The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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The benefits of EU membership are self-evident - aren't they?

Roger Helmer MEP

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a doughty euro-realist in the House of Lords, has been trying for some time to get the government to publish a white paper on the benefits of EU membership. The government is refusing, on the grounds that the benefits of Britain's membership of the EU are "Self-Evident", and therefore a white paper would be a waste of time.

Not just Labour, but many EU protagonists - even some Conservatives - insist that these benefits are self-evident. But when pressed, they go strangely shy about telling us what they are.

Fortunately, two well-respected organisations have done analyses of the costs and benefits of EU membership. The Institute of Directors appointed independent accountants Chantrey Vellacott, who came up with a detailed report. Their conclusion? That costs outweighed benefits by a massive £15 to £25 Billion a year. And they said that could double if we joined the euro.

Equally interesting are the conclusions of the highly respected International Trade Commission for the US Congress. There had been a suggestion that Britain might join NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, so the Trade Commission looked the implications of British withdrawal from the EU. Their conclusion? We should be no worse off, and possibly better off, out.

Here we have two highly respected organisations, on either side of the Atlantic, both concluding that British membership of the EU is at best neutral, at worst costing us a lot of money.

Ah, say the europhiles. But 31/2 million UK jobs depend on membership of the EU! This figure comes from NIESR, the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. But the Director of NIESR has denounced the claim that these jobs rely on membership of the EU. They depend on trade with the EU. But there is no credible case that we should do less trade with the Single Market if we were not members of the EU.

We import far more from the EU than the rest of the EU imports from us. So it is inconceivable that they would seek to apply adverse trade terms if we left. In any case, even if we had to pay the EU's common external tariff on all British exports to the EU, that would be less than our current contributions to the EU budget.

Millions of jobs in the USA and South East Asia depend on trade with the Single Market -- but they don't depend on membership of the EU, and still less on joining the euro! And exports into the EU from the USA have grown twice as fast, over the last decade, as exports from Britain to the EU.

Yes, they say, but what about all the wonderful grants we get from the EU? Well of course the money we get back from the EU in grants, and in agricultural support and so on, is far less than we actually pay in. In fact each pound we get in EU funding costs the British economy around £2.60. Not a very good deal. They give us back a little of what was our own to start with. They tell us what to do with it. Then they expect us to be grateful.

The last resort of the europhiles is peace. With all its faults, they say, at least the EU has kept the peace in Europe for nearly sixty years. What nonsense! It was NATO and the transatlantic alliance that kept the peace. It was Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan who faced down the Soviet Union.

The real danger is that the EU's paper army will undermine the transatlantic alliance and leave us less secure, not more.

So am I calling for withdrawal from the EU? No. I'd like to see the kind of Europe that Iain Duncan Smith set out in his Prague speech recently. A Europe of independent, democratic, self-governing states, trading and co-operating together.

If we can realise that vision, well and good. But if not, I'd rather see Britain a free and independent nation, than an off-shore province in the Peoples' Republic of Europe.