The EU accounts for 1/4 of the world’s annual income. It is the largest economy in the world, similar to the USA, with a GDP per head of £20,000 p.a. and 500 million consumers. Through full membership of the EU Single Market, UK businesses make us wealthier. We all benefit through increased trade, investment, growth and lower prices (*CBI, OBR). Over 45% of British exports go to the Single Market. Because it’s cheaper to trade and there’s more competition and choice, we enjoy lower prices. Individuals can shop anywhere in the EU to get best value, and bring back all they want. Our exports to fast-growing third countries are increasing, but Britain exports more to Ireland than to China, twice as much to Belgium as to India, and three times as much to Sweden as Brazil! The LEAVE campaign, though claims that after an initial shock Britain would do better making its own trade arrangements, free from of the more general costs and constraints of the EU.
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Creating the Single Market involved three big steps.
Internal Free Trade: From the start, all tariffs and quota restrictions on trade between participating countries were abolished, creating a free trade area.
The Common Market: In addition, tariffs on trade with third countries were aligned (the CET), and trade agreements with other countries were negotiated on a collective basis. To date the EU has 36 such agreements covering 53 markets. Other policies were also aligned: for example, national subsidies to agriculture were replaced by a common system of support (the CAP), making internal free trade in agricultural products possible. VAT replaced the various national sales taxes.
The Single Market: But trade between Member States was still being hampered by so-called “non-tariff barriers”: diverse technical and product safety standards; restrictive rules on public purchasing; complex tax and other controls on goods moving between countries; incompatible packaging and labelling rules; and other obstacles listed in British Commissioner Lord Cockfield’s Single Market Programme of 1985. Streamlined procedures for adopting common laws, embodied in the Single European Act of 1987, made it possible to remove most of these barriers by the early 1990s, creating the EU Single Market. Now, when goods have been certified as compliant for the UK market, they will automatically be compliant for sale across the whole of the EU.
So UK exports today have unrestricted access to the Single Market, and other EU countries have unrestricted access to ours. This brings economic benefits to all. Competition reduces prices for consumers and drives innovation. Firms can enjoy economies of scale and more efficient supply chains; and countries can make use of comparative advantage to increase general prosperity. Being part of the EU’s Single Market makes us all wealthier. Incomes in the UK and Denmark would now be 25% lower if we had not joined the EU in 1973. And only as an EU member can we help form the rules.
There is more benefit to come. Work on removing barriers continues, particularly in the case of services, which constitute almost 80 per cent of the UK’s economy. Further opening up the market in financial services and the creation of a single market in digital services would be of enormous benefit to us. The Services Directive, introduced in 2006, has already made progress in opening up retail, tourism, construction and business services. Restrictions on air transport have been removed, leading to new routes and a reduction in the cost of air travel. The mutual recognition of professional qualifications means that UK architects, doctors or vets can work anywhere in the EU.
The Single Market also now extends well beyond the 28 EU countries. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein participate as part of the European Economic Area (EEA), as does Switzerland under special agreements. Most other European countries, including Turkey, have trade agreements permitting partial participation.
It is a delusion that (as supporters of LEAVE/BREXIT argue) if we left the EU, we could soon guarantee the same access to the Single Market because “they need us more than we need them”. While Germany and the Netherlands export much more to us than we to them; the other 25 members of the EU exports only 3% of their GDP to us, and we export 12% of ours to them. The truth is that for 25 of our 27 partner states, we need them much more than they need us. As former Canadian trade minister Pierre Pettigrew has observed: “Those who claim that the UK can pick and choose what it wants in any future agreement have never negotiated a trade deal”. EU negotiators would be unlikely to offer us any soft options, if only to discourage other possible leavers. Much would depend on far-from-guaranteed good will. The truth is, no one knows the outcome, and there are big risks. As the French Foreign Minister Emmanual Macron said of Brexit, “There would be consequences” because other states would not wish to give the UK an easy ride.
Some who condemn the Prime Minister’s renegotiation as not going far enough, would only support remaining in if power to set regulations were repatriated to Westminster. But if the UK Parliament could set independent rules on product safety and similar standards, so could all the other national parliaments! The result would be chaos. Traders might face up to 28 different sets of incompatible rules instead of just one. We could soon be back to the bad old days when national health regulations or technical norms were used as protectionist devices. Trade would suffer, and prices would rise. The achievements of the Conservative Governments of the 1980s would be destroyed.
Outside the EU, could we still have access to the Single Market? The Government has recently published a White Paper, Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union (HMSO March 2016). This shows that there would be a trade-off between possible economic advantages on the one hand, and freedom of action on the other. It analyses a number of possible arrangements. A Treasury Paper joins several academic studies in forecasting severe damage to the UK economy were we to leave the EU. Those who advocate Brexit seem a small band of wild optimists according to most informed opinion, from the IMF on. Some influential Brexit voices actually advocate being like Albania, using WTO rules, with generally a 10% tariff.
The European Economic Area (EEA): The UK, like Norway, would still have full access to the Single Market as an EEA member. On the other hand, we should have to accept not only all existing regulations governing the Single Market, but all new ones– though no longer playing a full part in their formulation. Contributions to the EU Budget would also continue, as would the free movement of persons from EU countries.
The Swiss model: Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), but not of the EEA, and has bilateral agreements giving access to the Single Market for some, but not all exports. As in the case of EEA membership, new Single Market regulations would have to be accepted, as would free movement.
The Canada model: We might negotiate limited access on terms similar to that obtained by Turkey or Canada. One problem is the length of the negotiations: that between the EU and Canada took seven years, and is still to come into force. Such alternatives would also involve new regulatory complexities such as applying rules of origin.
A complete break and reliance on WTO rules: A complete break with the EU would give the UK freedom to conclude international trade agreements; but at the price of losing all preferential access to the EU single market and to the 53 markets with EU trade agreements. Our position would be that of any other third country with no agreement.
Many laws adopted at EU level, however, have nothing to do with trade: rules on the quality of water, health and safety, conditions of employment, and so on.
Most of the legislation on environmental protection has been of enormous benefit: for example, EU-wide standards on emissions from motor vehicles. The employment legislation, more controversial, has its origin, not in the Single Market programme itself, but in the subsequent “social dimension”: for example, policies to prevent a competitive advantage obtained through lower wages or looser health and safety requirements. An opt-out from the “social chapter” was negotiated by the Conservative government of John Major; but reversed by the subsequent Labour government. The Governments renegotiation has now resulted in an EU commitment to “lowering administrative burdens and compliance costs on economic operators, especially small and medium enterprises, and repealing unnecessary legislation.”
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The EU was formed to bring an end to Europe’s long history of wars between its members, and to promote democracy. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this. However, terrorism, initially from separatist organisations and now +increasingly from fundamentalist Islamism, is an increasing threat within, and a destabilising force on the fringes of, the European Union. Tyrannical rulers cause floods of refugees. Close cooperation on meeting these threats and challenges is a priority. The EU already has intelligence structures, police cooperation and the European Arrest Warrant which help make us safer (we can arrest criminals across the EU). Structures for concerted action, which Britain has recently chosen to join, are continually being improved. It would be foolish to be on the outside, not enjoying full cooperation in these dangerous times. Brexit would cut us off from key arrangments for seecurity cooperation. The current Home Secretary and the recently retired heads of MI5 and MI6 – our James Bond services – all say we we would be less safe outside the EU.
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The EU has a developing structure for concerted action (the Justice and Home Affairs programme). Among the instruments available under these EU policies are the European Arrest Warrant, established in 2002, which makes extradition between EU Member States faster and simpler, while at the same time providing better protection of rights for suspects; the European Investigation Order, simplifying the procedure for gathering evidence; EU-wide information exchange mechanisms, such as the European Criminal Records Information System; the EU Judicial Cooperation Unit, Eurojust, which facilitates police and judicial cooperation through Joint Investigation Teams (JITs); and Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, which, among other things, delivers vital intelligence on terrorism.
It is a measure of the usefulness of these that the UK, although with opt outs, has chosen to opt in to many of the programmes.
Since many threats are international in scope, one answer is action on a fully international basis: through the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), etc. However, concerted action through such intergovernmental bodies is often difficult to arrange and could not replace EU membership…
The main guarantor of Britain’s military security against Russia is membership of NATO and the commitment of the US to the defence of Europe. This was the crucial factor in countering the threat from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The military role of the EU is only marginal, although recent action to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean has proved valuable.
However, America has always wanted, in return for its commitment to Europe’s defence, greater unity in the “European pillar” of NATO; and also for Britain to be fully involved − including within the EU. The idea that, outside the EU, we can fall back on the “special relationship” with the US does not accord with American policy, nor does it match the rhetoric of some contenders for the US Presidency…
At the same time, the threats to our security today are no longer purely military. There is the growing danger from terrorism, both external and internal, which cannot be countered by traditional military means. Drug and human trafficking have become major international problems. Globalisation and the creation of the internet have also made it almost impossible to prevent, on a purely national basis, financial and other fraud.
These developments have made international cooperation in law enforcement an urgent priority.
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EU membership makes Britain a more attractive base for both EU and third-country firms. This investment brings us jobs, expertise, and wealth. Think of the car industry and foreign banks. Why do others choose us if they want to invest in the EU? First, we are full members of the EU and the Single Market, and second: London is one of the world’s leading financial centres; English is the language of international commerce; and our regulatory and tax systems are considered business-friendly. The EU ranks first in the world for international investment, and the UK receives 20% of the EU total. Already, however, the uncertainty caused by the Referendum is having a negative impact on investment, as investment decisions are postponed.
