“The EU Referendum… to Be or Not to Be?”
“To be or not to be” – one of the most famous lines in the English language.
Between now and the 23rd of June we are going to be exposed to lots of people from both sides of the EU referendum pontificating the view that this is the case.
So… is it? Well, it is obviously pretty important from a political point of view. Do we further our agreements with a group of other countries or do we go back to some kind of total self governing sovereign state?
Looking at this from a British point of view, I hope to skim over some of the issues that are going to be used as reasons to stay in or leave.
This gets a lot of press, and yes, there has been a lot of immigration. When the borders opened, more people moved to the UK than any other EU country. I think this is largely because English is the most common language and the UK was seen as a land of opportunity, and has been for centuries – we had an Empire and now we are getting tetchy about a union with our European neighbours.
It is a myth that hundreds of thousands come here to take advantage of our benefits system. EU migrants to the UK contribute more to our economy than they cost (in bottom line financial terms). The entire number of people who have come to the country is way below what appears on the front pages of red top newspapers; they occasionally print apologies but you have to search through the paper to find them and who wants to do that? The truth is that we have increased the number of well educated, hard working people in the UK through immigration with a tangible benefit to the UK economy. It’s a sad reflection on our education system that we have a shortage of skilled labour.
There’s another side to it though. There has been a slashing of red tape for UK businesses that want to operate in the EU. You can even go and live there, once your mortgage is paid – selling up and moving to some sunny Mediterranean location is not much more difficult than moving from London to the Lake District (with better food and less rain!).
The sad fact is that the vast majority of security threats to the UK are from either within the UK or outside the EU. I can see nothing that suggests we would have improved security by leaving the EU. I have read that the UK shouldn’t worry because it wouldn’t be affected either way, but I can’t help thinking that mutual interest with a lot of other countries would be of benefit to our security. And, there is this bit of water between us and continental Europe – the entry points to the UK are going to stay as inconveniently secure as they have always been. The granting of EU visas to citizens of Turkey doesn’t bother me (despite their borders). Ever been to Turkey? It’s great!
EU Laws being imposed on UK Citizens
Well, yes – this is probably going to happen. And as with every law that gets passed, there will be some that outrage people, but hold on… there is a reverse to it. There will be recourse to appeal against laws that are imposed on us by our own government. Important stuff, people being entitled to at least a twenty minute break every six hours. You can’t force someone to work more than 48 hours a week. I don’t believe that our human rights will be eroded by staying in the EU. I am fearful that they will be lessened to the advantage of a small minority by our own government.
Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP)
Now this is currently in draft form but there are those that say it will be implemented by the end of the year. Having some insight into how long such a bureaucratic process would take, I kind of doubt it. This particular policy is supposed to ease the red tape between trade that goes on between the EU and the US. Sliding under that are the possibilities that it will give more power to large companies to get their way despite government rulings. Examples of things that people are worried about are an increase in GM foods on our supermarket shelves, a health service that is on a ‘for profit’ basis like they have in the US, and less regulation on transnational banking; the banks don’t have a particularly good record, so until they can comply with current regulation, I don’t think they should have less of it.
The thing is, if we are not in the EU, who is to say that the UK won’t have a deal with the US that is even more extreme? We are countries that, apparently, speak the same language. Could it be that as a European Union we would have greater power in standing up to the United States? Do we trust our own government (a government that has a very vested interest in things like banking) to make deals that are of benefit to people as a whole and not a select minority? Again, past experience doesn’t bode well on this one.
Let’s face it, the UK economy isn’t in great shape and our national debt is getting worse. Everything is being cut, and there is no transparency regarding what the government is spending its cash on and why these cuts are necessary. Apparently it costs £350m a week to be in the EU. Well, fair enough, but do we really think that coming out of the EU will suddenly mean that money instead goes to UK causes? I very much doubt it. Our record for swallowing millions in administration costs is legendary. This figure will not make a noticeable difference to the UK economy, plus it will be offset by other costs.
£350m a week is as good as an estimate as any other though. Sources vary the gross cost at between 45 and 55m per day. It might however be worth pointing out that net cost is a lot lower – we do get a bit back from the EU and our contribution to the EU budget as a percentage of GDP is lower than a lot of other countries.
Pretty important stuff. And I am not referring to the fact that France has better food. I mean the production thereof. There is more land available being used for agriculture on the continent than there is in the UK. This makes farmed food cheaper – I can see that changing if we leave the EU. Land is at such a premium here that farming is not economically viable and we currently benefit from the lower cost of food production that occurs in continental Europe.
So you’ve probably worked out that I am going to vote to stay in. Stay in for all the reasons I’ve gone through but mainly because, deep down and well hidden, I kind of like Europe. I like going to France for events (work and leisure). I like faff free holidays in nearby sunny places. And I like seeing small British businesses have a go on the continent. I think we have little to gain from leaving the EU but a lot to lose.
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