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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

5 Good Reasons Britons Want Out of the European Union

The British public is leaning towards dumping the EU.

Just as Americans wouldn’t want U.S. tax, immigration and regulatory policy to be controlled by an imaginary American Union office based in Buenos Aires, many British don’t like their country being controlled by European Union bureaucrats in Brussels. 

That is why the latest polls show more British side with the “Leave” than the “Remain” campaign ahead of the Brexit referendum on June 23.

Americans wouldn’t like an American Union — call it the AU for short — responsible for 60% of laws, which is the share in Britain that come from the EU in Brussels rather than from Parliament in London. We wouldn’t like an AU telling us we couldn’t deport criminals or control our borders, as the EU does to Britain.

We wouldn’t want an AU ruling that we could no longer buy food by the pound, but would have to buy it in kilos because in Latin America food is measured in kilos. That is what the EU tells Britain. Everything from tomatoes to butter to flour has to be sold in kilos.

Americans wouldn’t like an American Union telling us how many hours we are allowed to work. According to EU law, Brits cannot work for more than 48 hours a week, averaged over 17 weeks. People who do work more have to sign a form saying that they agree to opt out of the 48-hour week. People who work in certain occupations, primarily transportation — airlines, shipping, trucking — aren’t permitted to opt out and cannot work more than 48 hours even if they want to do so.

Congress didn’t pass a cap-and- trade emissions trading program when it was proposed under a Democratic Congress in 2009-2010. America wouldn’t like to have such a program imposed by an American Union. But the U.K. has to take part in the EU Emissions Trading System. It requires 15% of electricity to be generated by renewables by 2020, even if this raises the price of electricity for British households.

To meet these EU regulations, the U.K. is burning wood pellets from the U.S. because wood is considered a renewable. America exported over 4 million short tons of wood pellets to Europe in 2014, and about 80% went to the U.K. The U.K. is converting its coal plants to burning American wood. Although environmentalists favor renewables, many, such as Debbie Hammel of the Natural Resources Defense Council, believe that burning wood harms forests and increases carbon emissions. Americans wouldn’t like an American Union setting standards for cars and trucks. But that’s what the EU does to Britain with its numerous automobile directives.

“Defeat devices,” which allow emissions to appear lower when the car is tested, are banned, but as the Volkswagen scandal has shown us, this has little effect. The EU red tape doesn’t always bring results.

The object of these rules is harmonization. One aspect of the EU is to get rid of national identity, to create a U.S. of Europe. No matter that countries like their national identity. They do not want to be merged into a blended whole. The blandness of the EU is one reason that nationalist parties, such as UKIP in the U.K., the National Front in France, and the Catalan nationalist parties in Spain have grown in power.

Some suggest that the British economy will be more stable if it stays in the EU. But the EU itself has massive economic problems, with a growth rate of 1.4%, underfunded public pensions, and bloated welfare obligations. Its lack of control over its borders has resulted in over a million refugees and economic migrants, some of whom are linked with ISIS and are planning terrorist attacks. Under EU law, all have to be housed and fed at EU taxpayer expense. This is no recipe for stability. President Obama should appreciate Britain’s desire for independence, said British historian Andrew Roberts in his acceptance speech on winning the Bradley Prize in Washington on Wednesday.

Yet Obama visited Britain in April and tried to bully the British into remaining in the EU by telling them that “the U.K. is going to be in the back of the queue” in any trade deals—even though Britain is one of America’s biggest export markets. Roberts said that when the U.S. wanted help in fighting Iraq, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair didn’t put America at the back of the queue, but pledged his complete support.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Korean War, Britain stood with America. The EU is taking decisions ever further away from Parliament, in contempt of national sovereignty. No wonder the Brits are fed up. Just as the U.S. wouldn’t want to live under an American Union, and declared freedom from England 240 years ago, now Britain wants to declare freedom from the EU.

This article originally appeared on MarketWatch and E21.

  • Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, is director of Economics21 and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.