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Inward investment boosts our national wealth and creates jobs. Japanese companies like Nissan have created some 130,000 jobs here. In the case of financial services any U.K.-authorized firm is free to do business in any other EEA state by applying for a “passport” from British regulators. For non-EU banks (eg JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group AG or Nomura Holdings Inc), the ability to access the region’s over half a billion customers from a base in London has been an important draw.
We cannot know the effect on such inward investment were the UK to leave the EU. It would probably be negative, but just how negative would greatly depend upon the arrangements subsequently negotiated. Membership of the EEA would limit the possibility of an investment outflow; but in order to access the Single Market, manufacturers based in the UK would still need to apply EU technical and other standards, and would face added costs if different standards applied in the domestic UK market.
If the negotiations on leaving the EU went sour – worst case scenario − there would be a danger of exporters having to pay the Common External Tariff: 10% in the case of cars. In these circumstances, manufacturers might decide to move production to a base still within the EU. In the case of financial services, the loss of the “passport” to operate in other EU countries would be a serious blow. Some banks have already made contingency plans to move staff to Paris, Dublin, Luxembourg or Frankfurt.
Some of the UK’s attractions as a base for investment (location, language, and laws) would continue, however, and in the best-case scenario inward investment might continue at near the same level as at present. However studies have found that neither the worst case nor the best case scenarios are likely, but that there is considerable uncertainty as to where, between the two extremes, the UK would find itself. A study done for the Institute of Economic Affairs (which favours LEAVE) made a positive central forecast; but also found that the downside risks (worst case scenario) were twice as great as the upside chances (best case scenario).
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There are many financial estimates of the loss. If the UK votes to leave the EU, it would be around two years or more before UK membership ended. Then negotiations to establish trade agreements with other world markets could easily take another ten years. Uncertainty about the future has already destabilised financial markets and hit the value of the Pound. This would increase with a vote LEAVE, harming growth and employment. An academic study (LSE) estimated our trade would fall by £26 billion to £55 billion. In recent weeks the IMF has said that the consequence of BREXIT for the UK would lie between ‘Very Bad’ and ‘Very, Very Bad’. Richard Branson takes the view that BREXIT would be ‘very,very damaging for Britain’. The results will be felt in jobs, incomes and taxa tion.
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A vote to leave the EU in the referendum would only be the beginning of a possibly long period of negotiations, during the first two years of which only the UK would still be a Member State, but with restrictions on its participation in decisions. It would also be possible for any agreement on the terms for the UK to leave to be blocked by one or more Member States or by the European Parliament.
Until the process was concluded, there would be considerable uncertainty as to future arrangements. This could destabilise markets, particularly financial markets, with repercussions for business, employment and the economy in general. The fact that Brexit is even on the cards is already causing investors to demand a risk premium for UK assets. Until the future relationship with the EU was clear, foreign investment in the UK would probably dry up. All this might cost each family £6400 (Evening Standard report); or £4300 (HMG central estimate) .. all such estimates are speculative. But the concensus is that the effect will be significant and negative..
However, if the exit negotiations could be concluded rapidly, and be quickly approved by Council and Parliament, the disruption might be only temporary. Much, however, would depend on the amount of goodwill to find an agreement. This is far from guaranteed; indeed, EU negotiators have an incentive to take a tough stance as a deterrent to other countries which might contemplate leaving.
The procedure for leaving the EU is laid down by Article 50 of the Treaty, which states:
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. ……. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
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EU membership gives British exporters the benefit of 50 trade agreements with third countries negotiated by the EU, including developed economies like South Korea and emerging economies like Mexico and South Africa. The importance of the EU in trade negotiations far exceeds that of the UK, so it will generally get better deals than the UK on its own. Current EU negotiations with India, Japan and the United States will bring more benefits in future.
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It is true that the big growth markets of the future probably lie outside Europe. Last year the Indian economy grew by +7.2% and that of China by +6.9%, the Euro Area by only +1.5%. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines had growth rates of around +5%.
However, the world changes. Countries once thought of as attractive growth markets and advocated as EU alternatives – for example the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) − have recently run into severe economic difficulties. The Brazilian economy, for example, shrank last year by -3.7% and that of Russia by -3.8%. Even the Chinese economy has begun to slow down sharply in the face of financial problems.
Accessing non-EU markets is not easy. Most apply various protectionist measures, which are not likely to be removed without a substantial quid pro quo, notably access to markets for their own exports. As former Canadian trade minister Pierre Pettigrew has observed: “Those who claim that the UK can pick and choose what it wants in any future agreement have never negotiated a trade deal”.
Outside the EU we would be free to negotiate trade agreements with any other country or group of countries. Our bargaining position, however, would be much weaker than that of the EU as a whole. The UK can offer a potential trading partner 60 million new customers. Together, EU countries and the EEA offer 600 million. For this reason major non-EU trading partners like Canada, the US and Japan state they prefer an EU-level trade deal to one with the UK, or any other single country on its own. The most immediate prize is an agreement with the United States on a transatlantic trading partnership (TTIP). This should increase the EUs GDP by £51-114 billion and the UKs GDP by £4-10 billion.
While the UK on its own is the world’s fifth largest national economy, providing a reasonably attractive market for potential trade partners, negotiating suitable trade agreements would take years. Britain would need to replace each of the EU’s 50 trade deals with its own bilateral deals, negotiated from a relatively weaker position.
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The Single Market is not complete, and there are potentially huge rewards if Britain can lead the EU to complete the Market in services. This could double British exports to the rest of the EU. Finance, internet, and energy are industries where the UK is in an excellent position to compete and expand. The creation of a “digital single market”, removing barriers to online trade in goods and services, could add as much as 4% to the EU’s annual economic growth. The opportunities are huge, partiularly for Britain with its special strengths in the digital economy.
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Despite the considerable achievements of the “1992” programme for the EU’s Single Market, many obstacles to a really open, barrier-free market remain, particularly in the field of services. These represent 70% of Europe’s economies, generate 90% of new jobs, but currently account for only 20% of intra-EU trade.
Increasing the competitivity of the EU economy was one of the governments four negotiating objectives, and was agreed without dissent at the February European Council. The Presidency conclusions state that
“.. the relevant EU institutions and the Member States will take concrete steps towards better regulation….. This means lowering administrative burdens and compliance costs on economic operators, especially small and medium enterprises, and repealing unnecessary legislation…. While continuing to ensure high standards of consumer, employee, health and environmental protection. The European Union will also pursue an active and ambitious trade policy.
Progress on all these elements of a coherent policy for competitiveness will be closely monitored and reviewed as appropriate.”
Several initiatives to carry out these policies have already been taken in the past; but they have had only partial success in reducing regulatory burdens. Within the EU the UK can keep up the pressure for reform.
It can be argued that, outside the EU, the UK could pursue a policy of reducing administrative burdens on its own, leaving the rest of the EU unreformed. In the short term this could indeed give the UK a competitive advantage over other European countries. However, in the longer term it is in the UKs interests to increase the competitivity, and hence the prosperity, of its largest market. A study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated that bringing in the reforms Britain advocates could increase EU economic growth by 4.5%.
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Europe’s history is one of destructive wars in which Britain has inevitably become involved. Between EU nations such wars are a thing of the past, though tensions do arise. The EU has been a powerful force for promoting democracy and the rule of law among its members which is why it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.Britain, one of the largest member States, has been an important progressive influence in the EU. This will continue to be of value to us and our partners in the future.
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In May 1950 the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Pooling coal and steel production would make war between historic rivals France and Germany “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”. The ECSC was the first step towards what is now the European Union. It can be argued that this objective is now permanently secured, and that the EU has become outdated: but the price of peace is eternal vigilance.
The civil war following the break-up of Yugoslavia was a reminder that peace in Europe cannot be guaranteed; and the admission to the EU of Slovenia and Croatia, together with the possibility of joining for the rest of former Yugoslavia, has been an important part of the solution.
Britain was obliged to participate in the post-Yugoslavia conflict, as in virtually all former wars on the Continent – no matter how much we may have wished to maintain splendid isolation. Peace in Europe is in our national interest.
The EU has also been a powerful force for promoting democracy and the rule of law. Greece, Spain and Portugal had right-wing authoritarian governments until the early 1980s. The countries of central and eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain had similar Communist regimes. A condition of joining the EU is fulfilment of the “Copenhagen criteria”, which require a candidate country to have a functioning parliamentary democracy and an impartial judicial system. In order to obtain the economic benefits of EU membership, therefore, countries had to become democracies. At the same time, membership was a way of cementing that democracy.
However, even if the EU has been a success in promoting peace and democracy, is this necessarily an argument for Britain to remain a member? Is it plausible that the rest of the EU will sink back into Fascism and Communism, or gradually disintegrate just because Britain isn’t there? We can see the strains already. One answer is the constructive role Britain can continue to play inside the EU. For example, the enlargement of the EU, and the spread of democracy, to the countries of central and eastern Europe was a policy vigorously promoted by British governments, particularly that of Margaret Thatcher. British influence within the EU is generally considered to be positive by other Member States, especially those who fear domination by France and Germany.
UK membership is, quite simply, a force for good and expands our world influence.
