Tony Blair is known for his exaggerated claims.If you're thinking that the pages of the Guardian are looking a little bare of fiery pro-euro commentary at the moment, you're right. They are. It seems it all the avowedly pro-euro commentators that produced them are giving up on the British electorate, In their efforts to escape a world of unashamed and unabashed 'nationalism' and 'xenophobia,' some, such as Richard Cohen, go to America. Others go to Oman. Adrian Croft has written a piece for the Oman Daily Observer, which almost sounded neutral until he wheeled out the phrase 'vocal band of EU-haters.' He goes on to make some familiar pro-euro claims for the benefit of the Omani readership, repeating the somewhat accurate but nonetheless misleading claim that 'half our trade is with the EU' assertion, before dragging out the oldest and most roasted chestnut of all: that over three million jobs depend on our EU membership.
This is a claim that anyone who's waded so far as ankle-deep into the EU debate will have heard more times than they can care to count. But there's a problem with it. No-one actually said it. The original statement, made by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research on behalf of Britain in Europe, a think-tank of high-flying politicians including Tony Blair and Kenneth Clarke, was that three point five million jobs were involved with trade with Europe, which, including every piece of paid employment that's in any way to do with a product exported to or imported from the Continent, is a different thing entirely. The NIESR's then-head, Dr. Martin Weale, was so outraged by how the pressure group twisted his words that he likened them to Nazi propagandist Goebbels. His exact words were 'in many years of academic research I cannot recall such a willful distortion of the facts.'
He, of course, was only referring to how they'd disfigured his statements: even if it was true that three point five million jobs depend on trade with the EU, that says nothing about the pros and cons of EU withdrawal. There is no reason to believe that if we left the EU this trade would cease. There are one hundred and sixty-two reasons to believe the opposite: the countries of the world, who, although they are neither members of the EU nor the European Economic Area, still manage to trade freely with both. Often, the trade that countries in this group generate is, in most instances, much smaller than that between the EU and the United Kingdom. It includes Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Haiti, for example. Plus, many of them have a trade surplus with the EU - i.e. they make more money from trading with the European Union than the EU makes from trading with them - whereas the UK is currently running at a deficit of £48,000,000,000.
It is inconceivable that EU countries would cease trade with us if we left - one, most countries on the planet have never been members of either the EU, or even the single market, and yet they can import and export as they please. Two, they'd lose a lot of money from lucrative export markets. There is a historical precedent for those who still aren't convinced: an island, a part of Denmark with the population of a small town, left the EU's predecessor, the EEC, in 1985 following a popular referendum. Yet they still trade with the EU and EFTA.
And if you still aren't convinced, here's a quote from Tony Blair himself:
'Of course Britain could survive outside the EU...we could probably get access to the Single Market as Norway and Switzerland do'