Wednesday, 22 June 2016

#EUref - Head or Heart? (and who is suggesting voting for a recession?)

At the beginning of June  I set off on my search for whether it was better to  Remain or Leave with a note that:

"For years I have been a Eurosceptic.  Against the UK being in the Euro, but not a full-on Europhobe.  The upcoming European Union (EU) in-out referendum initially left me on the fence.  "Remain" or "Leave"?  My heart inclined to leave. My head saying wait a minute.  Let’s hear the arguments before we decide that the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (the UK) should leave the EU."

Indeed my heart was inclined to leave. After all the UK is still a major world player in terms of economy, military (as a nuclear power) and in many other important respects. But my heart also felt we ought to be part of "Europe", albeit not in the Euro or Schengen.

Now it is well documented that if you buying something, it is the heart that first decides, and the head then rationalises and supports the decision. That's why marketing always aims to appeal to the heart. This can be for a product, a service, a friendship or placing a vote. The problem comes when the head is at odds with the heart. I set out to investigate with my head.

My interest is purely what is better for the UK - Remain or Leave.  Because what's better for the UK is also better for me and my family .

What My Head Discovered

What I discovered was these major points, plus a lot else of lesser importance:
  1. Economy: There's something to be said for setting independent deals with USA, China, India etc. But likely to be years or decades away. The USA has said the UK would join the back of the queue after a deal is done with the EU. In the meantime virtually every major economist is saying the short term pain of Brexit would likely mean a recession, due to deferred investment and risk of destabilising the EU as a major UK export market. An emergency budget would be needed to plug a tax hole several times the size of the annual net contrinution to the EU. A price worth paying? I'll come back to that.
  2. Immigration  Control: The Leave argument is that an Australian style system could be imposed because the UK would have full control of its borders. Yes but dependent on the conditions of any new deal with the EU, which must continue as free trade to match what we have today. The problem is that there is no precedent for a European country to have such a deal without Free Movement of People. The EU is far more important to UK than the UK is to EU (despite the trade deficit with the EU). The assumption must be that it is  more likely that FMoP would be in the deal than it isn't. In whch case Leave does not have a right to say immigration would be better controlled,. It might be, but more likely not. 
  3. Rights for Brits in EU: Furthermore if there was control of UK borders, the EU would almost certainly reciprocate with restrictions on Brits working, living and travelling in EU. Do we really want to lose the right to live, work and travel freely around the EU? Thought not.
  4. Sovereignty and Democracy: It must be very frustrating for Ministers to not be able to take action because permission would be needed from the EU, or the preferred option is banned altogether.  Surely the UK elects its Parliament in Westminster, and expects it to have suitable power?. Furthermore senior people in the EU are not voted in, so cannot be voted out (remembering the UK Civil Service i'nlt voted in either). That is important, but how important given we have elected MEPs, arguably with increasing powers?  Conversely with UK people ejected from the Commission and other bodies, our influence in Europe would undoubtedly be diminished.
  5. International Opinion: Sadiq Khan asked the Leave team at the BBC Debate at Wembley on 21st June to name one of the major international countries such as USA, China, Canada, Australia or New Zealand which is suggesting the UK should leave the EU. There is none. Quite the opposite. Those countries want to see the UK playing a psoitive role in the EU. What's good for them is likely good for the UK, in playing its part on the international stage.
  6. Reforming the EU:  Virtually everyone agrees that the EU  needs substantial reform.  How best to achieve it?  Brexit would put enormous strain on the EU and may force the collapse of the Euro and/or the EU itself. Exceptionally painful, so doesn't strike me as the right approach.  It might take many years to get the reforms needed, but better from the inside.  In the meantime thr UK has vetoes and at least political agreement from EU leaders on the UK's position in the EU going forward.
  7. Post-Brexit Plan: It would be reasonable to expect that the Leave side would set out a vision of the UK after Brexit, with some form of transition plan. In enough detail to see that it was achievable, and in reasonable timescales. Although plans such as Brexcit exist, this has been effectively rejected by Gove and co, with no alternative plan provided. Leave are expecting voters to jump from the frying pan (if th EU is that bad) and into the fire.  Or off a cliff with no safety gear or any idea what will happen at the bottom.
So taking a completely independent view of the choice between Remain and Leave, the only clear advantage of Brexit would be improvement in sovereignty. But even that is countered by a loss of influence in Europe, which is important for so many trade, environmental and other issues where international collaboration is eqauired.

The Leave side cannot even say they could better control immigration. The assumption of avoiding Freedom of Movement of People in any new free-trade deal with the EU is not a given, and more likely non-negotiable . Everything else points to Remain.

In which case there is absolutely no justification for bearing the cost of Brexit - a recession and economic hardship at the outset and maybe for long after.  Indeed it would be exceptionally foolish to suggest voting for a recession, which is what a vote for Leave implies.

Yet that is exactly what the Sun, Mail and Telegraph are suggesting. Huh?

What About My heart?

So let's go back to my heart. It's shouting loud and clear that we cannot possibly leave the EU. Not now anyway.  The Article 50 exit option that would be triggered for a Brexit Leave will still be available later if needed.  My head and heart are in step. I will be voting Remain. It is the only sensible choice.

A Final Thought

"It's the economy stupid". Who in their right mind would vote for a recession?

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