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The majority of laws/rules agreed at EU level have brought great benefits. This particularly true where the environment needs to be protected, or when consumers need protection from dangerous or defective products. Pollution from factory chimneys does not stop at national frontiers: common emission standards make sense. So do common standards for exhaust emissions from cars and lorries: large numbers of vehicles from other countries travel on British roads. Protection of wildlife can only be done on a cross-frontier basis. The EU Bathing Water Directive has dramatically improved the quality of UK coastal waters – we might have done this for ourselves, but didn’t. The EU has taken the lead internationally in promoting measures to cut back the release of greenhouse gases and to halt climate change.
EU legislation on product liability means that customers who buy faulty goods can get compensation, no matter which country the goods come from. Internationally traded food products, animals and plants get a high common standard of health from the EU. In the case of services, including rapidly-growing commerce on the internet, EU customers gain protection from mis-selling and fraud. Producers and inventors, can get EU protection of their intellectual property. Common legislation on data protection upholds the right of individuals to privacy throughout the EU.
ERASMUS helps our students study abroad; university cooperation is increased; scientist welcome EU help for multi-country research. We have the right to live and work in other EU countries, and get health care.
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In all these fields common regulations would be necessary, whether the UK was inside the EU or not: but outside the EU we would have no say in their making, not could we protect our special interests.
More controversial are EU regulations in the social and employment field. The justification for these has been the prevention of “social dumping”: low standards of health and safety and employee rights in order to obtain a competitive advantage. EU laws in these fields have undoubtedly brought added costs for UK businesses, but on the other hand, they have improved working conditions for employees, particularly women. They have included:
Safety at work − Workplaces are safer as a result of EU legislation
Sickness/ Holiday Rights – Holiday rights are accrued during periods of ill health
Equal Pay – Men and women must be paid the same for doing the same job or of equal value
Holidays – In 1998 UK workers got the legal right to holidays
Maternity rights – Statutory maternity leave of up to a year
Parental leave – New parents are entitled to time off work to look after their children
Discrimination – Protection from being discriminated against on grounds of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or if you are disabled
Healthcare on Holiday – Free healthcare for people who get sick while are on holiday
Time off work – No-one can be forced to work more than 48 hours a week, and there must be regular breaks
Fairness at work – Full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent, in-house or agency, all workers get the same rights
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Leaving the EU would not merely have serious economic consequences. It could lead to another Scottish referendum and the break-up of the United Kingdom itself, and new, dangerous instability in Europe as the balance between the bigger Member States is disturbed. Not a single friend of Britain in the world –not the USA, India, the Commonwealth, China, Japan ‒ wants us to leave the EU. But we can guess that President Putin, who indirectly supports extremist parties in the EU, would be delighted.
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If the UK voted to leave the EU, but Scotland voted to stay in, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said that she would in due course demand a new referendum on Scottish independence. The logic would be persuasive: if England were unwilling to accept decisions made in Brussels, why should Scotland accept decisions made in London?
Whether an independent Scotland would have to re-apply to join the EU would depend, among other things, on how international law on successor states was interpreted, and whether Scottish independence preceded, or came after, the UK leaving the EU.
A vote by the UK to leave the EU would also create serious problems in Northern Ireland. The Irish peace agreement has rested on the assumption that both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are part of the EU. After BREXIT the Irish border would become the controlled external border of the EU. The case for Irish unity would become much stronger.
The consequences of BREXIT for the EU itself could also be serious. Other countries could demand special treatment under threat of leaving. If, as a result, the EU began to disintegrate, Britain would not be immune from the devastating economic and political consequences.
The potentially destabilising effects on BREXIT on Europe, and on the Western world as a whole, is the main reason that almost all international opinion is urging Britain to remain in the EU. This is particularly true of the United States, which does not wish to see any weakening of the “European pillar” of NATO. It is also true of all the other EU Member States; and of China, Japan and most other countries which trade with and invest in Britain.
BREXIT could also destabilise the internal balance within the EU, leaving Germany as the dominant economic force, but also strengthening protectionist, “fortress Europe” tendencies.
The break-up of the EU would, on the other hand, be in the interests of Russia, which wishes to prevent the Ukraine from having links with the EU, and would welcome the chance to detach the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) from the West. The EU has been very effective in imposing sanctions on Russia following its annexation of the Crimea.
It is now seventy years since the end of the Second World War, during which time enormous progress has been made in ending the rampant nationalism and economic protectionism that brought that war about. BREXIT could be seen as a step in the opposite direction.
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If Britain left the EU we should no longer participate in decisions about EU issues including the Single Market. But if we wanted to continue trading there – the market that takes nearly half out exports − we should still have to obey them. Technical standards, product safety regulations and other rules which govern trade within the EU Single Market in practice apply much more widely – countries which wish to export into the EU are obliged to conform to them. As a Member State of the EU, Britain fully participates in setting these rules.
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British Ministers representing their elected government sit on the EU Councils and elected British MEPs sit in the European Parliament. The member of the Commission responsible for Financial Services, is British (Lord Jonathan Hill). British EU officials have occupied senior and influential positions in the Commission, including the President and the Secretary-General, and British domestic civil servants take part in Council working parties. Representatives of British employers, trade unions and consumers sit on the advisory Economic and Social Committee, and of local authorities on the Committee of the Regions. Rarely we are outvoted on a key issue; most often we get much of what we want through the representations of our civil servants, diplomats, MEPs and Ministers.
Two important points follow:
British participation in the EU has also, in the past, often been of decisive importance. Removing trade barriers to create the Single Market in the late 1980s and early 1990s was promoted by British MEPs and masterminded by the then British Commissioner, Arthur Cockfield. Enlargement of the EU to cement democracy and the rule of law in the former Communist countries of central and eastern Europe was vigorously championed by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. As the Economist has recently observed, “Europe would be poorer without Britain’s voice….less liberal, more protectionist and more inward-looking”. This would, in itself, damage Britain’s trade and prosperity.
It is, of course, possible that a post-BREXIT agreement with the EU would include an arrangement for British interests – for example, financial services and the City of London – to be taken into account when Single Market rules were being decided. But it would be unwise to count on this: BREXIT would not necessarily be amicable. And we should not forget the French saying: “Les absents ont toujours tort” (those not there are always in the wrong).
In an economic system based on competition, there will always be a need to strike a balance between two objectives. On the one hand, each country should be free to make the most of any competitive advantage. On the other, the playing field must, to some extent at least, be level. The political dilemma is well illustrated in the field of corporate taxation. Should countries be free to attract inward investment through low rates of tax (general considered good)? But at what stage does this result in the encouragement of tax avoidance and evasion (generally considered bad)?
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It would not be attractive to be another Norway, Turkey or Canada with no say in EU laws, simply having to observe them. Nor at the other end of the scale would it pay to be fully outside with no special arrangements. We believe in Britain, but not in woolly optimism leading to a jump in the dark. It seems that the Leave campaign believes in being like Albania – with no special EU relationship, and trading on WTO terms which would involve, mainly, a 10% tariff. This would be sufficient to drive exporting companies to consider moving to, or putting new investment within, the EU.
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The Government has recently published a White Paper, Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union (HMSO March 2016). This analyses in detail the possible outcomes of a UK decision to leave the EU, ranging from close association like Norway to a position fully outside with no special arrangements.
The analysis shows that there would be a trade-off between economic advantages on the one hand, and freedom of action on the other. For example, the Norway model (membership of the European Economic Area) would give virtually free access to the EU Single Market and the markets arising from the EU’s 53 international trade agreements; but at the price of having to apply EU regulations without a say in their adoption, pay into the EU Budget, and accept free movement.
By contrast, a complete break with the EU would give the UK freedom to adopt its own regulations and conclude its own international trade agreement; but at the price of losing preferential access to the EU single market and to the 53 markets arising from the EU trade agreements. These would have to be renegotiated separately and bilaterally under the terms of the World Trade Organisation.
In between would be a status similar to that of Switzerland or Turkey, giving only limited access to the Single Market, and creating new regulatory complexities such as applying rules of origin. Looser arrangements would also limit the UK’s inclusion in EU policies to combat crime and terrorism.
Those campaigning to leave the EU are sharply divided on which of these options the UK should then choose. Even UKIP is split between the views of the Leader, Nigel Farage, and the free market views of the party’s single MP, Douglas Carswell.
One critical factor if the UK votes to leave will be the time-scale of reaching alternative agreements. The negotiations with the EU on the terms for BREXIT could themselves last for two years or more, during which time the UK would still be within the EU. It is not clear whether these negotiations could also cover possible subsequent arrangements such as EEA membership. Negotiations to replace EU trade agreement with bilateral agreements could, according the government, last up to another ten years.
Satisfactory arrangements, both economic and political, could be reached much more rapidly, given goodwill on all sides. But this is far from guaranteed. After all the efforts of renegotiation it is quite possible that the break would be acrimonious, with some other Member States determined to punish the UK for causing added disruption at a time when the EU already faces serious problems. As French President Hollande has warned: “there would be consequences”. And a ‘good’ renegotiation would require 27 member states all to be in favour of every clause.
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All democracies seek to improve and none get it right all the time. It would be foolish to leave the EU, with all its achievement and future promise, unless there a much better alternative was in sight. But this is not the case. We should stay in, keep the advantages, and work for improvements on the inside. Some supposed EU problems, such as the European Court of Human Rights, (ECtHR) are nothing to do with the EU.
