As a proportion of global GDP, the European Union is the only decreasing trading bloc. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, is growing at a remarkable rate, has recently overtaken Brazil, and is even predicted to overtake Germany. Therefore, free trade on a global scale is both achievable and more desirable than trade inside the protectionist bloc of the EU. However, the primary issues with the EU are not economic but political.
The main concern with the EU is the evolution of a behemoth bureaucratic state of undemocratic institutions and unaccountable politicians. This lack of accountability is not (as the Europhiles claim) because the people just aren’t interested and ought to pay more attention to European politics, but it is endemic. The EU behaves anti-democratically, repeatedly disregarding referenda on constitutional issues; and is structurally undemocratic, with the EU commission and president all being unelected positions. In contrast, in the UK, there is no possibility that someone could become prime minister without first having been party leader, [shadow] cabinet, MP, and party candidate (in reverse order) – by the time they are prime minister, anyone with a cursory interest in politics will know a fair bit about them. This is not the case with the grey randomers at the top of the EU. Adding insult to injury, if perhaps somewhat trivially, an individual voter dilutes their voting power from 1 in 60 million to 1 in 500 million. Of course, this question of democracy is a matter of degree. In every conceivable form of government, the government is ultimately in some sense accountable to the people; even in a dictatorship, they can be overthrown in revolution. The point is not that the UK is fully democratic and the EU fully undemocratic; rather that the contempt for, and dilution of, democracy in the EU is at a problematic level.
The EU has transitioned from being an institution of economic interest to being one of imposed uniformity and the creation of an artificial European identity, often couched in worrying tropes of exceptionalism and superiority. The lifestyle, interests and outlooks of the people in Spain and Poland, for instance, are entirely different. True, in certain parts of Europe identities have been in greater flux historically. But in many areas (e.g. UK, Spain, Greece) there are clear and ancient national allegiances, and Europhiles are willing to blithely overlook centuries of national cohesion and impose a supranational identity. This is causing a great deal of frustration, and has led to a rise in xenophobic nationalist parties. In the most extreme cases violent rioting has occured, such as in Greece, which suffered heavy political interference from the EU Commission, which even took the unbelievable step of ousting a democratically elected prime minister to install their own. The union strives for a foreign policy, thus overriding the great diversity in views among constituent states. This has in itself been one of the causes of reduced support for Israel (this is argued well in Section 4 of this Mosaic Magazine essay). It also increases the likelihood of anti-Shehita and Brit Milah measures, which are more likely to pass in Brussels than Westminster. Senior EU politicians even discuss creating a common military force for their desired superstate.
Without meaning to be too alarmist, the creation of such a superstate is far too reminiscent of Orwellian dystopia for comfort. It bears all the mechanisms and infrastructure for a nightmare state of totalitarian rule. It is certainly far-fetched to claim that the current politicians in the parliament have such an end in mind (though, as noted above, many are certainly anti-democratic), but things can transition in Europe quite sharply and we may one day come to deeply regret having created this vast institution.
In summary, even if the economic case for leaving the EU is unsound, it would still be worth taking a sizeable economic hit to maintain the UK’s independence from the worrying trends mentioned above.
The above could be seen merely as an argument for political reform. However, the problem is endemic, and reform will prove impossible to achieve. The project of the European Union is ideologically driven: European politicians are repeatedly willing to undermine the democratic process when European integration is at stake. For example, the EU constitution was put to a referendum in a number of countries and rejected, only to be trivially changed and renamed the Lisbon Treaty, and passed without democratic consensus (and indeed, despite democratic opposition). Due to this relentless ideology, reform is anathema to European politicians.
Would Britain ever agree to become part of a superstate? Perhaps not; but in the present day, despite many people being worried that the EU has already gone too far, nobody seems to be able to discuss the issue, and instead Eurosceptics are shouted down as racists. It is not unreasonable step to think that this might become the usual way to suppress political opposition to the EU.
With regard to the claims that UKIP are a racist party, it is certainly true that a number of their members have made explicitly racist remarks, and being the only party to break the taboo on discussing immigration, it was always bound to attract some xenophobes. It is impossible to create a party which wishes to control immigration for legitimate reasons without attracting people who want to control immigration for more nefarious reasons. However, none of the major parties are free of bigoted members and politicians. In the last two weeks alone, 17 Liberal Democrat, Labour or Conservative candidates have been arrested, charged or convicted on all manner of offences. The media spotlight inordinately focuses on UKIP, so it appears that they have a higher proportion of unsavoury types; but there is no actual evidence of this.
At the very least, even if all that has been said about the EU is mistaken and meaningful political reform is the wisest option, the very best way to strengthen Britain’s negotiating position and increase the likelihood of reform is to have a clear and evident position that Britain will leave if political reform is not achieved. There is no better way to negotiate with the UK’s interlocutors than to show them that we mean what we say by voting UKIP.