The Blog

Europe: The Meaning of 'In', the Meaning of 'Out'

The campaign to stay in can't be only about pounds, shillings and pence. This is a Battle for Britain's future. The good that comes from our EU membership could be so much better if the UK got stuck in; the bad is so much worse.

British Influence was correctly identified in a recent episode of BBC Radio 4 Analysis called 'Referendum Conundrums' as the organisation which aims to be the "key campaigning force to keep Britain in the EU".

Disappointingly, though, the programme failed to examine the depth of our rationale for staying in. Various commentators on the programme - and some afterwards, including the esteemed Janan Ganesh - stated that the pro-groups had no vision and, even if they had, none was required because base fear coupled with the unappealing alternatives would suffice to swing the vote. Transactional, economic arguments would be the best that the browbeaten British public would have to rely on. We disagree.

Such an empty, Gradgrindian philosophy cannot work alone. The warning from Scotland must be that fear might win a battle but it does not win the war. We have a very clear vision for Britain about what in and out means and we are convinced that the British people share it. As a guiding principle we want nothing less than a fundamental change in Britain's approach to Europe involving a full-hearted engagement with a reforming Europe in which the people are part of, not absent from, the venture. We believe that the public want this but that they are, to coin a phrase, lions led by donkeys.

The recent Chatham House poll revealed that two thirds of the British public wanted Britain to aspire to great power status. Nostalgic tosh some may say. But the UK is the second biggest economic power in Europe, one of the top three soft power nations of the world, the fourth biggest defence, spender plus a senior player in all of the global institutions. So it was unsurprising to see Army top brass dismayed at Britain's no show in Moscow last week, confused by Britain's lacklustre combat with ISIS and it's hand-wringing over the chaos in North Africa. On the latest BBC Sunday Politics, even Rory Stewart MP, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, urged the UK to step up. "We are not, after all, Denmark," he stated.

The people want Britain to lead in Europe by demonstrably working together with its allies. Last month, British Influence launched a report demonstrating that Britain could and should lead. Our British Influence Scorecard revealed that the UK was winning the policy battle in Europe, a stand endorsed by Carl Bildt, the former Swedish Prime Minister and keen ally of the UK. The tragedy is that we are losing the politics - from failing to woo allies well enough through to failing to fill Brussels institutions with enough Brits to make a difference. Despite the fact that, on the second anniversary of the PM's Bloomberg speech, we shouted from the rooftops that pretty much all of his demands have been agreed, MPs and journalists still ponder what 'renegotiation' means. The truth is in front of them. The meaning of In for British Influence is that with good leadership the UK can achieve change in Europe in order to enhance our security, boost our prosperity and entrench our values which are more threatened since the end of the cold war. Two thirds of the British public endorse this approach.

This month we will focus on the meaning of Out. This week we the Senior European Experts group with whom we work closely publish a paper examining the alternatives to EU membership. The four options are far from enticing. The Norwegian, Swiss and Turkish choices certainly allow access to the Single Market - a policy desire shared by all major parties and even UKIP. The problem is that they permit zero influence over the laws that affect the business of the single market. The country will have to accept regulation without representation - a democratic paradox which, after all, inspired the American war of independence. The final option - holding out in the World Trade Organisation - would involve the UK facing tariffs on goods and no access to the single market for services. A shallow sovereignty.

The political result of out would be catastrophic. To save the British Union, membership of the European Union must continue. Out would mean no UK - as the Scots would surely leverage the chance for another referendum and then leave; less Independence - as the UK would have less not more say over the rules that govern European and world trade; and, to spin the pun, no party - particularly for the younger generation who would surely suffer from the jobs that would be lost through Brexit.

The campaign to stay in can't be only about pounds, shillings and pence. This is a Battle for Britain's future. The good that comes from our EU membership could be so much better if the UK got stuck in; the bad is so much worse.