On the 23 of June, Brits will be voting in their droves to determine whether we should remain in the European Union, or, sail to a new and unchartered place called Brexit.
Those who want stay in Europe have said that in the EU we have financial certainty, economies of scale, lower prices, cleaner beaches, a stronger place at the world table and lasting peace.
Advocates of Brexit however, extol the benefits of a brave new world where the UK is unbound and unhindered by endless EU red tape, making better deals with the rest of the world and weeding out unnecessary expenditure in wasteful European bureaucracy.
Who you believe may depend on your age, your educational level, what you do for a job, what paper you read and your understanding of history and world politics.
If you’ve done your research and know how you’re going to vote, good for you. Read this article anyway and see if it changes anything. The decision you make is a complex one and will have implications for decades to come.
If you’re still not sure how to vote, (and there are plenty of us out there), read this article as well.
A complex decision?
Both stay and leave campaigners will trot out frightening sounding facts and figures (some of which can, at best, be described as ‘untruths’).
They know (or at least, I hope they know) the referendum will have an impact on the economy we work in, the laws we abide by and shape how we as a country are treated by other countries.
In short, how we vote will impact on everything we are and everything we do.
Does it really matter that much?
Yes. And it’s already having an effect.
According to the Telegraph the FTSE 100 (An index of the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange), financial uncertainty brought about by the referendum has caused the FTSE to lose, ‘£100 billion in 4 days’
Why is that important?
If 100 of the biggest firms in the UK are losing money, we all lose. These companies create jobs (both inside the companies and outside in the supply chain), provide investment and help to maintain confidence in the economy.
We have the 5th largest economy in the world. If we falter, so do those we deal with. And when global markets shrink, we’re all in trouble.
Why Brexit or why Bremain?
Below is a brief summary of what has been said by both sides. Issues on this topic are incredibly complex and on the whole, politicians have made things harder to understand.
- The EU has become a superstate and is set to get more powerful. The UK is losing sovereignty (losing the power to make laws for itself, by itself). As a country with a relatively small population, we don’t have much influence in the EU.
- The UK spends approximately £20 billion a year on EU membership. That money could be better spent in the UK.
- Free movement of people in the EU, could mean that member states and new member states could all move to the UK, ‘overwhelming our country’ so that immigrants can work, live, use our stretched NHS and obtain benefits.
- The EU is the largest trading bloc in the world. If we stay in the European Union, our companies face no or reduced barriers to trade (economic and legal / social).
- Our influence in the world is greater because we are part of this bloc and as we are aligned to other EU markets, easier trade will continue. Should we leave, then our influence reduces and trade agreements between us and those still in the EU will need re-negotiating.
- Whilst we are still a substantial market (just over 65 million), we do not have the same influence as the EU which has a population of over 746 million.
- The Institute for Fiscal Studies (whose job it is to provide independent economic analysis on matters pertaining to economy and taxation), warn that leaving the EU would cause us to fall back into recession.
- This will lead to a smaller economy, less money for the government, more job losses, greater pay cuts, companies going out of business, less training, less investment and lower skilled workforce. Which in turn lowers our ability to grow our economy.
- Brexiteers have said that countries like Canada, who are not in the EU and who have just negotiated a favourable deal to trade with the EU, are a shining example of what the UK could achieve.
However, on a BBC Radio 4 programme, the Canadian Finance Minister, whilst extolling the virtues of the agreement was quick to say it took over a decade to put in place. He also admitted that the agreement was in no way as favourable as the agreements the UK has in place, as part of the EU.
Brexiteers claim it would be easy for us to renegotiate favourable terms within the EU and outside the EU. Countries like the US are seen as markets the UK could increase trade with should we leave the EU. However, the US President has himself suggested that we would have less influence with the US, should we make a Brexit for it.
Free movement of workers in the EU allows us to work in other countries and workers in other countries to work here. Brexiteers have suggested that Turkey, who is looking to join the EU, would send great swathes of their population to work in the UK. What Brexiteers conveniently forget to tell us, is that Turkey’s population of 79 million (75 million according to some) are unlikely to join for at least 30 years. Issues with Turkey’s economy, strained relations with the Cypriot Government and a lack of enthusiasm to join, in part created by watching the financial problems on Greece, are major hurdles to Turkey joining.