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Suppose it was the EU’s fault that we had two aircraft Carriers, but no planes to put on them … or lost many £100m’s on computer contracts that did not work (as did the NHS, and has the UK government all too often) – the Brexiteers would be all over it. But these were purely British problems. All governments and institutions get things wrong, the UK and the EU included. But current failings in the EU, an organisation with many benefits for Britain, is not an argument to give up, rather to make things better. Britain’s influence in and contribution to the EU is much appreciated by most Member States. Our membership is good for us, and for them. It benefits us to have an effective EU as a partner. It would be a disadvantage to the UK to have a less effective EU, in which we had no say, as our next door neighbour.
Many British newspapers complain of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg – such as allowing a criminal to remain in Britain because they owned a pet. Leaving the EU would make no difference at all to the judgments of the ECtHR and their application to the UK. The Council of Europe is an entirely separate body from the EU. It was founded in 1949, largely on the initiative of Winston Churchill, and has 47 member states, including Russia and Turkey. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Right covers application of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the UK is a signatory, and which became directly enforceable in British Courts in 2000.
From early days, when birching in the Isle of Man was found illegal, to recent rulings on, for example, votes for prisoners or the rights of illegal immigrants wanting to remain in the UK, the judgments of the ECHR have been widely considered “unacceptable interference by foreign judges”; and they have then been used to attack EU membership.
Leaving the EU would make no difference at all to this.
Only if the UK were to remove itself from the jurisdiction of the ECHR, which would almost certainly mean leaving the Council of Europe too, would the situation change (though some lawyers argue that we might ignore ECHR rulings without breaking international law). Leaving the Council of Europe would effectively make the UK a pariah state in Europe.
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Those who want to keep Britain in the EU claim that we do half our trade there. This was once true. But now the figure is about 44% and falling. Compared to other markets – the United States, China, India and some Commonwealth countries – the EU is stagnating. The problems of the Euro Area are making the situation worse.
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Although it is true that the rest of the EU is the largest single market for UK exports, our trade there has been declining in recent years. The proportion, once 60%, is now only around 44%. This is because the economies of other EU countries have been relatively stagnant, in particular the economies of countries using the Euro.
Inside the Euro Area the one-size-fits-all monetary policies, and rules on fiscal deficits, have had a severely negative impact, particularly on the less competitive economies. Last year the growth rate of the Euro Area was only +1.5%, as compared to the UK’s +2.2%; and the average rate of unemployment was over 10%. In some countries, like Spain and Greece, unemployment was over 20%.
The UK might therefore benefit economically by switching its trade from the declining EU market to faster-growing economies in the rest of the world. Last year the US economy grew by +2.4%; that of China by +6.9%; and that of India by +7.2%, with similar healthy growth rates in SE Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, though Brazil and Russia have fallen on hard times.
As an EU Member State, the UK is unable to conclude its own trade agreements with such countries. This power was ceded to the EU Commission when the UK joined what was then the European Communities in 1973. Although the EU has concluded a number of trade agreements with countries such as Canada and Mexico, there is no reason to suppose that the UK, outside the EU, could not negotiate independent agreements.
Most potential trading partners, however, have erected tariff and other barriers against foreign exports, and are likely to want something in return for removing them – notably, access to markets for their own exports. In these circumstances it is true that the EU of 28 countries and a market of over half a billion customers is in a stronger bargaining position than a single country like the UK, which can offer access to a market only a tenth the size.
The most important trade negotiations currently taking place are those to create an EU/US transatlantic trading partnership (TTIP). This should increase the EUs GDP by £51-114 billion and the UKs GDP by £4-10 billion. It is not clear what the UK’s position would be outside the EU.
Outside the EU, the UK might certainly re-develop historic ties with Commonwealth countries. Most of these, however, already have agreements with the EU as a whole: for example, South Africa through its Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement, and the Caribbean Commonwealth nations through Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), which focus on development as well as free trade.
Negotiations to replace each of the EU’s 50 or so existing trade agreements with bilateral deals could also take some years of negotiation, during which time British exporters could find themselves shut out of important markets.
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Outside the EU our elected Parliament would once again be free to legislate as it saw fit, our government would be free to control our own borders and our courts would be free to interpret our own laws. We would regain our full sovereignty and not be subject to decisions by the EU or its Court.
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British Sovereignty has been acquired and defended at the cost of much blood and treasure over many centuries. It represents our freedom to run our own country as we wish, as a democracy ruled by the Queen in the British Parliament which our citizens partly elect and where the Supreme Court is our own Supreme Court, not a shared one in Luxembourg.
Of course, every country shares or trades its sovereignty to gain some advantage or other through treaties. Britain is a signatory to thousands of treaties. Membership of NATO, for example, requires us to defend other NATO states, and put our forces under some joint command.
But EU treaties go far beyond that. While Britain, through its ministers, MEPs, and officials, has a say in making new laws, it does not always get its own way. Furthermore, joining the EU many years after it was founded, we had to accept a large corpus of laws a significant proportion of which were not to our taste and some of which such as fisheries, were to our notable disadvantage. In addition, judgements of the European Court of Justice have extended the boundaries of EU powers without our consent.
Not surprisingly our membership of the EU in the years since 1973 has been characterised by continuing disputes, and by EU interference in the detail of life in Britain.
However, a vote to LEAVE would not necessarily restore full freedom of action. If we wanted full access to the Single Market on the same basis, for example, as Norway, then most EU regulations would still apply. If we tried to follow the Swiss model, we should have to accept less regulation, but get less access to the market. The greater the access, the greater the loss of sovereignty.
The terms “sovereignty” is, in any case, used to describe a number of different things. First, a distinction must be made between “parliamentary sovereignty” within the UK, and “national sovereignty” in an international context.
The sovereignty of Parliament – usually taken to mean that of the elected House of Commons – implies the ability to have the final say in enacting the laws that apply in the UK; and also in repealing them, since no Parliament can bind its successor. Parliament has the power to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972, which took the UK into the EU – or any other piece of legislation or Treaty. Parliament can also, in theory, vote to disregard the result of any referendum.
For some supporters of BREXIT, like Boris Johnson, the ability of Westminster to block EU laws it doesn’t like is crucial. If this were conceded as the price for remaining in the EU, however, it would logically also extend to all the other twenty-seven EU national parliaments; and this would lead to legislative grid-lock, almost certainly destroying the Single Market and freedom of trade. Such an option is,in practical terms, impossible.
Public international law defines the second use of the word: sovereignty de jure (in law), or the sovereignty of the nation state. Nations sign treaties with others in the same way that individuals sign contracts in private life; and there is a presumption that treaties, like contracts, will be observed (pacta sunt servanda). So, if the House of Commons exercised its domestic sovereign right to repeal the European Communities Act unilaterally, the UK would be in breach of international law, exposing it to sanctions or other action by the members of the international community. However, as this referendum shows, there is a straightfuoward mechanism for withdrawal from the EU for any Member State
This possibility leads to the third meaning of the term: sovereignty de facto, sovereignty in fact: the real ability of a country to control its own economic and political destiny. Nations can enhance their sovereignty “in fact” by pooling their sovereignty “in law”; and this is what the UK has done in joining international bodies like the UN, NATO and the EU.
“Regaining sovereignty” is not, therefore, a straightforward matter. In the case of parliamentary sovereignty, for example, the House of Commons might legally vote to repeal the Indian Independence Act of 1947, making India and Pakistan parts 3 of the British Empire again. But this would have no effect in the real world. The UK can legally withdraw from NATO. But this would drastically reduce our security and influence.
Similarly, withdrawal from the EU would certainly free the UK, and the UK parliament, from the need to enact and adhere to EU-decided laws. It is a matter of debate, however, whether this would benefit our sovereignty in fact in terms of prosperity, security and influence.
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This is true in the sense that it is our membership fee, though it is also claimed that the benefits of membership exceed the cost. If we left the EU, we should immediately save around £7-£9 billion of taxpayers’ money every year. This is the net figure we have to put into the EU Budget, allowing for the money we get back through various EU schemes, including the Thatcher rebate. It amounts to about 45p per person per day. The key claim by the LEAVE campaign is that £350m a week is sent to Brussels is strongly contested.
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The £350m a week ‘sent’ claim is widely regarded as grossly misleading as it refers to the amount before the Thatcher rebate is deducted at source. No such amount is in fact demanded from the UK, let alone sent. The EU Budget in 2015 came to €141 billion (about £100 billion). This is roughly 1% of the EU’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is financed by contributions from national budgets; but each country receives back money to support agriculture, regional development, research and other EU-financed projects. Some countries are therefore net recipients, others net contributors. The UK is one of the few net contributors, financing over 10% of EU spending; and our contribution would be over £5 billion more were it not for the rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s.
Some say that paying money in, then getting it back in the form of EU finance, is wasteful in creating administrative costs, though the proportion of the Budget spent on administration is relatively modest, at about 6% of the total. Another response is that EU priorities and UYK priorities may well differ. EU finance for local projects is also meant to be additional to any grants coming from national Treasuries. It is also worth noting that certain poorer parts of the UK – for example, much of Wales – are net recipients of EU funding.
