Charlie Brook: United We Stand
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for these past few months, you cannot have failed to notice the major choice that is approaching; the EU referendum. The lines have been drawn, positions have been declared, claims of consequences of both decisions have been made, and the general consensus, certainly at the polls, is that the vote could currently go either way. Unfortunately, however, a great proportion of our population have reported feeling that the debate has been unclear on both sides, with scaremongering and insults obstructing the path of facts and figures. This article is one in a series from The Bournemouthian that will hopefully help to alleviate the confusion and present clear, concise arguments regarding the referendum. You may have already read George Wright’s article advocating a hasty exit from the Union, or perhaps Alex Cox’s piece on why he thinks we should remain. This article will take a different approach; rather than trying outright to convince you through fancy wording and elaborate rhetoric, I will instead be presenting the case for remaining in a simple but detailed way, whilst also debunking some of the more absurd claims of the Leave campaign. It is my belief that with the facts being presented in an approachable and understandable way, we can begin to make educated choices on the matter and take the future into our own hands.
The single market is the most important reason for the existence of the European Union. For the uninitiated, the single market is a shared market for the trading of goods between countries in the European Union. It has an economy five times larger than Britain’s, with around 500 million customers accessing it. If we were to leave the European Union, we would have two options; negotiate a deal for preferential access to the EU’s single market, or don’t. If we choose the former, it is possible that we will secure a deal, but this deal will come at a cost (more on this later). We would also not have the full access to the EU that the members have. Alternatively, we may choose not to negotiate a deal and as such have very limited access to the single market. This means that tariffs could be imposed on any trade with the EU, depending on the state of our membership of the EEA following the referendum. Currently, 44% of our exports go to the EU and due to our membership, this is free to do. As such, if we were to leave and were faced with tariffs, trade would be guaranteed to decrease and prices would rise across our country. Small businesses would be particularly affected as they cannot afford these tariffs; as such small business owners will be among some of the most harshly affected by Brexit. Even if, due to our membership of the EEA, tariffs were not imposed, trade would be far more difficult and we would still need to abide by many regulations that the EU imposes. Large businesses will also need to increase their prices, and as a result of this the average household could see their individual annual costs per year rise by up to £450. As well as this, we would be likely to see a rise in unemployment if we were to leave the EU; 3 million jobs in the UK are linked to EU export, and as such number of these could be lost if we were to leave. The combination of rising prices and fewer jobs will see the poorest in our society suffer unnecessarily, and this could be easily avoided by remaining within the European Union.
The economic factors don’t end there. Several economic institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have released predictions regarding what impact Brexit would have on our economy. Every institution that has released predictions except one (Economists for Brexit) state that economic output will decrease. If we were to negotiate a deal the IMF predicts our economic output would be 1.5% lower in 2019 than it would be if we had remained. If we choose not to make a deal, the predictions are even worse, and our economic output is estimated to fall by 5.6%. Our country would be producing and earning less, all whilst prices rise.
Whilst the Brexiteers would have you believe that the EU is nothing but a drain on the average person’s pocket, they fail to remember the regulations that ensure prices are kept as low as possible to aid the people of all its nations. As I have mentioned, the average UK resident is £450 a year better off as a result of the regulations and price limits the EU imposes on day-to-day goods. For the poorest in our society this figure is invaluable. The EU also allows for cheaper movement of resources, and restrictions on the prices charged by energy suppliers; as such, it has been estimated that if we were to leave, our nation would be spending up to £500 million more on our energy bills, a cost that affects every household in our country. The EU limits these costs and allows everyone in our country to live better as a result.
On the topic of limiting costs, travel throughout Europe is also far cheaper within the European Union. The freedom of movement within the union means that you don’t need a visa to go party in Ibiza, or to tour Europe in your gap year, or even just to lay in the sun by the pool on a family holiday. Michael Gove, a prominent Leave supporter, was recently a strong advocate of stricter regulations on term time holidays, which saw new rulings passed to stop them altogether. This means that now families with children must pay the extortionate half term prices if they wish to travel abroad. This may seem irrelevant at first, but becomes hugely important when you learn that due to EU regulation, lower cost flights have seen a drop in fares of 40% since the 1990s. To put it simply, if we were to follow Michael Gove and leave the EU, flight costs would increase hugely at a time when we already are suffering new regulations that would make us pay more anyway. Suddenly, voting leave makes your ideal beach holiday look like a long lost dream.
The travel costs don’t end there; once you’ve made it abroad, you may undoubtedly find yourself using your mobile phone and being required to pay the extortionate roaming charges. Or rather, you will if we leave the EU; new regulations will come into effect next year that will see the abolition of roaming charges within the EU. This will save the average phone user 38p per minute, but sadly if we were to vote to leave we would never feel the benefits of such a ruling. Leaving the EU would see our hard working families paying vastly more expensive prices in order to enjoy a well-deserved break abroad.
