T minus three days until the most important political decision many of us will make during our lifetime. This is a decision that is especially prevalent for the young, those of us with our whole lives ahead who will have to live with this decision and feel the repercussions. As if things weren’t tough enough; it’s going to take us decades to get on the housing market, God knows what will be happening with our pensions, our student repayment system is changing which will leave us more out of pocket than before, and now we might leave the European Union, throwing us into uncertainty and almost guaranteed economic instability.
I will be voting to remain, and I hope that if you are on the fence about leaving, maybe, just maybe, this post will sway you the other way. I’m going to cover leave & remain arguments, and then just expel a few thoughts that keep troubling me. Grab a cup of tea and put your feet up – this might be a long one.
Let’s start with trade: Remain voters argue that access to the single market is paramount and economically sensible, Leavers argue that Britain will have the chance to negotiate new trade relationships without being bound by the EU. There’s one very obvious problem with the leave argument: Says who? If Leavers are to assume that the EU will open up the free market to Britain with open arms, they are incredibly optimistic. In terms of the rest of the world, a Britain without the support of the EU has far less clout, I’m sure it could negotiate trade deals still (though it will take an awfully long time as the first big issue to sort will be an attempted trade deal with the EU), but it’s doubtful those deals will be as beneficial to the UK because the UK is simply not as attractive to the rest of the world without the EU.
So why is market access paramount? The free market means tariffs have been removed between EU member states. This obviously makes trading cheaper as this is a huge cost that has been eradicated. Presently, 45% of British exports go to the EU. That’s an awful lot of money saved. Additionally, the free market means cheaper products for British people. As the extra money hasn’t had to be spent in tax, the product itself doesn’t need to be bumped up in price in order to accommodate for the extra cost of taxing. Who doesn’t like money saved and cheap products? With a market as competitive as the EU, product innovation is swift, meaning you, the consumer, get better quality bang for your more reasonably priced buck. Consider also big business; business is the lifeline of an economy, and remaining an attractive place to invest is vital. Companies like PWC have already been inundated with requests from various businesses wanting to understand the risk of a Brexit, and preparing themselves to potentially move elsewhere. This will definitely result in job loss and will be economically damaging.
So if we left, maybe the predictions of Leavers made by staring into a crystal ball, using a Magic 8 Ball, or perhaps just crossing their fingers, will come true. Maybe we’ll reap the benefits of the free market without official EU membership, but this in itself throws up yet more questions; how many laws will we have to abide by still? Does the free movement of goods extend to the free movement of people? Will we still benefit from trade deals made by the EU to other parts of the world? None of these questions can be answered. Surely, it’s safer not to risk it?
Onto the EU budget: Yes, we do pay money to be part of the EU, supposedly around 340 pounds per year per household. This number pales when you consider that the average household receives roughly 3000 pounds per year in benefits of membership. The Leave campaign have tried plenty of scare tactics with this point, I’m sure by now we’ve all heard the infamous “that 350mil could be used to fix our NHS!” (This isn’t actually true – by the way) The EU budget is essentially a case of spending money to make money, in the same way that a business owner may pay the cost of renting a property from which to sell products, then those products more than pay for the initial cost of rent. If you still aren’t convinced, lets take a look at this wonderful government we elected last year… During the election, Cameron couldn’t stop talking about “taking the tough decisions” (Irony being relevant here – surely this qualifies as a “tough” decision?) This was basically code for “I’m going to cut government spending on public services like the NHS and none of you are going to like it.” This folks, is austerity. Do you really believe, that if we did stop paying money into the EU, that with some benevolent force of love and compassion, the Tory government would descent onto hospitals everywhere, and with the flick of a 350mil (again, that isn’t actually the total) wand, suddenly the NHS would be fixed? PLEASE. Kindly come back down to earth, and lets be real. That won’t happen and you know it.
– One last point, the money we pay in gives us access to the single market as discussed about. So Leavers that want access to the free market, how do you plan to do that without putting money back into the EU? Once again, it’s safer not to risk it, and just keep benefitting from the net financial gains we get from the Union.
Immigration: This is by far, my biggest bugbear. Allow me put to it very simply – immigration is a net good for this country. Immigrants pay more in taxes than they take in benefits. Yes, there will always be some people who play the system (much like there are plenty of Britons playing the system), but you cannot tar a diverse community with the actions of a few. Immigrants are not taking your jobs and are not harming our NHS. They are people, like you and I, that have decided come here because (for some reason) they like this country and want to work and live here. I’d quite like to work abroad one day, be that inside the EU or somewhere more further afield. Should I be treated with such hostility because I was born on a different bit of land? No, that would be ridiculous. We’ve settled the economic argument on this one, so if you’re still anti-immigration, ask yourself, are you a little bit racist? Cos you might just be a little bit racist.
Global Influence: The EU is pretty bloody big, we’ve got a bigger GDP than the US, 500 million consumers and together we are a club of 28 nations, and a force to be reckoned with. It is undeniable that the European Union gives Britain greater clout on the world stage. We’re lucky enough to be represented twice at international summits – once by the foreign secretary, and once by the EU high representative. Of course, Leavers claim Britain has little influence in the EU (are they joking? We have sweet deals made especially for us; opt out clauses, special laws we can apply… The list goes on), and that outside of the EU, Britain will (somehow) be stronger. Ok guys, this isn’t the 1800’s. Britain doesn’t have an empire, and Britain really isn’t a big deal anymore. Yes, we’re pretty wealthy for an Island of our size, and in all honesty we’ll probably do ok, but we’re not looking for OK, we’re looking for the optimal return on our strategic actions. In a world where the US rules supreme, China is quickly rising and India and the rest of the BRICS are coming up to take precedence, is now really a good time for Britain to go it alone? The international arena is more competitive than ever and Britain’s stands to gain far more from being a part of the world’s most successful and wealthy trading bloc. Furthermore, from the inside, Britain is able to influence the EU. From the outside, Britain will still be affected by the EU, especially if we are to strike a deal whereby we can gain access to the single market, yet we will not have any MEPs, nor will our Prime Minister have any influence on policy at all. If you’re concerned about the powers within the EU, vote to remain. It means we actually have some.
My final thoughts are simply these; what kind of a Britain do you want to live in? One that is stubborn and isolationist, or one that is progressive and culturally rich? Britain pioneered free trade during the time of her empire, even then recognising that working together was more efficient than working alone. Lets build upon that and continue to move forwards. Just imagine for a moment that we leave (sadly, a real possibility), what will people think of us? After we’ve been told by expert after expert, world leader after world leader, countless CEOs and powers in business and supranational bodies, and yet we decided to follow Farage and he loyal band of loonies into the abyss? We’ll be the laughing stock of the world. No, the EU is not a perfect body, but in what world was it ever going to be? 28 Nations with various languages and cultures, all trying to work together? Of course it’s going to be difficult to get it completely right. But we should recognise that being a part of something bigger simply means that you can’t always get what you want – the art of compromise. Our threatening to leave has already sent shock waves through the institution, and things will improve – would be kind of dumb to leave right before all that took hold, right?
To conclude: It makes economical, political and social sense to remain a part of the European Union, what on earth are you dithering over?