Yesterday my Private Member’s Bill "Analysis of Cost and Benefits [NAFTA
Membership] Bill" was introduced in the Commons. This was not intended to
be a Valentine’s Day message to the United States, but an invitation to
Parliament and the British public to think seriously about U.S. – U.K.
In 1999, British institutions invested over ?107 billion in companies
overseas. Of that, 31% was in the other 14 nations of the European Union
and 63% was in the United States alone. A common language, legal system,
business ethic, freer trade, and instant communications have made
compatibility rather than geography the determinant of Britain’s economic
future. These trends are likely to strengthen.
Next month, the International Trade Commission (an agency of the U.S.
Government) will be visiting Britain as part of its Inquiry into the effect
on the U.S. economy if Britain were to be a part of the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is not unresonable for Britain occasionally to
revisit and audit its own future possibilities. With no membership fees
(Britain currently pays ?20 million each day into European Union coffers)
and no directives, NAFTA makes a tempting alternative to the E.U. with a
market 25% richer than the E.U.
Fortunately, the latest round of World Trade Organisation treaties guarantee
continued trade with continental Europe whether we find ourselves in or out
of the E.U. in years to come. With the net cost of our E.U. membership
estimated by the Institute of Directors to be moving towards a crippling ?50
billion each year, perhaps it is about time for Parliament to undertake a
dispassionate review of Britain’s options for the future.
Politicians have been right to argue over sovereignty issues in relation to
Europe. But the time is well overdue for a rigorous economic analysis.