IEA - Leave or remain: the two best paths to economic freedom

23 Jun 2016 09:59 AM

IEA releases report on reforming Britain's relationship with the EU

The European Union is a far cry from the liberal European economic inter-governmental organisation it should ideally be. It is too centralised, too focused on harmonisation, primarily serves vested interests and those working within EU institutions are subject to little democratic scrutiny. 

While the EU has largely delivered the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour, it has moved beyond its role to protect economic freedom by centralising and increasing regulation and in some instances ambitions for political union have actually driven economic policies. 

With the results of the forthcoming EU referendum seemingly on a knife-edge, the Institute of Economic Affairs today publishes a report outlining the best way to maximise economic freedom whatever the outcome. If we leave, the promotion of international free trade must be paramount. If we remain, the focus should be on proposing a radical reform plan for the EU. 

Two possible paths to 'liberal internationalism'

In the event of a leave vote: 

Leaving will certainly not automatically lead to greater economic liberalism in all areas. The UK government has shown itself to be much more illiberal than is required by EU law, but Brexit does increase the range of political possibilities and the government should grasp those to ensure that the UK does become more – and not less – liberal post Brexit.

In the event of a remain vote:

Commenting on the report, Philip Booth, co-author and Academic and Research Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs said: 

“In its current form, the European Union goes way beyond the proper role desirable for a supranational body designed to promote economic freedom. The EU has a centralising agenda that makes it easier to lobby for different sectional interests. Furthermore, high levels of external protection raise prices for UK consumers. 

“In the event of a vote to leave, the UK should pursue broadly liberal policies in order to achieve international free trade. In the event of a vote to remain, the UK should bring forward a radical vision of reform for the EU, both constitutionally and ideologically. This may not be welcomed within the EU, but the EU needs reform and there are no prizes for not trying.”

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries please contact Nerissa Chesterfield, Communications Officer: or 020 7799 8920 or 07791 390 268

The full report by Philip Booth and Ryan Bourne can be downloaded here

This report is part of the Paragon Initiative - the IEA's biggest-ever research programme. Across the next five years, we'll:

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.

The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.