In or Out?

EU flagThe question we will all have to answer in just over a week. There’s nothing quite like the question: ‘so where do you stand? In or out?’ to spark a furious debate which sees friends, families and Facebook massively divided.

I am most definitely in.

I consider myself a southerner first, British second and European third although as one pro-Brexiter pointed out to me, I would still be European whether or not we were in or out of the EU, although it would not be quite the same.

I had put off writing this blog as up until a few weeks ago; I was largely going on gut instinct. If I’m being honest, I thought once I looked into the leave arguments, I might be persuaded to vote Brexit.

Having looked at both campaigns, read numerous articles and watched television debates until I replay them in my sleep, I have never been more firmly in the in camp! However, for anyone who is undecided, I would steer clear of listening to politicians, you won’t be any the wiser no matter which side of the debate they are on.

With so many arguments for and against and so many prophets of doom in both camps, I suspect many voters will be relying on gut instinct or an emotional response with others possibly not knowing which box they will be placing their cross until they are in the voting booth itself.

Anyway, I had a look at the arguments for and against and here’s my view, if you’re like many and still sitting on the fence or even if you’ve made your mind up one way or another, I hope I give you food for thought. However, whatever your stance, I would also recommend reading this article very eloquently argued (unlike my ramblings) by an LSE economics professor with a ton of reliable facts and sources.

So here are the arguments for and against as I see them.

The Vote Leave Campaign campaign thinks the EU is like a vast tanker which can’t take evasive action so set on its current course, disaster is inevitable.

The leave campaign refutes the view that our trading relationship will be damaged as the EU will still want to trade with us. It has, however, taken Canada seven years to negotiate their trade deal with the EU whilst Norway pays a fee for the privilege of trading with the EU and still has to accept free movement of people (one of the big no nos for the leave campaign which is unlikely to change even if we do come out) but has no seat at the table.

Any negotiations will not be settled overnight, they will be long and protracted. Can you be sure our economy can realistically accommodate that degree of uncertainty? And ask yourself how well you thought Cameron negotiated our ‘in’ deal and therefore, on that performance, how well he is likely to negotiate trade deals and everything else if we vote to leave?

The leave campaign argues we would be better off to the tune of £350 million every week although the campaign’s darling Boris Johnson suffered a pasting the other night from the likes of ardent ‘inner’ Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon for misleading the public. The figure does not include the rebate or grants and around £248 million is the more accepted figure.

The amount aside, how likely are we, the great British public likely to see any tangible benefit from it? The money is unlikely to be magically reinvested in the NHS or education. I don’t think we’ll suddenly see new hospitals and schools springing up, more nurses or coppers on the beat.

At best, I think we would have to use the money to forge our new trade agreements with the EU, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world as well as pass the laws we will still need. We would still need to invest in the areas which need rejuvenation and support our farmers; only we would be the ones footing the bill. And that’s just a few of the things we would have to fund ourselves. The cynic in me suspects some of the money would be used to clear more of the deficit so the Tories, be they led by Boris or Dave, can go into the next election a lot less in the red. I doubt, dear reader, we will benefit directly from the saving.

To think we would automatically be richer or suddenly see a vast improvement in our public services is pipe dreaming beyond belief.

The fundamental flaw with the leave campaign, if you take the time to read their information, is the lack of substance to their claims. It is largely rhetoric and relies on tapping into people’s fears and a misguided notion of sovereignty, that a vote for Brexit would somehow transport us back to the days when Britain was at the centre of the world.

Interestingly, when my dad and step mum asked ‘that’ question and they ‘knew’ which box I would be crossing, my step mum said I had listened to the scaremongering! I told them they represented what was wrong with this referendum, that old farts with prejudiced views are determining (fucking up) the future for my three kids and their generation, two of them can’t even vote. Let’s face it, I told them, your generation will be dead or dying off in 10 years’ time and my kids will be the ones who will live the consequences of your ill informed decision for the next 50 plus years! We decided to beg to differ! It had been a lovely evening up until that point!

By contrast, the Britain Stronger in Europe Campaign I found to be much more grounded in fact than scaremongering, contrary to what the out campaign would have us believe.

Let’s look at some specific points.

TRADE 

Almost half our trade (49% according to the Office of National Statistics) is with Europe. As part of the EU we are able to trade freely and without barriers or tariffs. The UK’s main trading bodies such as the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Business all support staying in fearful that Brexit would harm trade and put jobs at risk.

The EU gives us clout which would be difficult to muster alone, the EU has brokered us free trade agreements with 50 countries worldwide. The EU is currently negotiating us deals with the US, Japan and Australia.

Chances are you have heard of the TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently under negotiation between the US and the EU which has hit the headlines. As it stands, they are currently complete madness although appetite on the EU side also appears to be waning. The US want to enable their companies to sue the EU if we bring in any legislation which could damage profits so if we introduce a new minimum wage or vehicle emission limits, we are potentially liable for any loss of profits. Now, you would like to think that the EU would not collectively be so stupid as to broker such a deal. However, if they go forward on this basis, it only takes one of the 28 member states to veto the agreement. Would you trust the UK government to negotiate a deal with our old friends with whom we have such a special relationship which would not leave us open to being sued for billions should we have the audacity to introduce legislation to improve wages or protect the environment?

COST

The cost of the EU is one of the out campaign’s biggest arguments. The treasury calculates our net contribution per household per year is £340 yet the Confederation of British Industry estimates EU membership is worth £3,000 per household, almost 10 times the amount we pay in.