The following table from HMG puts expenditure on the EU in context. It shows total Public Spending in the UK by Central Government and Local Authority Fiscal Year 2015.
|2015||£’billion per annum||£’million per week||£’million per day||£ per head per day||% total|
|Total UK Public Spending source HMG||£748||£14385||£2055||£31.53||100.0|
|National Health Care||£134||2577||368||£5.65||17.9|
|Other Public Services||£113||2173||310||£4.76||15.1|
|Public Sector Interest||£46||885||126||£1.94||6.1|
Note: is EU included in ‘other public services’ above
|2015 figures||£bn pa||£m per week||£m per day|
|What we would pay||18||346.2||49.5|
|but refund deducted||5||96.2||13.7|
|What we pay||13||250.0||35.7|
|EU spend in UK||4||76.9||11.0|
Another objection to the system is that the UK taxpayers are obliged to pay for the building of roads, hospitals, schools and so on in other countries like Poland, when the money is badly needed at home. A counter-argument is that improving the economies of poorer countries eventually benefits us, since they are then able to afford our exported goods and services. Prosperity also leads to stability, which it is in our interests to promote.
If the UK votes LEAVE but nonetheless wishes to retain special access to the Single Market, it would (no doubt depending on the degree of access) find itself having to contribute to the EU budget as do the other members of the EEA such as Norway. In this case, any saving would be correspondingly reduced.
The administration of the EU Budget is the responsibility of the EU Commission; and it the past there have been spectacular examples of corruption and fraud, notably in 1999, when, as result of an investigation instituted by the European Parliament, the whole Commission was obliged to resign. In recent years, however, budgetary controls have been significantly tightened, and identified misspending now amounts to no more than 0.2% of the Budget.
Assessing spending out of EU Budgets is the responsibility of the EU Court of Auditors, which publishes annual reports, and also carries out special investigations. Final discharge of the Budget is the responsibility of the European Parliament, which has on a number of occasions refused discharge pending clarifications or reforms.
Since 2007 the Court has declared all the EU’s annual accounts “sound”. The defects that have been noted (“material errors” in about 4% of the accounts) are almost entirely the result of mistakes, not by the EU institutions, but by national or local administrations, which administer about 80% of all spending from the Budget.
The size of the EU Budget is limited by a Multiannual Financial Framework, which sets spending ceilings in the different policy areas over a seven-year period.
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Regulations adopted at EU level frequently impose administrative burdens and costs on British business, which fall particularly harshly on small firms. The total bill has been estimated to be £35 billion a year.
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British businesses frequently complain of rules and regulations created by the EU from which they could be free if we were to leave. For example, farming and the new biotech industries are hampered by regulations which forbid the of use innovative technologies.
Whereas the costs of EU regulations are generally bearable for large firms, they can be intolerable for small and medium-sized firms. Unsurprisingly, some of which are hostile to continued EU membership. Yet SMEs are the backbone of the economy, the source of future economic growth.
The idea that the EU legislates on matters which should properly be left to the Member States is not new. In 1991 the then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd spoke of the EU interfering in the nooks and crannies of everyday life. Small businesses regularly complain of EU labour, health and safety and VAT rules.
It is important, however, to understand why many of these rules have come into existence. The White Paper published by British Commissioner Lord Cockfield in 1985, aiming to create the Single Market, listed some 300 measures needed to remove trade barriers between the Member States. Lord Cockfield’s initial instinct had to been to avoid detailed legislation by providing ‘mutual recognition’ of national standards. But it became clear that there was a lack of mutual trust which made this impossible. Governments and businesses also called, simultaneously, for measures to end “unfair competition” from countries with perceived lower standards (“there must be a level playing field”); but rejected measures which introduced such measures in their own countries (“no interference from Brussels”).
Many of the complaints about “Brussels red tape”, however, concern labour market laws. These largely have their origin, not in the Single Market programme itself, but in measures designed to prevent “social dumping”: a competitive advantage obtained through lower wages or looser health and safety requirements.
Much EU harmonisation has in fact been beneficial, particularly in the sphere of environmental protection. It is also the case that, in the absence of EU common standards, each country would have adopted their own. For traders, the resulting costs could have been far greater: they would then have had to deal with up to twenty-eight possibly incompatible sets of rules rather than just one.
If the UK left the EU, many of these regulations – for example, product safety standards – would either have to continue or be replaced; and the costs to business would not necessarily be lower. For example, the EU Working Time Directive – estimated to cost British business £2.6 billion a year – requires firms to give employees at least 20 days paid annual leave. The UK’s implementing legislation requires firms to give at least 28 days. There is substantial evidence of such “gold plating”: national administrations adding provisions not required by EU legislation, but putting the blame for the costs on “Brussels”.
Yet, even taking all these factors into account, there is a general recognition that the EU economy is over-regulated. In response to the UK government’s renegotiation of the UK’s position in the EU, the February EU Council agreed on a policy of
“lowering administrative burdens and compliance costs on economic operators, especially small and medium enterprises, and repealing unnecessary legislation…”
More recently, William Hague (a known Eurosceptic) while Foreign Secretary led a huge ‘Balance of Competences Review’ across the whole of government, with the aim of identifying powers which ought to be “repatriated” from Brussels to Westminster. It took evidence from the public, academia, organisations and businesses; and, to the surprise of many, found that the current balance of competences was broadly correct ‒ with some exceptions the EU had not gained unnecessary powers.
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One power that would be restored to us if we left the EU is that to limit immigration into Britain from other EU states. At present a national of any other EU country is free to come here to seek work; and in the last year 184,000 more came than left.
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Technically this is correct.However, it is far from the full story. First,there were even more immigrants (188,000) from non-EU countries, over whom Britain has absolute control even though the UK uses a points and visa system as does Australia. Why should this be? The answer is that Britain gains hugely in economic terms from this immigration. Conservatives made an error in suggesting a rapid reduction in numbers – which would harm industry, farming and the NHS. Already the PM has negotiated a change so that EU immigrants cannot claim unemployment and social security benefits for four years. It is thus unattractive to come to the UK unless you have a job in prospect. As the EU eeconomy recovers – and it is now growing as strongly as the UK we expect fewer EU immigrants , and more existing ones going home over a period of years.
The basic issue, though, is wider and reflects governmental responsibility. UK population is growing because healthcare brings an ageing population; because of a UK birth rate greater than the death rate; an unknown number of illegal immigrants; controlled immigration from non-EU countries (last year net 188,000); and immigration from EU member states (last year 184,000). Of course a growing population puts pressure on services such as the NHS, housing, roads, and schools which causes concern about immigration. Yet funding for and action on this is solely within the authority of the UK government.
From an economic point of view children and old people, however valued, are a cost to the economy, while immigrants of working age bring us large economic benefits. Academic studies have shown that inward migrants, including students, contribute many times more to our economy than they take out in benefits. However, overload on services, and in some cases reluctance to integrate, is a serious challenge the response to which is in the hands of the UK government.
Two key EU policies on “free movement”, the “Schengen” agreement abolishing internal frontier controls, and the Dublin agreement on asylum-seekers, have recently been under severe strain. The influx of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East have meant that the border controls are back again. The arrangement that refugees must seek asylum in the first EU country they reach has no longer been acceptable. And most countries have refused to accept “quotas” of migrants.
The result has been political turmoil. The French Prime Minister has warned that the EU itself is in danger of collapse.
Though Britain has stayed out of Schengen, we have not been immune to the problems they have created. Being outside Schengen has not prevented the disruption of cross-Channel travel by boat or tunnel through the build-up of migrants at Calais.
Net immigration into the UK came to some 360,000 last year. This total was made up of 636,000 who came into the country (gross immigration), and about 300,000 who left. Of the gross immigration total, roughly 300,000 came to work, 200,000 were students and the rest came to join family members.
EU immigrants accounted for under half the net total: 184,000, as compared to just over 188,000 from non-EU countries.
The debate about immigration has, however, focused on those coming from other EU countries. Among the reasons are:
– Most of those from the EU come here to work, unlike non-EU migrants, the majority of whom are students or are joining families already here.
– Under the EU’s free movement provisions, the UK cannot prevent those from other EU countries coming here to work.
– A high proportion of those coming from EU countries stay There are now well over 2 million EU nationals living here, the largest number being from Poland (853,000).
Immigration brings many benefits for a country like Britain, particularly when it adds younger, qualified people to the labour force. Most studies show that the impact of EU migrants on the British economy has been strongly positive: they contribute more in taxes and in production than they cost in welfare and other payments. However until now, they have immediately qualified for housing and other in-work benefits without having paid into the social security system, though this should change in future under the agreement negotiated by the government.
Numbers, however, need to be balanced against the resources available. The concentration of EU migrants in certain areas has clearly put a strain on housing, schools and other local services. In this context, the gross migration figures, and the numbers staying, are more relevant than the annual net figures.
Finally, the boost to the supply of labour, and the willingness of EU migrants to take low-paid jobs, may have had a negative effect on wage rates and the ability of British workers to find employment. The evidence for this is not conclusive, though it is clear that the negative effects of immigration fall disproportionately on lower-income groups. While not all immigration is beneficial, on balance the UK benefits and the challenge for the government may be said to be as muchto take action to increase rseources in housing and the NHS as to reduce numbers by control systems. In the longer term it is expected that the immigration pressure will ease as a result of Eurozone recovery (it is currently growing almost as strongly as the UK) and the impact of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation.
