is being observed across the board.

Forgive our ignorance

But the biggest argument for Britain’s place in Europe is that other nations are much keener to make concessions to the EU than to individual member states because they see the rewards of gaining access to the EU market as much greater than the rewards of gaining access to any individual national market.

President Obama politely reminded us that a Britain without Europe is not such a ‘special’ place to be, and we should mindful that as tech giants and financial firms rush to establish headquarters in London, they will be less willing to do so if they faced high barriers to entry across the English Channel.

By Jack Peat

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