5 ways we’ll be a stronger global player if we stay in EU

by David Hannay | 12.11.2019

Theresa May used to boast about how Brexit would turn us into “global Britain”. One doesn’t hear so much of that rhetoric under her successor – perhaps because Brexiters have become embarrassed by how a Trump trade deal could lead to things like maggots in our orange juice and rat hairs in our paprika. 

We will be stronger and more effective on the global stage if we stay in the EU. We will be working together with 27 other countries with whom we share values and interests – rather than flying solo and being bullied by bigger powers. 

Here are five of the main ways we can advance our national interests and contribute to a more effective European voice in the world.

Climate crisis

The EU is an essential player in the efforts to implement and to enhance the Paris accords, particularly now that Donald Trump’s America is withdrawing from them. There will be plenty of tensions within the EU over how best to fulfil that role. The UK should be in there influencing that debate in an ambitious direction. EU rules will not stop us from going even further ourselves if that is what we decide.

Trade policy

While we have been agonising over Brexit, the EU has been getting on with negotiating freer and fairer trade agreements with many of the most promising trading partners – South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the main countries of Latin America (Mexico, Chile and now Mercosur). More such agreements, for example with Australia and New Zealand, are in the pipeline. We could be on the inside pushing that agenda, not on the outside competing with it. We could also be working to sustain the World Trade Organisation against the damage being inflicted on it by Trump’s trade wars.


Europe needs to pull its weight more effectively in NATO and make a greater contribution to its collective security. The UK has always been a key player on European security issues and is more likely to be so again if we are shaping European policy from the inside. The EU has just made a serious mistake in refusing to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, a decision which risks undermining European security and over which we had no influence because we were on the way out. 

Regulating and taxing multinationals 

We need to get to grips with giant companies that use their power to bully consumers and don’t pay enough tax. Are we more likely to do that if we are supporting the European Commission’s vigorous efforts? Or will we achieve more if we are on our own, and open to pressure and blackmail when other countries such as China and the US do not like what we are doing?

Human rights

The challenges to human rights are, if anything, increasing. Integrating a human rights dimension into foreign policy is always a high risk undertaking. Will we be more effective at doing so as part of the EU which broadly shares our values and interests – or acting on our own, and so liable to be buffeted by threats of retaliation and discrimination?

All this will be on the line on December 12, put there by a government that is desperate to take us out of the EU on January 31 come what may.

This is the latest in a series of articles setting out the positive case for EU membership. Previous pieces are:

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “5 ways we’ll be a stronger global player if we stay in EU”

  • I watched a “press club” type discussion between political journalists on the main German tv network, about German foreign policy. It was striking that in a half an hour discussion, there was not one mention of Britain. Plenty of references to France and what the Polish may want, as well as to the US, Russia and China. Just some evidence to show that we are becoming an international irrelevance.

    Which leads to the question, what will British foreign policy be post Brexit? Will it be clinging to the coattails of the US? Or will it be lots of alliances with random groups of nations changing from crisis to crisis? Hardly a basis for building a stable, reliable partnership with anyone.

  • So, lets look at the 5 questions

    1. Trade Policy. We stay in if we want the EU to do our trade policy for us or we leave it we want to do it ourselves. (simple) However trade policy is 90% of our foreign policy so for this to work effectively we also need to give up 90% of our foreign policy. (Complex).

    2. Defence is nothing to do with the EU. its NATO we do not need to stay in to be part of NATO infant we do not need to be in at all to be part of NATO. Stop trying to spin this one David. However the EU is going to have its own army because it is the natural progression and the way to implement trade policy. Therefore if you are happy for your daughters and sons to be putting their lives on the line for the 27 and you think that the EU are competent to develop and implement foreign policy. Then vote in.

    3. Regulating and Taxing Multinationals. Because we are in the EU, companies can choose to be taxed in low tax places like Ireland and Luxembourg. Its due to the EU rules we are in this mess. David if we left we would be better off, multi-nationals would have to pay tax on their UK earnings.

    4. Human Rights. The European court of Human Rights sits outside the EU and infact has nothing to do with the EU. David you are spinning again…..

    5. Climate change … difficult to judge this one …. it is easier to do this as big political blocks therefore you are right in someways. However each country will need to do its bit, therefore at then of the day the onus is on the individual country. Nice try though David.

    Climate Crisis. – Yes good we