Major warns EU exit would be disastrous for Britain
Britain would pay a “severe price” if she left the European Union, Sir John Major has warned.
The former prime minister has painted a bleak picture for Britain should a referendum on the EU result in Britain leaving the political bloc, including international isolation, diminished influence and billions of additional costs.
Major supported negotiations on EU membership and then an in or out referendum, which has been promised by current prime minister David Cameron should the Tory party remain in power after the 2015 general election.
He has emphasised, however, that the government must remain realistic about what negotiations could achieve.
Nevertheless, he describe Britain leaving the EU after a future referendum as “a truly dreadful outcome”.
“Of course, we would survive, but there would be a severe price to pay in economic well-being, in jobs and in international prestige,” he said.
He continued: “In a world of seven billion people, our island would be moving further apart from our closest and largest trading partners, at the very time when they, themselves, are drawing closer together. This makes no sense at all.”
The economic cost of negotiations to leave would be enormous and further costs may be incurred paying to retain access to the single market.
Major gave Norway as an example, stating that as a non-member it pays 80% per capita more than the UK does as an EU member.
He also emphasised how the UK would still be obliged to implement EU legislation but would lose her ability to influence its formation, which could cause great harm to the City and other sectors and thereby inward investment.
The former prime minister also described the negative effect on the EU itself should Britain, one of its biggest economies, choose to leave, including the “long and historic reach” of Britain’s diplomacy and its military power.
Conversely, at a recent Treasury select committee meeting, former Goldman Sachs Asset Management chairman, Jim O’Neill, said: “We should not be scared of [leaving the EU] and exploring a world without it.”
Mr O’Neill highlighted the availability of significant opportunities elsewhere in the world and advised the government: “Be bold, be global and don’t worry so much.”
At the same meeting, Dr Gerard Lyons, chief economic advisor to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, said Britain’s success was “not dependent” on remaining within the EU, but made it clear it would be “optimal” for Britain to stay.