Lies, Scaremongering and the Party line… get ready for the EU referendum.
Just how many voters did the Conservatives lure to the blue side during the 2015 election campaign with their promise of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union? Given how much issues like immigration were repeatedly brought up during the campaign, my guess would be quite a lot. The problem facing the British electorate is that the truth very rarely surfaces when it comes to the debate on Europe, and voters questions never get answered by those who have a voice.
Thank God we have Nigel Farage. Seriously. Hated by many he may be, but the passionate UKIP leader is one of the few anti-EU voices which will save the referendum debate from being an endless lecture from the likes of Nick Clegg about how many jobs would be lost if we left the EU and patronising “my father was an immigrant” stories from Chuka Ummuna and every other pro-EU puppet, intent on avoiding legitimate voter concerns and peddling propaganda about an impending economic disaster.
It is highly unlikely that a ‘Brexit’ would cause significant job losses in the U.K.
Various estimates from the previous two decades have placed the number of British jobs which are directly connected to the European single market between 3.2 and 4 million. However, pro-EU speakers usually (conveniently) ignore the fact that such estimates fail to take into account the considerable number of jobs in other EU countries like France and Germany which are directly connected to their trade with Britain; up to 6.5 million, it has been reported. One reality which is generally agreed upon in this debate is that Germany is the main player in the European Union. There is thus extreme significance in the fact that exports to the U.K. were worth more than £50 billion to Germany in 2006 and accounted to over 3% of the nation’s GDP. It would undoubtedly be in the interests of both Britain and the EU to negotiate a trade deal which would protect this considerable trade and the money it generates.
Having read the figures above you could easily be forgiven for thinking it would be in Britain’s interest to maintain the status quo. However, the truth is that the EU is a declining market for the U.K. and its significance on the world economic stage is dwindling. As a member of the European Union, Britain is prohibited from negotiating its own trade deals with countries from outside the EU. This is extremely problematic; British exports to non-EU countries totalled 57% in 2013 and were worth close to £400 billion. This reality should also be understood in the context of expanding markets in China and India, with the former expected to have a greater economy than the entire Eurozone come 2018, according to the IMF. If Britain was able to follow the example set by Iceland and Switzerland and negotiate its own international trade deals, jobs and wealth would undoubtedly be created, a reality which entirely contradicts the scaremongering being spread by several prominent politicians about the risks to the British economy of a ‘Brexit.’
Another important reality worth considering is the cost of the European Union to the British taxpayer. In short, when all of the main costs are totalled together, it is absolutely criminal. £55 billion per year, net, to be exact. An eye watering, soul destroying, potentially NHS saving £106,117 per minute. And when these figures are analysed and broken down, they make for an even more sickening read.
Between 2000-2006, the U.K. had the second highest net contribution to the EU budget, at 27 billion Euros. In the period from 2007-2013, this figure grew to 57 billion Euros. In contrast, the majority of other member states are net beneficiaries from the EU. In plainer terms, those who contribute the most will benefit the least. The U.K. is behind only Germany in its net contribution. Countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal are beneficiaries to the combined tune of 89 billion Euros between 2000 and 2006. Further, these budget figures do not include considerable hidden costs, with large amounts of additional funding used to fund the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and European Space Agency. CAP alone costs 47.5% of the total EU budget and equates to a minimum cost to Britain of £16 billion per annum. These figures must be given more prominence because they hold enormous significance for the concerned British electorate. Employment is a principal point of discussion ahead of the referendum. However, the astronomical savings which Britain could make if it operated outside of the EU, combined with extra income from new, non-European trade deals should create considerable confidence that the referendum is an opportunity to end decades of irresponsible spending of taxpayers’ money without risking jobs.
Business is very closely related to the economy, and much of the pro-EU scaremongering has centred around the idea that several big name employers would leave the U.K. in the face of a ‘Brexit.’
