Richard North, 26/06/2014  

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I saw this earlier yesterday, and wondered whether even to report it. After all, we've heard the "three million British jobs" lie so often that it must surely now have lost its force. However, it is important now and again to remind ourselves of the nature of the lie, to which extent we have to thank Danny Alexander for bringing it up again.

The lie gains its force by the act of elision, linking membership of the EU with membership of the Single Market. For sure, there are British jobs linked with exporting goods and services to the EU-27, but these arise from Single Market membership.

And, as we well know, it is quite possible to be fully functional participants in the Single Market without being members of the EU. This we can do by joining EFTA and staying within the EEA.

Thus, there is no risk from leaving the EU, per se. The risk would arise only we were rash enough to leave without making suitable arrangements for continuing trade – the sort of thing that some people advocate with immediate, unilateral repeal of the European Communities Act.

The trouble is that there are people in the "eurosceptic" camp who want that immediate exit, thus giving the Alexander lie some traction. Leaving without first making alternative arrangements would be tremendously disruptive. Eventually, we would replace lost EU business, but adjustments would take years.

If we are to kill this lie, therefore, we must promote an exit strategy that ensures continued UK participation in the Single Market. Anyone who wants to buy in to immediate exit is giving the likes of Danny Alexander their opening.

Similarly, planning on leaving and then negotiating free trade agreements with potential third country partners, as a substitute  for EU trade, is just as hazardous. A gap between leaving the EU and making such deals could damage our economy prospects and crash employment prospects.

As such, the Alexander "lie" cannot be dismissed entirely. The "eurosceptic" community, if it tries hard enough, can make it happen. The lie is the lie only as long as we are determined to make it so.


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