If the UK were to leave the EU, the situation would not necessarily change. Both Norway and Switzerland, often cited as models for a post-BREXIT agreement, have to accept free movement as a condition for access to the EU for their exports. The consequences of a complete break are unclear. Some 2.2 million British citizens live in other EU counties, whose status and rights (e.g. access to medical services) would immediately be affected. And the relative strength of the UK economy, combined with skill shortages in key sectors, would continue to attract migrants, if not from the EU then from elsewhere.
What about EU criminals coming here? It is certainly true, as the Guardian has reported, that the EU’s 2004 citizenship directive makes it clear that the free movement of people within the EU can be restricted on grounds of “public policy, public security or public health”. While the directive says that “previous criminal convictions shall not in themselves constitute grounds for taking such measures”, it adds that convicted criminals can be excluded on a case-by-case basis if they present “a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”. Damien Green MP has pointed out that nearly 6,000 European Economic Area nationals have been prevented from entering Britain since 2010.
It is also true, however, that, if the UK Border Force is not aware of criminal convictions, people will be let in. The worst case cited is that of Arnis Zalkalns, a Latvian builder who, having been jailed in his home country for murdering his wife, moved to Britain in 2007 before allegedly murdering 14-year-old Alice Gross in west London. His arrival here, however, tool place before EU laws on sharing information relating to criminal records came into effect in 2012.
Sharing of information regarding criminal convictions across Europe is, in fact, still at a rudimentary stage. Today, if someone is high profile, has committed serious crimes in several countries, or is on Europols wanted list, they are likely to be on the UK Border Force warning list database. Countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal flag up potentially dangerous people so that they can be turned away at the border, but some EU states do not yet have the capacity to do this. EU membership means that Britain has access to the Schengen II database, which has details of 250,000 wanted or missing suspects across Europe. The flow of foreign fighters returning from Syria has extended the EU databases tracking their movement.
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The UK is a democracy: the ultimate responsibility for political decisions lies with our elected MPs in Parliament. But the EU is less democratic: many decisions are taken by the unelected bureaucrats of the Brussels Commission or by the unelected judges of the EU Court. These can overrule the wishes of our elected Parliament. Only by leaving the EU can we restore true democracy.
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This claim is to say the least misleading. UK laws pass through an elected House of Commons but also an unelected House of Lords, whilst in the EU all primary legislation has to be passed by the elected European Parliament and by the Council consisting of Ministers from the elected governments of each Member State. It could be argued this is more democratic than the UK system. However a further objection is that in the EU laws are proposed by the European Commission. The counter to this is that all primary legislation is subject to amendment and agreement by the European Parliament and the Council of the Union.
The current president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, was also the candidate of the political party (the European Peoples Party) winning the most parliamentary seats in the 2014 European Elections. The 28 Commissioners, one per Member State, are appointed by Member States and ratified by the European Parliament. In addition to having the right to propose legislation, the Commission has the executive duty of implementing it, and is accountable for its actions to the elected European Parliament which also has the effective power to dismiss the Commission.
The Council consists of one minister from each national government, the ministers in question depending upon the subject matter. On some matters − for example taxation – unanimity is required: i.e. each country has a veto. On others a “weighted majority” is needed, voting strength depending in part upon the size of the country. Ministers in the Council, and the civil servants that support them, are of course accountable to their national parliaments; and some parliaments are more effective in doing this than others (the Danish Folketing, for example, pre-mandates ministers before they attend Council meetings).
The European Parliament of 751 members is directly elected every five years in an EU-wide poll. The MEPs sit, not in national delegations, but in political groups, the largest of which are the European Peoples Party (i.e. Christian Democrats) and the Socialists. The Parliament has the right to amend draft laws and also to reject them in their entirety. The UK has 73 MEPs, generally little known to those who elect them because the Blair government moved the electoral system away from the ‘first past the post’ used for most Westminster MPs to regional lists. The aim was to achieve greater fairness and proportionality, but the unfortunate result, though, was that the direct link to ‘your’ MEP was broken. There are large areas where electors have as many as ten MEPs from different parties representing them. No wonder they are not well known.
All primary EU legislation requires the agreement of both the Council and the Parliament, which can also amend legislation without the Commission’s consent. But the Commission – notably in the case of Agriculture ‒ can, with the help of national officials, decide changes in some regulations.
A group of national parliaments also has the right to issue a suspensive yellow card, and now a blocking red card, to proposed EU legislation.
The last main EU institution is the Court of Justice (CJEU The Court of Justice of the European Union) ensures that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Treaties. It has three main tasks: to review the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union; to ensure that Member States comply with obligations under the Treaties; and to interpret European Union law at the request of the national courts and tribunals. In doing the latter, it seeks to interpret the letter and spirit of the Treaties.). It has in recent years been accused of “judicial activism”: interpreting the Treaties in a manner which pre-empts legislative action.
Its 28 judges, one per member state, and 11 advocates-general are chosen from among qualified individuals whose independence is considered to be beyond doubt. The CJEU works differently according to the case. One judge or an advocate general assesses the case concerned. If it is relatively simple, it may be considered by 3 or 5 of the 28 judges, or if it is more complex by 15 judges. Very rarely, if the case is thought to present particular difficulty or to be particularly sensitive, it is considered by the whole court of 28 judges.
Where the Court is unable to reach a unanimous decision, it rules in accordance with the opinion of the majority, (rather like the Supreme Court of the United States). On occasion, the Court has made judgements which were in part Delphic or unclear. This can be deliberate where the issue is particularly complex or sensitive, and the Court feels that room should be left for further interpretation at a later date.
The rulings of the Court have been particularly important in the case of the EUs competition policy, which is designed to ensure that particular firms do not abuse a dominant position or form price cartels. It has also been active in trying to ensure a level playing field for trade within the Single Market. This has sometimes led to conflict with established practice in some member countries, and to the overruling of decisions by national courts, governments and parliaments.
It is untrue, therefore, to say that EU laws are imposed on the UK by “unelected bureaucrats”. It is true, however, that British ministers can be outvoted in Council (though this has seldom happened); that the UK has less than 10% of total MEPs; and that EU law as established by the CJEU can overrule national law.
It can also be argued that the EU is inherently undemocratic because there is no true European demos: that sense of identity which makes separate geographical or social minorities accept the will of the majority, as is (usually) the case within nation states. European Elections are accordingly seen as a number of unconnected domestic elections; and the turnout, in any case, is well below that for national elections.
The fundamental reason, perhaps, is that the EU, since its inception, has grown in unplanned fits and starts. In 1973 the original six members grew to nine. Today with the membership of more southern northern and eastern European states, no fewer than 28 member states cover 500 million people. Southern and northern states have a radically different approaches to law and work; while the eastern states, which spent many years under Soviet rule, have an entirely different recent heritage – notably different to the linguistic and legal heritage of Britain, the United States and the old Commonwealth countries.
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Two of the richest countries in Europe, Norway and Switzerland, are not in the EU. There is a free trade area stretching from Iceland to Turkey, of which the EU is only a part. And new trading opportunities exist throughout the world. Britain should regain its mercantile past and trade more, and more imaginatively, with the growth areas of the world.
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The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world. English is the language of international commerce. And London is uniquely placed, because of international time-zones, to be the world’s financial centre.
The Leave Campaign claims that the UK would prosper outside the EU. At the same time, we should no longer face the possibility of being incorporated, against our will, in some kind of political union or EU federation.
Being in favour of BREXIT does not mean, however, being against further integration of the rest of the EU. Indeed, the countries using the Euro need far greater harmonisation of fiscal policy, the regulation of banks and other financial services and general economic policy if the Euro Area is to survive. In 1948 Winston Churchill memorably called for the creation of “a United States of Europe”. But he never envisaged Britain being part of it.
Once Britain is outside the EU we should be free to negotiate independent trading and other arrangements with other countries throughout the world. We should also remain members of international bodies like the United Nations (with a permanent seat on its Security Council), the World Trade Organisation, the OECD and, of course, NATO and the Commonwealth.
Close cooperation with the United States on military and security issues would continue – although the strong desire of the US that the UK remain inside the EU has to be taken in account.
Our future relationship with the EU itself could take a number of forms: full participation in the Single Market as members of the European Economic Area (EEA) like Norway; a series of bilateral arrangements, like Switzerland; or agreements, like those of other third countries, negotiated through the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
All these have advantages and disadvantages, which are analysed in the Government’s publication Alternatives to membership: possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union (HMSO March 2016). The principle problems will arise from the time taken to reach agreements. Negotiating exit from the EU could take two years or more; and replacing the 50 or more EU trade agreements with individually-negotiated bilateral agreements many further years.
It would, however, clearly be in the interests of the EU, the US and other friendly countries to conclude economic and other agreements with the UK as soon as possible.
Finally, it can be argued that, despite our best efforts at accommodation over the years, Britain’s differences with the rest of the EU are irreconcilable. Is it not the case, perhaps, that they run so deep as to make divorce a more satisfactory option than a fractious and possibly increasingly sour relationship? Rather than be part of a scratchy married couple Britain would be better off divorced from the EU but remaining a good friend and neighbour.
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When we joined what was then called the European Communities in 1973, it was on the basis of a false prospectus. We were told it was just a “Common Market”, with no loss of “essential national sovereignty”. But now, it is claimed, up to 55% of our laws come from Brussels.
