Britain’s EU Commissioner has attacked anti-EU campaigners by implying their cause would damage trade and business.
Lord Jonathan Hill, who earns around EUR20,000 a month plus expenses from his taxpayer-funded job overseeing financial services, said he believed the country would vote to stay in the EU, the Express reports.
The Commissioner, dubbed Lord Who? by his critics, said the case for Britain remaining a member of the EU is “extraordinarily strong” and maintains that the debate was only in its early stages.
His pro EU comments – which are a necessary part of him keeping his job and pension once his term of office is over – were dismissed by UKIP leader Nigel Farage who said an independent Britain would yield “opportunities and hope”.
The new angle in the debate comes as David Cameron hosts Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at Chequers today to discuss the reforms he is hoping to achieve before a vote is held on whether Britain should leave the political union. He will then set out on a tour of Europe to garner support for his proposals.
Europhiles have long quoted a South Bank University research paper written in 2000, claiming it warned three million British jobs are dependent on EU membership. But this has been quashed by one of the report’s authors, Prof Iain Begg, who said that Brexit would not automatically lead to job losses even if they were linked to trade.
“People who will be making the case in the UK and the EU of the business benefits of our membership, the benefits to Britain for geopolitics and for our diplomacy generally, the benefits to being able to try to deliver meaningful free trade agreements – either with the United States or with China – those to me all seem like an extraordinarily strong case to stay in.
“It’s true in politics, as in life, that you can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t have easy access to a single market, you can’t be part of free trade negotiations, you can’t be part of an effective European diplomacy without being a full member of it.”
“The whole history of negotiation is that one goes through a sequence where people say some things are possible, some things aren’t possible and finally at some point you come to a resolution.
“We are a long way away from that. This is like the opening couple of overs of a five-day test match we have had so far. People are interested to know what’s going to happen but I think we need to allow some time to elapse, allow the process to continue and then positions will clarify.”
As a member of the EU, the UK cannot take part in trade negotiations on its own behalf at the World Trade Organisation or bilaterally since the portfolio is handled by a European Commissioner. Between 2004 and 2009, this post was held by Peter Mandelson who is also expected to play a significant role in the ‘In’ campaign.
He is one of a number of figures whose salaries or pensions come directly from Brussels and which are dependent on them continuing to promote the EU and further integration.
Others include Labour peers Lord Kinnock, Lord Hannay and Lord Richard – all former EU Commissioners – who have spent many years trying to spike debate on EU membership, including cost benefit analysis to allow voters to see a clearer picture of an often opaque political topic.
But even their own party has performed an about turn on the referendum, conceding they would support a vote before the end of 2017.
Responding to Lord Hill’s remarks, Mr Farage said pro EU campaigners had “closed their minds and hearts to evidence.”
“Claims that the EU has kept the peace for 70 years, and that Britain would be in some way barred from trade with the EU nations rebels against all evidence,” he said.
“Britain’s future as an independent trading nation, making decisions about its own future, engaging with the world and growing in confidence and success will give the people of this country great opportunities and hope.
“They must allow individual members of the Shadow Cabinet and the Parliamentary Labour Party to campaign and vote on this great matter freely, unwhipped.”
And Conservative MEP Dan Hannan told Breitbart London, “If by ‘having our cake and eating it’ Lord Hill means getting significant powers back while he keeps his job, he’s right.
“But what most of us want is a kind of associate deal, common market but not common government. And that plainly is on offer.”
Meanwhile, it has been decided that only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens who are resident in the UK will be allowed to vote.
There had been concerns from eurosceptics that pro-Europeans could effectively rig the vote by giving EU citizens living in the UK a decisive say.