India is the future, not EuropePosted on August 8, 2010
The size and seniority of the British Government delegation sent to India shows that Westminster is at last waking up to the thing that everyone else knows – India is the great economic hope for the 21st Century.
With a rapidly expanding economy, a vast population and a well-functioning, liberal democracy, it is essential that we tap into India’s growing wealth.
The focus on the Old World, so typified by the British political class’ obsession with European integration, is worse than irrelevant, it is becoming dangerous. By bricking ourselves up in a protectionist Fortress Europe, we send the insulting signal that we don’t want to buy Indian goods, and we don’t want them to buy our products.
There is no future for Britain looking inward and backward, or being trapped in a Eurocentric world. Our country must be open for global business.
This is a welcome change in rhetoric, particularly to hear a Liberal Democrat acknowledge the foolishness of trying to be little-Europeaners when Europe is falling behind the rest of the world. But when will it be matched by a change in action?
Britain has given up control of her own trade policy. Even though David Cameron and Vince Cable, the PM and Business Secretary, recognise that our future must lie in free trade with India, the decision is out of their hands.
Instead of being able to simply go ahead and drop our trade barriers to India – bilaterally or even unilaterally – they have to sit on their hands and wait for the EU to strike a deal that allows the corrosive regime of protectionism and subsidies in all sorts of industries to continue.
We have waited through four years of moribund EU-India negotiations – how much longer must we wait to do what we could easily simply do tomorrow if we controlled our own trade policy?
The argument for “pooling” sovereignty in the EU is supposedly that it gives us more clout – and Vince Cable amongst others has peddled the myth that we would be ignored if we negotiated alone. But Britain, not the EU, is ideally placed to deal with India; we share so many cultural, liguistic and even legal ties with them that we should be natural partners.
Frankly, it is shameful that while we wait on negotiators who never have to answer to the people for the harm their delays do to our economic prospects, other, smaller and more nimble economies like Canada have already taken advantage of those same links to get their share of the Indian dream.
If we aren’t careful we will find ourselves in a stagnant economic backwater where instead of musing on the possibility of free trade with India, we will be begging them to sign on any terms.
David Cameron and Vince Cable are right – it is time for free trade with India, and the abandonment of the “eurocentric” obsession. But that is all talk unless they actually do something about it.