We enjoy that benefit through lower prices in our shops, cheaper air fares and lower phone charges. The EU recently introduced a ceiling on credit and debit card transaction fees, which benefits business, but also means the costs are not passed onto the consumer.

However, if you were to look at it purely in monetary terms i.e. the physical amount paid in compared to the actual amount in hard cash we get back, the UK is one of 10 member states which pays in more money than the amount the EU gives us back. But that ignores the other benefits such as those calculated by the CBI.

The out campaign says we can use this money to invest in our ‘priorities’. However, they spectacularly fail to acknowledge that the money would have to be spent on much of what the EU undertakes on behalf of member states such as laws, trade deals and investment. I could save £75 a week if I didn’t do the weekly shop, for instance, but we wouldn’t eat.

According to figures reported by the BBC, the money we pay into the UK amounts to 1.4% of the UK’s public spending, slightly less than the energy and climate change department’s annual budget.

JOBS

Whilst the argument for this is fairly clear cut on both sides – leave and more jobs will be created because we don’t have the time and cost of EU red tape v remain and 3-4 million jobs tied up with EU membership and free trade will be lost, the difficulty for you and I is deciding which scenario is the most likely.

Respected bodies provide tangible arguments, facts and figures which appear to reinforce both sides.

The problem is we simply don’t know, but are you willing to take the risk? The in campaign, for example, points to our vibrant car manufacturing sector among others which it argues is likely to be placed in a precarious position should we come out. The industry’s trade body the Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has emphatically stated its stance as ‘in’. In fact, both Nissan and Toyota are currently considering legal action against the leave campaign because it used its statement that they wouldn’t leave the UK in the event of an out vote, without their consent and particularly because both companies have stated their preference to remain in the EU. Likewise, the financial services sector believes its success is inextricably linked to EU membership. Should we seriously dismiss the views of successful industrial sectors?

MIGRATION

Yet another of the leave campaign’s focal points. Do we really think leaving the EU will stop migration? Norway and Switzerland, both non EU, have higher levels of EU migration than the UK. From a personal perspective, the Polish friends of my children are hard working and contribute taxes to UK plc. Unlike many British people we know.

Leaving the EU not only restricts movement into the UK but also makes it much more difficult for us to move around freely and live and work anywhere in the EU as well as receive health care in member states including free emergency health care.

The leave campaign says we will regain full control of our borders and be able to control who comes in including keeping convicted criminals out whilst making it easier to allow entry to those we want such as scientists. Rather naively, in my opinion, they think job opportunities for British people will suddenly materialise. Err, those job opportunities are here now but many Brits prefer the rock and roll and have a baby or two and you get a house to boot. Fewer EU migrants mean fewer people paying into the system. There have been plenty of studies which show EU migrants pay in more than they take out.

Last year the net migration figure of people arriving from the EU was around 184k yet the migration figure of the people originating in countries where we can control entry was even more at 188k (figures: ONS)! If migration is your ‘thing’, clearly we can’t get the numbers down in the areas where we have control so how does that bode for a non-EU membership future?!

Chances are, in the event of Brexit, we may have to sign up to free movement as a trade concession whilst the UK’s growth forecast figures are partly based on high levels of net migration. Lower child benefit for new arrivals is one of the concessions David Cameron has negotiated should we vote to stay in. Now here’s a thought, why don’t we just axe child benefit altogether?

LEGISLATION

In or out, we will still need legislation. Do you trust the British government to legislate with you in mind or to benefit big business and banks?

We continually hear how we suffer at the hands of EU laws yet thanks to our membership, we have laws which protect the workforce and women’s rights. The European Arrest Warrant has enabled us to deport over 7,000 suspected criminals to Europe and more than 1,000  who fled to Europe have been returned to face the legal system.

Those who want out cite the UK being out voted. However, they don’t outline what they were out voted on so there’s every chance those laws could have been beneficial. Of the 50 laws on which Britain was overruled, it included emissions. How can legislation to lower emissions be a bad thing? One can only assume big business was of more concern than our health. I could, of course, be wrong.

The most costly laws relate to employment and the environment, even if we were just to replicate those laws, the red tape would remain. And we would be ‘no better off’.

TURKEY

On the one hand we had our friend Dave saying he would support Turkey’s bid to join the EU and now we have the remain campaign pointing out the likelihood is countries like Greece would veto its application making the argument null and void (particularly poignant for those obsessed with migration). At the moment, Turkey seems to be going backwards in its freedoms and rights of its citizens so it would have much to put right before it was accepted. Anyway, ponder this; one of the reasons we approved the joining of many former Eastern bloc countries such as the Ukraine was partly to ensure their lot was well and truly with us in Europe and not with Russia, the same could be argued of Turkey. I would rather have a democratic Islamic country ‘siding’ with us in Europe rather than seeking out allies in a volatile Middle East.

Thus, in my opinion, leaving the EU would be complete madness. The out campaign seems to be nothing more than rhetoric, scratch the surface and there is very little substance to their arguments – check them out for yourself.

Perhaps the biggest threat to the in campaign, whatever your regular voting ‘colour’, is having Cameron and Corbyn apparently on the same side.

Whatever your position, dig a bit deeper than the headlines and scaremongering and make sure you vote according to the facts. And if you’re aged 70+, remember, it’s not really about you!

Whatever the referendum outcome, things will change. The UK is not alone in demanding EU reform. We are already seeing this with borders being reinstated in some places. Change will happen because there is no other choice if the EU is going to survive and thrive. Just don’t have a knee jerk reaction and fuck it up for the rest of us!

Please note: whilst facts have been painstakingly researched, opinions are my own and I am entitled to them!EU flag

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