However, research in 2009 placed Britain as the top country in Europe for attracting foreign investment. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the country which invested most in Britain was not one of our fellow EU members, but the United States. Business in Britain is not dependent on Europe. Excess funds saved from not paying membership fees could be used to make Britain even more business friendly through more attractive tax structures and the reintroduction of business friendly reliefs.
In reality, 80% of the U.K. economy is only concerned with the domestic market, and does not trade with either Europe or the rest of the world. Despite this, all British businesses are compelled to follow the EU’s extensive business regulations, costing a reported net total of 440 billion Euros across the 28 member states. This is damaging to small and medium sized businesses in particular and the EU referendum debate should not be dominated by the remarks of a few big businesses. Money talks in business, and the costs of relocating from Britain coupled with any moves by the government to make Britain an even more attractive country to invest in would likely influence shareholders in most businesses to remain in Britain.
Freedom of movement is undoubtedly the most controversial, headline dominating aspect of the European Union.
In reality, it is not a particularly strong reason to stay or leave the EU. It is actually quite irrelevant.
We all know that immigrants are net contributors to the British economy. From personal experience, immigrants are extremely hard-working individuals who come to Britain not only to fill shortages in skilled professions but also to do jobs that British people are simply too lazy to do. Immigration really must be celebrated.. Freedom of movement has simply introduced more competition for jobs, and it can be argued that this is no bad thing, especially for employers.
And yet, it is completely redundant. Every country needs a robust immigration policy. It is essential for any government to be able to plan for future public service provision. Aside from this, the government in Britain has to take every step it possibly can to end some people’s reliability on unemployment benefits and increase jobs in this country. A proper immigration policy would protect the government from accusations that immigrants are ‘taking people’s jobs’ and simultaneously erode this weak excuse used by some lazy and unemployed people who do not actively seek employment. However, it would also protect foreign nationals from the EU from being exploited by employers paying illegally low wages here in Britain because the process for their coming to Britain would be more thorough. Additionally, it could prove beneficial to several EU countries by decreasing the dependency on unemployment benefits which inevitably comes when people are allowed to emigrate without having secured a job first.
The EU is undemocratic and out of touch with Britain.
The only branch of the EU which is directly elected by the people of the member countries is the European Parliament. However, the Parliament has no legislative initiative (it cannot create new laws) and shares legislative and budgetary powers with the European Council, which itself is only indirectly elected. The European Parliament needs to have more powers because it is the only part of the EU which is accountable and given a mandate by the electorate. To make matters worse, turnout for European elections is extremely low in Britain. The figure was 34% in 2014, below the EU average, which itself is now below 45% and as low as 13% in some countries in the last election. It is interesting that the 2014 European election in Britain was won by an anti-EU party. UKIP MEP’s are known for not participating in the European Parliament (not doing their job). Their election victory could demonstrate that British people are unimpressed with the EU, hence the election of a Party which supports a ‘Brexit.’
Pragmatism is possible
It cannot be emphasised enough how much Britain would not suddenly fall to pieces if it exited the European Union. Pragmatism would have to prevail, in the interest of everyone involved. Trade pragmatism between Britain and the EU has already been mentioned. However, other examples are important. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. However, its government matches the ERASMUS subsidy which is provided to EU students studying abroad in another member country in a bid to remain competitive. This is just one example of the sort of compromise that would be negotiated if the event of a ‘Brexit.’
In summary, it’s time to leave.
The argument for leaving the EU is far more compelling than the argument to stay.
The EU is too expensive. Britain makes an astronomical net contribution, and does not gain sufficiently from this. This money could be much better used on the NHS and education system as well as on offsetting any slight issues which might arise from a ‘Brexit.’
The EU is rather undemocratic in structure and substance. British people are not engaged in European elections and in any case have little power to influence decision making at a European level.
All of the positives of immigration can still be experienced with a controlled government policy. However, there is no strong argument that freedom of movement is at all necessary for Britain.