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The Trouble With Europe by Roger Bootle

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5 Mushroom Heads
It the recent general election campaign the excitement of predicting various coalitions somehow displaced the EU from the debate. Given the outcome and its 2017 in/out referendum promise it is likely that the next couple of years will more than compensate for the oversight, certainly in column inches if not quality of coverage. The recently published second edition of this book by Roger Bootle is likely to provide a haven of rational argument in what promises to be a febrile debate.

Mr Bootle’s day job is running a company called Capital Economics, which provides economic forecasting to companies, banks and investors. He makes his living by being rational, objective and building a track record of being more often right than wrong. This book benefits from such an approach, which also makes it very readable. Moreover, it is not a polemic. The conclusions are balanced – there is no overall recommendation of “in” or “out.” Instead Mr Bootle lists what would be necessary for the EU to function properly with the UK in it and the key risks and potential mitigations were it to leave. The book is all the more powerful for this even handed approach.

As far as is possible this is a book about economics, although of course the EU is highly political these aspects are not neglected. We start with European history which explains how and why the EU came into being and its achievements are described. The book then investigates the challenges of “ever closer integration” and the problems arising from the current intermediate state.

We then switch to considering whether the EU (and its forerunners) has actually been an economic success. Mr Bootle deftly produces clear numbers and context which demonstrate that this question is moot and varies between members. We then move on via the Euro to the current problems before Mr Bootle really starts to earn his pay and identify methods for avoiding economic disaster, a threat he considers current. He then considers whether the EU is actually capable of implementing the necessary reforms and finally looks at how the UK could exit the EU.

This is a powerful, cogent and necessary book which should be read by all those involving themselves in the debate on EU membership. Read it.
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