The issue of ‘mass immigration’ would not cease, were we to leave the EU. Norway, like the UK, is part of the European Economic Area and like the UK, it has certain EU obligations.
A former foreign minister for Norway explains that,
“Norway must a) accept free migration of EU citizens, b) contribute to the EU budget and c) comply with all EU rules but with no say in making those rules.”
According to Full Fact, an independent fact checking organisation and various think tanks on immigration, more people from outside the EU choose to move to the UK than those within the EU.
That won’t change if we leave.
Full Fact state that,
“The vast majority of EU migrants in 2015 said they were coming to the UK for work – and 41% said they already had a job arranged. By contrast, most non-EU migrants (47%) say they have come to study.”
And, as right minded individuals, we need to ask ourselves, is migration necessarily a bad thing? As a second generation Indian, born and raised by professionals living in the UK, I would argue that migration can be a positive. It allows a host country to benefit from the skills and productivity of those who move there.
People working in the EU (wherever they originated from) will pay and create economic wealth. And those coming to study in the UK, bring much needed revenue to our service based economy. The Financial Times estimates that services now account for almost 80% of our economy.
I understand about the economy. But what about the huge numbers of immigrants in holding camps across Europe?
The pictures of thousands of migrants, swelling borders and crashing down fences in Europe has frightened many people and has been seized upon by Brexiteers and extremists.
But leaving the EU wouldn’t stop scenes like this. The vast majority of immigrants who claim political asylum are from outside the EU. How the UK and EU deals with this humanitarian crisis is yet to be seen. But, as the UK is not part of the Schengen Agreement, we will be less troubled than our counterparts in mainland Europe.
Being part of the European Union also increases cooperation between member states when it comes to security – an increasingly important issue in our turbulent world. It also allows us to have greater influence on matters like climate change and the environment.
Indeed EU legislation (and funding) is responsible for clearing our beaches and waterways. We were traditionally known as ‘the dirty man of Europe.’ And European structural funding provided much needed support to areas in the UK with serious economic decline. Liverpool and Newcastle, for example, are now financially much stronger and better places to live because of EU investment in jobs, education, training, housing, the arts and road networks.
So is the EU perfect?
No it isn’t. Bureaucracy, wastage and differing economic and political agendas of differing member states create problems. But, on balance, it is better to be part of the EU, than be apart from it. The EU costs us 30p a day per person. Should we exit the EU, the loss in income from less trade would be greater than the money we would save from not paying fees.
Who are the Brexiteers and who would like to Bremain?
If you’re still unsure about how to vote, ask yourself this, who do I believe? Look at the proponents of Brexit and the campaigners of Bremain. Who carries greater personal authority and what agendas do people have? Probably the best advice I can give you comes from a Facebook article written by Calvin Morris on the 11th June. In it, Calvin considers the voting direction of key figures.
Bremain – key people wanting Britain to stay in Europe:
The Governor of the Bank of England
The International Monetary Fund (The IMF)
The Institute for Fiscal Studies
The Confederation of Business Industry (The CBI)
The President of the United States
8 former US Trade Secretaries
President of China
Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister of Canada
Prime Minister of Australia
Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General to the United Nations
All former living Prime Ministers of the UK (from both parties)
The UK Prime Minister
The leaders of the Labour Party, the Green Party, the Scottish National Party
The National Union of Students
The National Union of Farmers
The World Bank
Director General of the World Trade Organisation
The Secretary General of GCHQ
The Chief Executive of the NHS
Director of Europol
Director General of the World Trade Organisation
Brexiteers – people who want to leave the EU:
Nigel Farage -the Leader of UKIP
The BNP (The British Nation Party)
And Donald Trump
Now that you’ve seen both lists, ask yourself this, ‘When it comes to economic and political matters, which list carries more weight with me?’
Good luck on the 23rd everybody.