EU Referendum Poll
If you have already made your mind up, then go straight to the EU Poll, cast your vote and you can see what everyone else currently thinks.
Arguments for Staying or Leaving
This is an attempt to be completely unbiased and impartial and outline the pros, cons and genuine fears of either leaving or remaining in the European Union.
Disclaimer: until recently I was a firm believer in remaining. But the more I have heard from the media, the more debates I have watched, and the more people I have listened to, I realise I have become a political fence sitter or floating voter. Even worse, it’s become obvious I am not alone.
So whilst writing down the argument, or maybe by reading any subsequent comments, I am hoping clarity will arrive!
Background and History
The precursor to the EU, the European Coal and Steel Community, was setup in 1950 after the backdrop of World War Two, the second war to originate in, and decimate the countries of Europe in twenty years.
The founding counties were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In 1957 it was renamed the European Economic Community (EEC) or more familiarly, the “common market”, which was the primary purpose.
In 1973, Denmark, Ireland and the UK joined the EEC, bringing the membership to nine countries. It was a Conservative government that negotiated the UK’s entry to the EEC, which wasn’t universally well received, and the next Labour government pledged to reform the UK’s membership, then offer the new deal to a referendum in 1975 to let the voters decide. Sound familiar?
Labour decided to create and send out a leaflet stating the argument for staying in the EEC, which was sent to all households. A lot of the arguments used in 1975 are the same as the ones made in 2016. In fact, the Government of the day also funded a Vote No leaflet by the National Referendum Campaign. You can read both 1975 leaflets by clicking either image below.
Compare this with the 2016 leaflet, where the government has decided to only fund the pro Europe argument. A political miscalculation? Time will tell.
Obviously the 1975 referendum decided to vote to remain in the EEC, and from 1981, Greece, Spain and Portugal joined. 1986 became a landmark year with the signing of the Single European Act, which had the aim to create a single market within the EEC by 1992 and was the first major revision of the common market. In simple terms, this revision gave greater power to the European Parliament, including dictating foreign policy.
In 1992 the famous/infamous Maastricht Treaty was signed, which saw the EEC become the European Union. This is a sticking point for a lot of people as they argue that the aims of the EEC changed from a Trade Agreement to the formation of a European super state. To add weight to the Eurosceptic argument, a common Euro currency was introduced, which the UK decided not to join.
The Treaty of Amsterdam came into force in 1999, as a part of this agreement member states agreed to devolve powers such as immigration, some civil and criminal laws, as well a common foreign and security policy. This caused an overlap with NATO, who were tasked to defend any European member from aggression, whilst the EU took the lead on peacekeeping and humanitarian aid duties.
Membership increased through the 1990s to twenty-four member states, with the Czech Republic joining in 2004, followed by Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. The latest entry, Croatia, joined in 2013, taking the total to the current twenty-eight member states. Turkey is currently in the process of joining, after initially applying in 1987!
Argument for staying
- The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner. As part of the EU, we have full access to the single market, which is approximately 500 million potential customers, without any trade tariffs or restrictions.
- Having free trade to the single market allows foreign companies to base themselves in the UK, generating jobs and wealth. According to the governments figures, over the last ten years foreign companies have invested £540 billion in the UK, or around a £1 billion a week.
- Over 300,000 British companies and 74 per cent of British exporters operate in other EU markets.
- The figure of £350m a week being saved by leaving the EU doesn’t take into account the rebate that was negotiated in 1984. According to fullfact.org the amount varies each year, and was £250m a week last year. This also doesn’t take into account money received back in forms of grants and payments, such as subsidies to farmers.
- The EU negotiates trade agreements with the rest of the world on behalf of its members. Outside of the EU, the UK would have to individually re-negotiate its trade deals.
- Although freedom of movement across EU members is seen as a negative, 1.4 million Brits live and work across the EU enjoying rights and benefits as European citizens.
- The benefits of security and intelligence sharing against terrorism and organised crime with EU members.
- Leaving will cause economic uncertainty for up to ten years as trade deals are re-negotiated, directly impacting the UK economy, which is dependent on financial services, with potential job losses as foreign owned businesses relocate to the Eurozone.
- The Government has negotiated a special status for the UK ensuring:
- The UK will never join the Euro. The UK will keep its own border controls.
- The UK will not be part of further European political integration.
- Tougher migrant restrictions on the welfare system.
- Commitment to reduce EU red tape.
- There is an argument that leaving the EU will reignite the Scottish independence debate as the SNP has said they wish to remain in the EU and refuse to be forced out.
Argument for leaving
- Britain could potentially remain a member of the single market, such as becoming members of the European Economic Area or the European Free Trade Association, like Norway. Although others argue that this would then leave the UK bound by EU regulation with no ability to challenge or amend.
- Leaving the EU would enable the UK to pursue its own trade deals with the rest of the world. The economies of India and China in particular could lead to lucrative trade deals and growing export markets. The EU has been unable to finalise a deal with India since negotiations started in 2007. Without having to wait for the agreement from twenty-eight other members, the UK would be better placed to arrange a trade treaty.
- Regain sovereignty of UK laws and remove EU legislation and red tape. European and UK law are based on different systems, common law for the UK and the Napoleonic Code for the EU. In essence, English law says that whatever is not illegal is permitted. European Law says that if something is not specifically permitted under some codified rule, then it is illegal. This disconnect is the cause of a lot of legal problems within the UK.
- Reduce or control migration. All EU members teach English as a language to school children, making the UK an obvious destination for economic migrants. If unchecked, the UK population is expected to rise to over seventy million by 2035, requiring extensive reduction of the countryside to fuel affordable house building.
- Recent highlighted tax avoidance by major corporations has been down to EU rules. Leaving the EU will allow the UK to have tighter control over collecting tax, allowing it to use international law rather than EU law. Currently European corporations based in the UK can pay low or little corporation tax by transferring cash internally to European offices using the EU tax laws.
- Leaving the EU wouldn’t happen overnight, it would be a controlled departure under the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon. This treaty, ratified in 2009, allows members two years once notice to leave has been given. This would allow the UK to take as long as is required to renegotiate any trade agreements or amend any laws before formally giving notice to leave. This would ensure a smoother transition for trade and the financial markets.
- According to German Chancellor Merkel “My vision is political union, because Europe has to follow its own path. We need to get closer step by step, in all policy areas… In the course a long process, we will transfer more powers to the Commission, which will then work as a European government for European competencies”. In other words, the eventual trajectory of this is a full European Union, i.e. a United States of Europe. The government has made it clear it has no interest and will resist any further political union or integration. So why stay?
Numbers and stats can be used by anyone to paint any picture or validate any argument. But the EU debate taps into emotions and has got ordinary people talking, who might not normally be politically interested.
The arguments for remaining or leaving are compelling, and both camps have some heavyweight backers, from politicians to leaders of business and industry.
The forerunner of the EU was set up in the aftermath of war, and the power struggles of Europe have subsided into trade and commerce. Although military tensions and atrocities in Europe continue to raise their head, such as the Balkans, Kosovo and currently the Ukraine, the thought of Germany and France now locking military horns seems unimaginable and almost ridiculous. A far cry from the last century.
So the EU as a trade block seems to have been successful. But is the eventual future a unified and united Europe?
After researching this article, I think I’m less sure than I was when I started, and have now questioned some of the propaganda on both sides. My gut feel tells me we need to stay, but the arguments to leave are compelling.
It's time to get off the political fence and stop floating.
What do YOU think?
Out of curiosity, thought I'd run a poll
Final poll results: 8,483 votes