So how will I vote in the imminent EU "Leave/Remain" referendum? I have looked at the key factors in as a independent, pragmatic and unemotional way as possible. Here is a summary of my conclusions:
DEMOCRACY AND UK SOVEREIGNTY
"Let's take our country back", "Let's take back control" the Brexiteers say. It is clear that the EU is not as democratic as Westminster. But the EU Parliament's directly elected MEPs are getting more powerful.
The main issue is the raft of regulations that emanate from the EU Commission, being staffed and led by unelected civil servants. Some of these regs are good for the UK, like the clean-up of our beaches, and some less so, like the "Tampon Tax" where the UK cannot reduce VAT on sanitary products because of EU regs. No wonder many government ministers are against the EU, when EU regulations have been prevented them from doing the job they have been elected to do.
But it's not all one-sided. The UK has significant representation in the Commission, to help ensure regulations are a reasonably good fit for the UK. The UK is also represented on the other EU bodies.
That influence within the EU would all disappear after Brexit. Yet the UK would have to abide with many EU regulations, not least as the UK's biggest export market. It's easier for businesses to use the same regs in the UK market too. There's also plenty of cross-border issues, such as environmental matters, where it would make sense for the UK to be involved in EU bodies.
Internationally the UK is represented as part pf the EU on bodies such as the World Trade Organisation. Brexiteers suggest the UK would be able to regain its own seat after Brexit, but this is by no means guaranteed.
So this topic is actually more evenly balanced than Brexiteers suggest. Any improvement in democracy and control would be countered by a loss of important influence in the EU. Furthermore there is the potential risk of losing instead of gaining global influence.
The idea of Brexit is that the UK could do free trade deals with non-EU countries, particualrly USA, India and China. In a EU-led agremeents, the UK would only be a small part of the negotiating team. After Brexit the UK could do such deals more quickly and help to drive extra economic growth.
- The timescales for such as deals are still very long, and the USA has suggested it wouldn't be until after their deal with the EU, currently in progress. Any benefits of such trade deals are some years off.
- There will need to be a new free trade deal with the EU (or the wider EEA), to match or improve upon existing arragements. This will also take years, and not necessarily within the two years allowed for exit of any member state under EU laws. The lack fo clarity in the Leave camp on what a new deal should look like, and if it is achievable, is a major weakness in the Leave camp.
- In the meantime the uncertainty is likely to result in a slow-down in investment in the UK
- As a result many leading economists support HM Treasury in saying:
- Any improvment in economic actiivty of Brexit compared to staying in the UK won't be realised for years, and may result in lower activity
- There will be an economic slowdown in the short term 'transition'. This could well push the UK into a self-induced recession.
- The Euro is very fragile,and itss destruction would reak havoc in the UK's export markets and hene the Uk economy. Brexit could be the straw that breaks sthe camel's back. Self-induced
I'd argue the UK can't tke these risks, and the economic issues override any psosible net benefit in Democaracy and UK Sovereignty discussed above. Elections are "It's The Economy, Stupid"
The relative succes of the UK economy means it is a magnet for other EU nationals and for Brits to stay. Net immigration over emigration is far too high and putting enormous strain on infrastructure such as schools, the NHS, roads and housing. It's also depressing pay rates for manual jobs (though protected under Minimum Wage) and putting tradesmen out of business.
"Let's regain control of our borders" the Brexiteers shout. Instead of 'Free Movement of Poeple' (FMOP) for EU nationals, let's control who can come in.
But the recent EU re-negotiation led by David Cameron discovered that FMOP is a fundmantal part of the EU and the free trade agreement under it. Unless I can be convinced to the contrary, FMOP is not negotiable if we want a new free-trade deal after Brexit. And we do. This is because losing FMOP would set a precendent for other EU countries that would destroy the single market.
So the benefit from Brexit of providing any further control over immigration fro the EU countries looks like a massive 'red herring'.
Furthermore FMOP provides Brits with a number of beneits that would be lost if FMoP was not part of any new trade deal:
- Brits being able to move freely around the EU to live, work, tour and retire. It looks like Brits already living elsewhere in the EU will be able to stay (as would EU nationals in the UK), but not for the future.
- The diversity of Eurpean cultures strengthen the cuisine in the UK and a raft of pther cultural aspects.
- Imigrants, who have made the effort to travel many hundreds of miles, tend to be harder working than the home population, and prepared to do the less atractive jobs. The UK has relied on this for years for the bus drivers, hotel workers, manual NHS workers, and mnay toehr trades. This would potentially dry up. The NHS and other large employers therefore tend to favour Remain
- Taxes paid by EU immigrants are reckoned to be far in excess of the net cash paid by the UK to the EU. If extra immigrations stops, that benefit would reduce over time
The Free Movement of People is likely under any new trade deal with the EU/EEA, unless someone can convince me to the contrary. That makes 'Immigration' a complete red herring in the debate.
Without that issue I believe it would be better for the UK to remain in the EU for other reasons:
- Any improvement in Democracy and UK Sovereignty is countered in whole or in part by a loss of influence in the EU and potentially a loss of influence globally
- The lack of a clear vision in the Leave camp for the new free trade deal with the EU/EEA, and if it achievable is a a major wekaness in the Leave campaign. Throw ourselves out of the EU frying pan and into what? No thank you!
- It is unclear that Brexit would improve the UK economy in any reasonable timescale, if at all, and is likely to result in a slow down and even recession in the post-Brexit transition.
- Brexit may even be the straw that breaks the camel's back in making the Euro collapse. With the EU being the UK's main export market, any tremors would also be highly damaging to the UK economy
I'm voting "Remain" I suggest you do too.
Further details, including other issues such as the affects of Brexit on the UK/Eire border, are in a previous article found here.