Martin Horwood’s small carrot fails to impress

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At Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this week, the Europhile MP for Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, produced a jokey question about the PM’s infamous ‘Mandela memorial selfie’ with Obama and the Danish PM,  which he cleverly wrapped around a plug for the EU’s plan to abolish roaming charges for mobile phone users travelling within the EU.

Everyone had a good laugh and Cameron got to deploy the witty reply about the selfie that had of course been prepared, but what of the serious point that Horwood was trying to get across? The pro-EU propagandists are always looking for something—anything!—positive that touches ordinary people’s lives and which can be claimed as an EU achievement.

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(Of course their boasts usually rest on a glaring error of reasoning. To take one of their favourite examples: just because it was through the EU that countries acted to clean up their beaches, it doesn’t mean that this could only have been done through the EU. Say your only local supermarket is a Sainsbury’s; you wouldn’t go around claiming that they saved you from starving. Rather, you quite reasonably assume that if Sainsbury’s weren’t there you’d simply get your food elsewhere. Quite probably there’d be a Tesco or a Morrisons in its place instead.)

As it looks ever more inevitable that the political elite will eventually be forced into giving the people of this country their In/Out EU referendum, so the Europhiles rootle ever more frantically for fresh carrots that they can promise us, if we’re good donkeys and vote to stay in the EU. The abolition of mobile roaming charges being dangled in front of us by Martin Horwood is just such a carrot.

It may sound good, but as so often happens the lumbering EU has already been left behind by a faster, more nimble actor. This time it’s the mobile phone company Three, who recently announced free roaming in eleven countries for their customers, with more on the way. Unlike the EU’s proposal, this carrot is already well within reach. Nor does it take the EU’s narrow, ‘Little European’ view of the world either; as well as several EU nations, the countries in question include the USA, Australia and Hong Kong.

Instead of waiting for the EU to grind out a compromise, Three has simply done bilateral deals with its opposite numbers in various important markets around the world. Imagine the additional exports and investment the UK could unlock if we took the same approach to signing trade deals with wealthy and fast growing countries beyond Europe!

Boris Johnson touched on this a few weeks ago, when he said that, if the EU couldn’t fix a free trade deal, the UK should simply negotiate our own deal with China. He’s right, but there’s just one small problem: as Boris must know, we are actually prevented from signing our own trade deals while we remain in the EU. We have to wait for the EU, and if they can’t or won’t sign a deal there’s nothing we can do about it. Well, enough is enough.

Martin Horwood may have thought he was being very clever by dangling another little EU carrot in front of us, but why should we have to wait patiently for occasional treats from the hand of Brussels? It’s time to jump free of the EU’s increasingly barren little European field—there’s a whole vegetable patch out there!

By James Harvard, Campaign Manager

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