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Independent view

Prime Minister Tony Blair recently announced a reverse gear change and wants to offer us a referendum on the European Union constitution.

I am too old in the tooth to take this promise as anything but a political move. It is at times like this that your mind becomes more concentrated on the whole EU debate.

Now forgive me if I am being ignorant about all this but can anyone truly give me an overwhelming argument in favour of the UK&#39s continuing membership of the European Union?

•We pay billions of pounds to the EU each year whereas poorer countries receive billions of pounds.

•We have unelected, unaccountable commissioners running the EU.

•We are ruled from Brussels by bureaucrats.

•Laws are created with little bearing for the unique characteristics of our country.

•We are expected to give up political, economic and constitutional powers to the EU.

•We are expected to give up our voting veto.

The list goes on.

It appears to me that we are all being hoodwinked into believing that life would be much worse outside the EU. We will have high unemployment, we will trade far less with EU countries, we will face untold hardships, etc.

Yet the great economic powers of the US, Japan and China do not seem to have trouble in trading with EU countries and they are not even members. A more local example is Norway which still does a lot of trade with the EU.

I cannot for the life of me see why the UK has to be in the EU to trade with EU countries. The EU does not impose import tariffs on non-EU countries, does it?

As for the single currency, economic and political union, enlargement and accession what are the benefits for the UK? Very few as I see it.

By taking a look at UK financial services you can already see that the EU is having a damaging effect. New rules are constantly passed which reflect the very different nature of EU financial services, in that Europe is largely dominated by the banks and IFAs are virtually unheard of.

That is why we keep getting ridiculous rules passed such as ludicrously high capital adequacy requirements for small IFA firms, proposals to ban execution only business, no professional indemnity insurance waivers for firms who cannot get cover, etc.

The UK has a financial services industry that is second to none. It is sophisticated, full of choice, there is a thriving independent intermediary market, it is competitive and we have massive amounts under management in pensions and investments compared with other EU countries.

If anything, the rest of the EU should try to follow our lead instead of bandying around its bancassurers&#39 charter.

I remember when we first joined what was known as the EEC in 1975. Then, the aim seemed to be primarily one of promoting cross-border trade. Over the years, the EU has changed. The aim now seems to be to create one monster superstate with complete economic and political union.

If Tony Blair has his way, it is possible that we could end up ceding so much power to the EU that we will undo much of what we have achieved over the last 20 years or so and inevitably slide into economic decline.

The UK has been a great success economically and it is now the fourth-biggest economy in the world. Why undo all of that and get more tied into the EU Super Loony State which has higher unemployment, higher taxes, less new job creation and slower economic growth than us?

Let me leave you with one simple example. We have all heard about wine lakes, butter mountains and the crazy EU agricultural subsidies. I think we in the UK should campaign for a single language.

Obviously, it has to be English – already accepted as the business language of the world. We have got a single currency so why shouldn&#39t we have a single language? Incredibly, the EU already employs 1,300 interpreters and these numbers are about to double to 2,600.

Experts predict that the cost of the EU&#39s translation service is set to increase from £361m to £525m a year. Just one simple example of the EU Super Loony State. I rest my case.

Tony Byrne is business development director of Wealth And Tax Management


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