To be, or Not to be…

In just under a month’s time Britain faces a key referendum on its future with the European Union, and thus far I’ve not said much about it. Well, that’s about to change!

It’s easy to consider the upcoming EU referendum as deciding whether or not we remain in the EU – but the question is should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? This is quite important, because the wording is such that it doesn’t mean we will leave the EU if the vote goes that way. Voting to say we should is not the same as saying we will, so regardless of how the vote goes, those who want Britain to leave the EU shouldn’t presume we will.

Should we leave?

The ‘Brexit’ campaign has been quite vocal in its reasoning behind why Britain is better off going alone – coming up with all sorts of facts and figures to support financial and political reasons why we should leave, but what’s the truth behind these claims? The truth is, I don’t know and there’s a lot of uncertainty. Let’s take a look at a couple of issues…

Finance & Trade

Should Britain quit the EU, we will need to have plans in place to sort out our trade arrangements so we are not at a disadvantage. The best model out there might be Norway’s, which is not in the EU but has negotiated access to the European Economic Area. This grants Norway access to European trade markets but releases her from EU rules on areas like justice and home affairs.

It remains to be seen if a so-called ‘amicable divorce’ would be possible. Would EU members allow Britain to pick and choose what rules and agreements we follow? If we make a clean break, the EU could impose tariffs on us, hampering British industry and exports.

The leave campaign suggests we might end up with a boom in the jobs market as the removal of rules and regulations – but we might also be hindered if businesses decide to leave Britain for cheaper EU alternatives.

Immigration

This is a big issue. Open EU borders have been used by the Brexit campaign to suggest we would be unable to control an influx of immigrants from prospective new EU members like Turkey, and that we are better off with direct controls over our borders. At the moment the net migration to the UK is around 300,000 people per year – is this too high?

A lot rests on how immigrants are perceived. The tabloid press likes to create hysteria around this, suggesting that immigrants are by-and-large benefits scroungers. There is of course the interesting and contradictory argument raised that immigrants are both taking British jobs and skiving on benefits.

Thoughts

There is a lot of stuff we don’t know regarding our circumstances if we leave. The EU may well not respond favourably to us leaving, and won’t necessarily offer us the trade terms other countries have. Economic uncertainty is not what we need right now, given the still-fragile state of our economy. The EU has flaws, but we know what we’re into – if we go it alone, we are plunged into the unknown. My personal ‘gut’ feeling is that we are better off staying.

 


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