June 22, 2016

Britain Doesn't Need The EU To Thrive

The United Kingdom will tomorrow vote either to leave or remain in the European Union. This is the most important European event of this century since it will likely have important domino effects for the rest of Europe.

A recent poll showed that if the UK could keep free trade with EU nations, the British people would vote overwhelmingly to leave the EU. To drum up support for staying in the EU, the UK government and quasi-government agencies, like the IMF and OECD, have issued continuous warnings about the costs of such a divorce. The IMF recently reiterated its forecasts that Brexit would have a significant negative effect on the UK economy with a drop in GDP anywhere between 1% and 9% over the long term.

The reality is that Brexit would probably only have a minor initial impact on trade or GDP and, on the contrary, would open up vast possibilities for the UK to exploit trade relations with other faster growing regions of the world without having to reach complex trade agreements that satisfy the vested interests of the other 28 members of the EU. 

The impact of Brexit on trade has been grossly exaggerated. In today's world, a product has parts coming from all over the world. A BMW is only called German because of historical association. In reality, the steel in a BMW may come from Brazil or China, the upholstery from the UK, the engine from France, and the electronics from the USA. Labor costs are only 10% of a car and some may even be foreign labor. Also, profits are distributed to BMW shareholders and bondholders which are more likely to be sent to a hedge fund in Japan than to the mechanic in Dusseldorf. The world is massively economically integrated. Relatively free trade and free movement of capital is no longer an option for most countries, whether it is the UK or any of the other countries in the EU. That boat sailed years ago!

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