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This is another myth or misleading claim. Enoch Powell and others the argued strongly agains membership on political grounds. The preamble to the 1957 Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community (EEC) – forerunner of the EU – contains the objective “of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. This has been widely interpreted to mean “ever closer political union”, although later versions of the Treaty do add: “in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizens in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.”
Before the UK joined what was popularly known as the “Common Market” in 1973, the Government’s White Paper stated that there was no question of “essential national sovereignty” being eroded – which the current referendum proves. And in the 1975 referendum the main
9 arguments for remaining inside were economic − though leaders of the “No” campaign like Enoch Powell and Wedgwood Benn based their opposition almost entirely on the issues of parliamentary and national sovereignty.
In practice, since its formation as the “Common Market” in the 1960s, the EU’s sphere of activity has steadily expanded. The abolition of tariffs and quotas on internal trade was followed by the alignment of all tariffs on trade from outside, and the handing over of the responsibility to negotiate trade deals with third countries to the Commission. National agricultural and fisheries policies were replaced by the CAP and the CFP. National sales and purchase taxes were replaced by VAT, the coverage and rates of which are governed by EU Directives. The Single Market programme brought a huge increase in harmonising legislation, made possible by the Single European Act and the expansion of majority voting in the Council of Ministers.
Added to this was the “social dimension”, which brought central regulation of employment and health and safety laws. The EU then moved into the fields of justice and home affairs, and even those of foreign policy and defence. Finally, the creation of the Euro brought into being a central core of countries which is not only on course to full economic integration, but will encompass more and more EU Member States as they meet the criteria for membership.
Meanwhile, the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg has been the ultimate court of appeal, sometimes overruling national courts and parliaments.
The result has been that a significant proportion of the laws that apply in Britain derive from decisions taken at EU level. Figures of 50% or even 70% have been quoted. However, the most thorough study of the question, published by the House of Commons Library in 2012, put the figures at no more than 6.8% for primary legislation, and 14.1% for secondary legislation. The volume of new EU legislation has recently fallen sharply; and since 2005 over 6,000 regulations have been scrapped. A recent Commons Library Blog says it is impossible to be accurate but figures from 15% to 55% could be justified.
It nevertheless remains the case that many EU decisions are leading to increased integration. Those countries using the Euro are likely to adopt closely-aligned fiscal policies and controls on financial services. The result could be a more sharply-defined “two-speed Europe”, with an inner core moving in the direction of political federation, and the UK in a looser “outer ring”.
There is then a danger that decisions taken by the Euro Area – for example on financial services – will pre-empt any decisions that should be taken by the EU as a whole. This was at the core of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, and was agreed.
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A large bureaucracy of unelected and unaccountable officials is employed by the EU in Brussels, Luxembourg, other European centres and in offices all around the world.
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The EU employs about 55,000 EU civil servants, many of whom are translators and interpreters – the EU now has 24 official languages (and six semi-official languages like Welsh). This compares with about 45,000 employed by Kent County Council alone. However, the full-time EU officials are supplemented by a considerable number of experts and national civil servants who sit on various Commission advisory, regulatory or management committees, and on Council working parties.
The Commission is formally accountable to the members of the elected European Parliament. Parliament holds debates on questions to the Commission, and also a question time modelled on Westminster practice. In addition, Commission officials are required to answer thousands of written questions tabled by MEPs each year. The national civil servants are accountable to their national parliaments via the relevant ministers.
It is true, however, that as in the UK many EU decisions are taken in closed committee which makes full transparency and accountability difficult.
According to some studies of the EU’s institutions the most powerful body in the EU is COREPER, comprised of the heads of the 28 national representations in Brussels. UKREP (the UK representation) is formally accountable to Westminster through the Foreign Office, although its staff contains officials seconded from the Treasury and other UK government departments. Many legislative decisions taken in COREPER are effectively only rubber-stamped by national ministers meeting in Council.
Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords have committees to scrutinise EU-level legislation, and both publish detailed analyses of draft EU legislation. Particularly in the House of Commons, however, very little time is given for debates on their reports by the full House. The positions taken by British minsters in the EU Council are not pre-mandated by Westminster − unlike Denmark, where the positions taken by ministers are examined in advance by the Danish parliament’s Market Committee.
It is not true, therefore, to say that there is a “vast Brussels bureaucracy”, nor that the officials that do exist are democratically unaccountable. It is true, however, that a great deal might be done to make accountability more open and effective.
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Many businessmen who now say leaving the EU would damage the UK economy said the same thing about not scrapping the Pound for the Euro. But the UK, including the City of London, has flourished outside the Euro Area. This has not been the case for all countries inside, and the EU will be dominated in the future by the need to solve the Area’s problems. Britain will not escape being dragged in unless we leave.
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The project for national currencies in the EU to be eventually replaced by a single currency was embodied in the Maastricht Treaty which came into force in 1993. As soon as a Member State fulfils a number of “convergence criteria” it is obliged to join the Euro Area. The UK and Denmark, however, negotiated opt outs, though the Danish Crown maintains a close parity with the Euro.
Nineteen out of the EU’s twenty-eight Member States currently use the Euro: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.
The reasons for creating the Euro were both economic and political. Once restrictions on capital movements were removed in the Single Market, separate national currencies could be played off against each other by speculators (as happened in 1992 and 1993). Monetary union ended this danger. The exchange costs of internal transactions were also abolished. And a single currency furthered the objective of “ever-closer union”.
There were, however, warnings that forcing together countries with very different economies, and a “one size fits all” monetary policy, would eventually lead to a crisis. Though southern countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, and also Ireland, initially benefited from being able to borrow at low interest rates, the international financial crisis of 2008 put pressure on budget deficits and high levels of debt. The resulting need to consolidate has squeezed public spending, resulting in low economic growth, high unemployment and in some cases political instability.
However, despite predictions that one or more countries might be forced out of the Euro Area, it has so far remained intact. Bail-outs have been organised, and the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt has injected sufficient liquidity to prevent a breakdown. The Euro has retained its internal and external values. Steps are now under way to correct some of the problems caused by a centralised monetary policy, but nationally-determined fiscal policies. This will mean closer political integration.
In these circumstances, a clearly “two-speed EU” is developing; and the need to safeguard the position of the non-Euro-Area countries was one of the UK governments key objectives in the recent negotiations.
However, it remains to be seen whether the guarantees secured will work in practice as the Area both expands its membership and further integrates. If Britain eventually finds itself alone, or almost alone, as an EU Members State but not in the Euro Area, the case for leaving the EU would become very strong – unless, of course, we took the step of abolishing Sterling and adopted the Euro, a policy which the government has said we should never take.
In addition, as former Bank of England Governor Eddie George has recently warned, the Euro will be “a serious problem for Britain whether or not the country leaves the European Union”.
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We have a trade deficit of some £50 billion a year with the other EU countries. So it is in their interests to continue trading with us, whether we are in or out. As the world’s fifth largest economy, with London one of the world’s main financial centres and with English the language of world commerce, Britain is in an extremely strong negotiating position to conclude trade deals around the world.
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The UK has been in deficit on trade ever since 1998. This has been partly due to declining production of North Sea oil and gas, partly to increased demand for foreign consumer goods and partly to exchange rate movements. In 2015 the deficit on trade in goods and services was £34.7 billion.
We have a trade deficit of some £50 billion a year with the other EU countries − overall, it is therefore in their interests to continue trading with us, whether we are in or out. However, the pattern of trade deficits does not break down neatly into EU/non-EU. The biggest deficits have been with Germany, China and the Netherlands; the biggest surpluses with the US, Ireland and United Arab Emirates. If the UK left the EU it is most unlikely that this pattern of trade would shift in the short term (though for reasons having little to do with deficits or surpluses – otherwise the US would have an incentive to reduce trade with the UK!)
If the UK were also outside the Single Market, however, diverging product and other standards might in the long term affect supply chains and patterns of consumer demand, reducing UK/EU trade. This would be particularly serious in the services sectors, where the UK is in a strong competitive position. Much would depend on the arrangements made for EU/UK relations following BREXIT.
A range of options exist. The first is the so-called Norway option: to remain in the European Economic Area (EEA), but outside the EU. This would give full access the Single Market, but at the price of having to accept EU regulations, without a say in their adoption, and still paying into the EU Budget. The other EEA members are Iceland and Liechtenstein, which also belong, together with Switzerland, to the old European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which Britain established in 1960 before leaving in 1973 for the European Communities (as the EU then was).
The second is the Switzerland option: residual EFTA links, plus bilateral arrangements giving more limited access to the Single Market – banks could only operate there by setting up subsidiaries – and still having to accept free movement for EU workers.
The third is the Turkey option: limited access to EU markets on much the same basis as similar trade agreements with non-EU/EEA European and other countries like Canada.
Negotiating for one of these options could take a short or a long time, depending upon the good will of other EU countries following BREXIT. The EU takes almost half Britains exports, whereas Britain takes less than 10% of the EU’s.
12 Free trade in manufactured goods would present few problems. There is reason to believe, however, that there would be resistance to allowing continued access to the EU of some UK exports, particularly agricultural products. Access for financial services would almost certainly present further difficulties.
Meanwhile, we should be free to form other trade links (as we are members of the EU, all our external trade negotiations are currently carried out by the EU on our behalf). Bilateral deals made by Britain, not the EU, with other countries could be more effective and attractive, and more in keeping with Britains long trading history round the world.
