The claim made by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown that outside the EU the UK would be “the North Korea of Europe” is ignoring the facts - and Britain’s potential.
Unlike North Korea, the UK has a large number of global alliances and partners. It had these before the creation of the EU and it will continue to have these if it left the EU. These include our relationships with member states of the Commonwealth and the US.
Indeed, even if the UK left the EU it would still be a member of over 90 international organisations and would finally be able to take up its seat on another one - the World Trade Organisation - where the EU represents not just the UK but its other member states.
It should be pointed out that times have changed since the UK joined the EU. In trade terms, when the UK joined in 1973, the bloc accounted for 37 per cent of world GDP. IMF figures indicate that in 2013 the EU accounted for just 23 per cent of global GDP. The evidence suggests that the world is growing - and that the EU is a shrinking part of it. With the Commonwealth’s overall GDP set to overtake the EU’s in 2019, the UK should look to embrace the global market and its opportunities.
These factors bring into question why the UK would be isolated if it left the EU. The Hong Kong option, which Mr Brown suggested would leave the UK “out in the cold with few friends, no influence, little new trade and even less new investment”, would certainly not isolate the UK from its global partners. Hong Kong itself is classed by the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC as the economically freest state in the world.
In its 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage describe Hong Kong as “one of the world’s most open economies for international trade and investment”. Second on this year’s index is Singapore, which in terms of investment from developed economies in Europe increased its foreign direct investment (FDI) from $55.4bn in 2000 to $181bn in 2010.
With a number of global sectors of excellence, the UK would have little trouble attracting continued flows of FDI if it left the EU due to the framing of a number of trade agreements. Whatever the fate of TTIP - the free trade agreement currently being negotiated by the EU and the US - soon after leaving the EU the UK could expect to negotiate a number of free trade agreements (FTAs). The biggest of these would be signed with the US but a deal could also be struck between the UK and the EU itself and prove the scaremongering stories about 3m job losses wrong.
As mentioned by Nile Gardiner, a US-UK FTA would be a powerful expression of the Anglo-American Special Relationship, further bringing together two great nations with a shared history, culture and language, as well as a deep commitment to liberty.
As both he and Ted Bromund argue in a recent report published by Heritage, “a US-UK free trade area should serve as a symbol of and a real contribution toward a shared Anglo-American rejection of supranational control and the shared belief that government must be based on sovereignty and freedom".