On balance, have we benefited from being in the EU?

Analysis: It is impossible to know what Britain’s economy would look like if we had never joined the EU, but Sean O’Grady considers the available evidence

‘What has the EU ever done for us?’
‘What has the EU ever done for us?’

“What have the Romans ever done for us?” the Monty Python team famously asked – the implication being that the many benefits, from sanitation to peace, were being taken for granted. Would it be fair, then, to ask in the same spirit: “What has the Treaty of Rome and the European Union ever done for us, the British?”

It is a fair question, but very difficult to answer.

Obviously, there is no parallel universe where the UK did not join the then European Communities in 1973, or where the British did not pioneer the single market of 1992, or, for that matter, where the EU didn’t launch its troublesome single currency in 2000; or where it did launch the euro and the UK joined it at some point.

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