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The EU has its roots in the Europe of 1945, when the Continent lay in ruins. Shortly afterwards came the Soviet threat, the Cold War, and the Iron Curtain. In these circumstances it seemed sensible for the nations of Europe to come together for economic reconstruction and mutual protection. But those days are over. We must think on a wider scale.
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Supporters of remaining in the EU often claim that the EU has been responsible for preserving peace in Europe since the end of the Second World War in 1945. They quote the then French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, who suggested that pooling coal and steel production − the resulting European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was the first step towards what is now the European Union − would make war between historic rivals France and Germany “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”.
But neither the ECSC, nor the subsequent EEC, Euratom and now the EU, have played much of a part in securing peace in Europe. This has been achieved through the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and more specifically by the military commitment of the United States to the defence of Europe and the deployment of the US “nuclear umbrella”. Even in 1945, in any case, the possibility of a new war between France and Germany was remote. The real threat came from the Soviet Union, which NATO successfully deterred for forty-five years.
It is also worth remembering that the EU did not prevent conflict in the Balkans following the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991; nor that peace was eventually restored there as a result of intervention by the United States.
In any case, the threats to our security today are no longer confined to the European continent. On the contrary, modern transport links mean that terrorists can strike at any point throughout the world. The development of the internet means that cybercrime and cyberattacks are beyond geographical constraints.
The fight against terrorism and organised crime is therefore best carried out on a fully international, rather than just European, basis; and outside the EU we should remain members of other international bodies like the United Nations (with a permanent seat on its Security Council), the World Trade Organisation, the OECD and, of course, NATO and the Commonwealth.
On the other hand, even if co-operation within the EU is not the complete answer to the threats we now face, it is can clearly be part of the answer. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels are forcing EU governments into far better information-sharing and cross-border action. It can therefore be argued that this is not time for the UK to be quitting, and the current Home Secretary together with recent Heads of the Security Services maintain that particularly because of the vital role played by sharing information about possible terrorists the UK’s security would be harmed by Brexit
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When the UK joined the EU, what happened to our sovereignty? Was it, in some measure, “lost” or “sacrificed”? Supporters of continued membership are careful to avoid terms such as those. Instead, they prefer to talk of sovereignty being “pooled”. This metaphor serves a number of purposes. Something “pooled” is not actually lost. Instead it mixes with other contributions to form a bigger, harmonious whole.
But the metaphor is misleading, particularly in the case of parliamentary sovereignty. Under the EU treaties, the House of Commons no longer has the final say over broad areas of legislation. That has been handed over to the EU’s institutions. So Westminster sovereignty has not been “pooled”. It has, to be blunt, been lost.
As any aspiring presidential candidate in the US knows, to get elected you need to promise “change”. In the European Union, what you promise is “reform”. So the current official line of virtually all political parties in the UK is to support continued membership of a “reformed European Union”.
The problem is: everyone has their own ideas of what needs to be reformed. For the British Government reform seems to mean not much change to the EU itself, but with the UK slightly more detached from it. For Marine Le Pen in France, who is also calling for “reform”, it means more protection from globalisation, both for the EU and for France within it. For those trying to run the Eurozone, reform means more centralisation, with common fiscal and economic policies. For British Conservatives and Continental Liberals (there is actually an oxymoronic Conservative and Reformist Group in the European Parliament) reform means freer markets and less interference in labour and health and safety laws. For Socialists and Social Democrats reform means more regulated markets, particularly financial markets, and more social protection for workers.
So “reform” can be happily supported by everyone. But it means everything – i.e. nothing − in practice.
The use of acronyms can be a useful way to obfuscate. The letters are accepted by the eye as something familiar, and what they stand for is forgotten.
Take, for example, QMV. It stands for Qualified Majority Voting, which sometimes happens in the European Union Council of Ministers, one of the two EU institutions ensuring democratic control over EU legislation. That much is probably known by quite a few people. But what does it actually mean?
In the beginning it was − relatively − simple. Of the six member countries France, Germany and Italy had 4 votes each. Belgium and the Netherlands had 2 votes each, Luxembourg had one. The necessary majority depended upon whether the matter being voted on was proposed by the Commission. If it was, the number of votes needed was 12. If not, it was 12 from at least 4 countries. OK so far?
There followed, however, a succession of enlargements, so that by 2003 the number of votes needed came to 62, big counties now having 10 each. But then came the Treaties of Nice and Lisbon, which complicated things a bit. Under Nice the necessary vote to adopt became a majority of countries (50% + one) if proposal made by the Commission; or else at least two-thirds (66.67%) and a 74% majority of voting weights and (if requested) a 62% majority of population.
Under Lisbon the system was modified to a 55% majority of countries comprising at least 15 of them, if acting on a proposal from the Commission or from the High Representative (the EU “Foreign Secretary”); or else 72%, and a 65% majority of population. Except that the old Nice rules might continue to be applied in some circumstances !
Pity the poor ministers, of whom few, if any, have a degree in mathematics. In any case, as Alan Clark memorably wrote in his diary in 1986, the ministers themselves, “arrive on the scene at the last minute, hot, tired, ill or drunk (sometimes all of these together), read out their piece, and depart”.
All very democratic, then, yes?
“Unelected”. This is applied primarily to the EU Commission, but also to the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. The endless repetition of the term “unelected Commissioners”, “unelected judges” and “unelected bankers” reinforces the argument that the EU is “undemocratic”. This is, of course, despite the fact that neither judges nor central bankers are normally elected anywhere; and that the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, was the nominee of the largest party elected to the European Parliament in 2014 ‒ just like David Cameron in the House of Commons.
“Élites”. Use of this term is standard practice for all populist movements: hence the SNP attacks the “Westminster élite”, the US Tea Party’s attacks the “Washington élite” and Eurosceptics’ attack the Brussels élite. In reality there are no such identifiable groups. The terms are proxy for disliked constitutional arrangements: the UK, US Federal power and the EU. But by personalising the issue the impression is created of a malign conspiracy, of an “us-and-them” situation, which resonates with audiences.
“Regulations imposed by Brussels”. The phrase gives the impression that a large number of laws are enforced on British businesses and individuals without any input from British legislators or courts. Unfortunately, it takes a certain amount of specialised knowledge to realise that the phrase is, at the very best, misleading. First of all, the volume of UK law arising as a result of EU membership is not 50%, 60% or 80% as variously claimed by Eurosceptics, but, as the House of Commons library research shows, about 15%. Secondly, EU legislation usually takes the form, not of Regulations, but Directives, which have to be transposed into UK law by Westminster. Thirdly, of course, most EU legislation goes through detailed scrutiny by Council working parties on which the UK is represented, and is voted on by UK ministers in Council. The same is true in the European Parliament. Finally, there is the matter of “gold plating”, by which unpopular purely domestic measures can be blamed on “Brussels”. But the general public known little of this; so the phrase “regulations imposed by Brussels” appears to reflect fact.
“Sovereignty”. For students of international law the meaning may seem clear-cut, particularly when linked with the word “national”. There is already an element of confusion, however, when the term is used on conjunction with the word “parliamentary”. The latter use refers, not to the legal position of a country in the international context, but to the final say on matters within that country. Moreover, neither national nor parliamentary sovereignty are necessarily linked to democracy: indeed, Westminster has frequently asserted its right to act in defiance of public opinion. But Eurosceptics use the term “sovereignty” in an emotive rather than a legal sense. They are no doubt also aware that for a large number of people the word is generally associated, not with the nation or parliament, but with the Queen.
More insidious is the use of loaded words when introducing statements by supporters of remaining in the EU. Normally, when the press uses a quote, it will have been “stated”, “said”, “declared”, “affirmed”, etc. A recent pro-Remain remark by Lord Mandelson, however, was more than once reported in The Times as having been “sneered”. Similar loaded words include “bluster”, “threaten”, “complain”, “claim”, “allege”, etc.
Perhaps it is useful to add a further series of phrases used by Eurosceptics. These are “Free Trade”, “Common Market” and “Single Market”. Listening, for example, to Dan Hannan’s recent speech on the Internet it is clear that he, presumably deliberately, uses the phrases as if they were coterminous. So, if we left the EU, we should still be part of wider European free trade arrangements “from Iceland to Turkey”. Later, he says, we should still be part of “that Common Market”. And, even if we no longer played a part in the “political” dimension of the EU, we should still be within the economic dimension: i.e. the Single Market. Free trade, a Common Market and the Single Market are, of course, very different things. In a Free Trade Area all tariffs and quantitative restrictions on trade between participating counties are removed; but that is all, and in the modern world they are of diminishing importance.
In a Common Market a crucial additional step is taken: the area has common external tariffs, quotas and levies on trade with third countries, and trade negotiations with these are conducted on behalf of the Market as a whole. Ironically, this is one of the features of the EU which Eurosceptics particularly attack: they argue that the UK should be able to negotiate trade agreements unilaterally.
Finally, in a Single Market not only are tariffs and quotas abolished internally, but so are all so-called “non-tariff barriers”: incompatible technical standards, conflicting health and safety legislation, and so on. This might have been achieved through mutual recognition, as Lord Cockfield at first suggested. But lack of trust between national government led to his programme of harmonising legislation ‒ the bulk of the “regulations” to which Eurosceptics object. Eurosceptics are, then, being deceitful in suggesting that, after BREXIT, participation in the Single Market, or even the Common Market, would merely amount to free trade without political strings.