The EU isn't perfect; but the downsides of membership have been greatly exaggeratedby Nicola Horlick / April 5, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Twelve things you need to know about Brexit
I was fourteen when the last referendum on Europe took place and so I was too young to vote. However, my father was the Chair of the “Keep Britain In Europe” campaign for the northwest and so I spent several weeks running around Cheshire sticking leaflets through doors and attending rallies. This time around, the Remain campaign has not really managed to get the key pro-EU messages across. This is extremely worrying.
Those who favour Brexit have a very clear message: too many people are coming to this country from the EU and using our services, and the fact we are partially ruled by Brussels means we have lost our sovereignty. When asked about how we will deal with the trade issues that will arise if we leave, their answers do not make sense. If we left the EU, we would put our economy in great danger.
Let’s start with the assertion by Leavers that too many EU migrants have flooded into Britain and are putting strain on our services. It is estimated that 2.3 million EU citizens currently reside in the UK, but there are 1.8 million British citizens living in other EU countries and 400,000 more that own a second home in an EU country. I am on the board of an NHS trust and was in an A&E department a few days ago. The department was under huge pressure, but all of those waiting were British. In addition, many of the people caring for our patients as healthcare assistants, cleaners and cooks are from the EU and the NHS would not be able to function without them. And those who support Brexit don’t seem to have thought about what will happen to British citizens living in other EU countries in the event of Brexit.
There are other benefits that we have gained from EU migration. Our birth rate has risen, which is good for our economy. 32 per cent of recent EU migrants have a degree against 29 per cent of the indigenous population and the vast majority of those who are here are working. If they are claiming benefits, that is often because they are receiving a very low wage from their employer. This should be partially corrected by the living wage that was introduced on 1st April.
It is not true that we don’t control our borders; we sensibly elected to remain out of the Schengen area. Nevertheless, we are currently reliant on the goodwill of the French in holding back those trying to come to the UK, and they have indicated that they are likely to be less helpful if we leave the EU. This could mean that the camps that have plagued Calais will move to Dover. Those sitting in the camps are non-EU citizens and whether we are in the EU or out will not deter them from trying to get here.
The loss of sovereignty incurred through membership of the EU has been hugely exaggerated by those who support Brexit. Only 7 per cent of our primary legislation had something to do with EU compliance between 1997 and 2009. The number of people employed by the European Commission is another point that is often raised. In fact, there are fewer people employed in Brussels by the EU than by Birmingham City Council.
There is no doubt that Gordon Brown did the right thing in keeping Britain out of the euro—that was vital. You cannot successfully have monetary union without at least fiscal union and some political union. Brown having made that decision, we are primarily in the EU because we have access to the largest free trade area in the world with half a billion people.
The trade options we would have to choose between if we left the EU are unpalatable. Those who support Brexit say the World Trade Organisation would be the answer. But we are not currently members of the WTO. We have membership by virtue of our EU membership. We could become members in our own right, but the WTO has achieved very little since its inception in 1995 so that may not help us.
Those in favour of Brexit sometimes claim that being in the EU has skewed our trade to Europe and away from the rest of the world. This may be marginally true, but frankly we haven’t been as successful as we should have been in opening up other markets while a member of the Union. For example, Germany exports seven times as much to China as the UK. And what about the Norwegian model? Many senior Norwegian politicians have cautioned the UK against taking the same route as them as they say that they have access to the single market, but pay almost as much as if they were members of the EU and have no say in EU decisions. The Swiss model is even worse. They have access to some of the single market, but not services. That is why the major Swiss banks operate out of London. The Turkish model is the worst of the lot and derived from their desire to join the EU.
It is important to remember that the UK is the fourth largest recipient of foreign investment in the world after China, the US and Brazil. We are, of course, seen as the best route to gaining access to the EU and there is no doubt that foreign investors would think again if we left. The Confederation of British Industry estimates that at least one million jobs would be at risk if we were to leave.
Car manufacturing is the best example of an industry that has benefited from our EU membership. In 2015, 1,682,156 cars and commercial vehicles were manufactured in the UK, making us the 13th largest vehicle manufacturer in the world. 25 years ago, there was a possibility we would end up with no vehicle manufacture. Investment has come from Nissan, Honda and more. BMW has taken over and revived Mini. Tata has revived Land Rover. Nearly 80 per cent of vehicles manufactured here are exported, with half going to the EU. The EU places a tariff of 10 per cent on imported cars and 5 per cent on imported automotive components. Exit from the Union would destroy nearly three decades of progress.
Undoubtedly there are things that are wrong with the European Union. Petty rules that we could do without and slow decision-making to name two. But the net cost to UK taxpayers is relatively small compared to the benefits we get. Between 2016 and 2020 we are forecast to net spend between £11.1 billion and £7.9 billion a year on EU membership. In contrast, we are forecast to spend £117bn on the NHS this year. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must vote to stay in.
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