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Britannia in trouble: Detail of “Caught Between Death and the Doctor’s”, 1804, by James Gillray. The caricature shows (left to right) Addington, Pitt, Fox and Napoleon

I have been more engaged in the EU referendum than any other political contest in my life. I first became involved in the debate when Jimmy Goldsmith led the Referendum Party in 1997. It has taken 40 years to secure a vote on this vital issue, and I fear we will never get another chance if we consent to remain. In recent months I have read and debated more about the issues than in the preceding decade, and five new books have provided plenty of instructive material to consider.

Each has its merits. For someone who wants a short, punchy essay, Daniel Hannan’s A Doomed Marriage (Notting Hill Editions, £8.99) is the answer. He provides an excellent high-level case for the Leave camp. As an MEP since 1999 Hannan has extensive understanding of the Brussels machine. He is a persuasive author and a tireless advocate for an EU-free future for Britain.

I especially enjoyed his chapter entitled “The Tyranny of the Status Quo”. In it he describes how legions of organisations benefit from EU funding and regulations, in the process becoming client entities of Brussels.  Charities like the Friends of the Earth and Oxfam are all corrupted by EU subventions. Even that Big Business lobby group the CBI receives EU cash. So they all line up to parrot the Establishment lines from Project Fear. I attended a debate with a batch of “creative industry” attendees. I am sure the majority of them secured financial support from the EU — which in effect bought their support in the referendum. Of course this cash is in effect British cash, channelled via Brussels, since we pay £350 million a week into the EU’s coffers. It then dispenses that money and creates client supporters.

The energetic  Hannan has also written a weightier tome, called Why Vote Leave (Head of Zeus, £9.99). Essentially this covers the same ground, and even includes some almost identical material. Certainly, no one should buy both. As ever, Hannan writes well, and provides a thoroughly researched and convincing case for the Leave campaign. In many ways he is perhaps the best spokesperson the Brexit camp has: optimistic, articulate, charismatic and highly knowledgeable. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, he should surely leave Brussels, find a constituency in Britain and practise politics at Westminster.

Roger Bootle’s book, The Trouble with Europe (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, £9.99), is a new edition of a work first published a couple of years ago. Roger is an exceptionally clever economist who has built up a highly successful consultancy called Capital Economics. Consequently, unlike the vast majority of his profession, he knows how to create and run a business, and make real money. In my mind this gives him an authority and insight which so many of his overly academic fellow economists lack. 

The Trouble with Europe is a pretty comprehensive guide to all the issues surrounding Britain’s relationship with the EU. It explains why the EU came about, whether it has been a success, what its future looks like, and how we might leave it. Bootle is a pronounced sceptic. He was doubtful about both the ERM and the euro from the start, and has been proven right on both counts.  He also called the US real estate bubble and the dot com boom correctly. 

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July 4th, 2016
2:07 PM
"...since we pay £350 million a week into the EU’s coffers." Well, now we know this figure is all wrong, a "mistake," Farage called it.

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