It is important not to make this mistake of thinking that this cheaper movement through the EU also means that EU citizens are completely free to migrate to us. Our country has a special deal with the EU which means we are not part of the Schengen Agreement and are not obliged to give free movement to EU citizens. Whilst we do still give preference to EU migrants, this means that we maintain control over our borders whilst fostering strong working relationships between our partners overseas. Unfortunately, there are some that see these migrants as a drain on society, and whilst it is true that a minority come to take advantage of our welfare system, the majority contribute positively to our society. When looking at the numbers, it can be seen that EU migrants do in fact contribute far more to our society in tax than they take out in welfare, meaning our country would be worse off without them. This only looks to be improving in the near future; our government recently worked out a deal with the EU which allows us to withhold full welfare access to migrants until they have worked in the UK for four years. That’s worked, not lived, which means all migrants will have to have spent four years contributing positively through tax before they can begin to take out money through benefits. This also doesn’t even begin to account for the great increases in cultural diversity that this provides, allowing different tastes, styles, religions and cultures that make the people of Britain some of the most accepting and tolerant in the world.
It has been argued by the leave campaign that the more lenient immigration tendencies within the Union make our country less safe as a result; they claim that terrorists and people who mean to do us harm can use this to infiltrate our nation and cause chaos. However, I believe the opposite to be true. It is important to remember once again that we are not in the Schengen Area and have our own special restrictions on immigration, meaning we can look at each case on its merits and permit entrance accordingly. Not only this, but within the EU we would have access to the full intelligence networks of 27 other countries. With this, we can work together to make Britain and the rest of Europe a safer and securer place, so that we can live free from the terrors that would otherwise seek to harm us.
The leave campaign often speaks out against the infliction of EU regulations on our country, and whilst there is certainly some validity in this claim, it is hugely exaggerated by the Brexiteers. It is true that around 60% of our laws are made by the European Union, but what’s wrong with that? EU regulations must be passed by 65% of countries within the Union, meaning that any laws passed are in the interest of that notable majority of Europeans. Whilst it is true that we may not agree with all the laws passed, these laws are in the shared interest of the countries of Europe, and they are a small price to pay for security, stability, and a healthy economy. Also omitted by many Brexiteers is the fact that Britain maintains a veto in many important areas, a notable example being our ability to block Turkey’s addition to the EU should we so desire.
One of the most prominent examples given by the leave campaign of undesirable regulations is that of the Common Fisheries Policy. In short, this policy limits the number of fish that each country can catch. It is claimed by the leave campaign that we should have complete freedom to catch as many fish as we like. To counter this, I would look at the origins of this regulation. It was passed to curb the dwindling populations of fish in our oceans, and if action had not been taken, the supply of fish would be spiralling down rapidly. This shortage would lead to a huge increase in prices as fish become less and less common, and would have devastating effects on biodiversity in our waters, ruining our environment for generations to come. European regulation stopped this, and I for one am grateful for that.
If we were to leave the EU, we would undoubtedly attempt to negotiate a deal with the EU for preferential access to the single market. If we were to succeed in this, it would not be without a cost. There is not a single country in the world that has negotiated such a deal with the EU that has not also had to give in to concessions; they must all either pay into the EU, accept EU immigration policy or follow the same laws and regulations as the countries within the EU. All of these options should seem unacceptable to the leave campaign, who argue that all of these are reasons for us to leave the EU as soon as possible. Instead, the leave campaign claim that, for some unknown reason, we would be able to negotiate such a deal without these terms and conditions. This is frankly laughable. Whilst we rely on the EU for 44% of our exports, only 8% of the EU exports go to us. This means that we hold very little bargaining power with regard to EU trade. It is nothing short of arrogant to presume that the EU would be desperate to trade with us for a better deal than any of the other countries it has negotiated preferential trade with. It has been said by many on the Bremain side that we would be at the back of the queue for any trade deals, which Brexit campaigners disagree with. The truth is that we cannot know the answer; it is a risk, a step into the unknown, a grey area that we cannot truly predict. To that I say; “Is that a risk we’re willing to take?” Should we abandon our current, stable trade relationship with the EU and, as an extension, the rest of the world; in favour of the possibility that other nations would choose us in a trade deal over the 27 other EU countries and an economy 5 times larger?
The EU referendum has approached much faster than many of us were expecting and it almost feels as though the facts have been lost in the confusion along the way. If we choose to leave the EU, we would be faced with a rise in prices across all industries in the UK whilst also seeing a fall in economic output and a rise in unemployment. In layman’s terms, this means that your weekly shop will get more expensive and you won’t have a job to be able to pay for it with. The costs for our holidays will rise massively, and those who can afford to go on holiday will miss out on the massive benefits of a lack of roaming charges as well as access to cheaper or free healthcare in case anything goes wrong. On top of this, our citizens at home and on holiday will be at greater risk of attacks by terrorists and extremists as the lack of cooperation sees violent individuals use the opportunity to commit heinous acts against our people. We would undoubtedly end up in a trade deal that forces us to follow EU regulations and laws, except the difference this time is that we will not be inside the EU to help influence them. As well as all this, we would be taking a step into the unknown and putting our economy, safety and security on the line in the name of some vain hopes of prosperity, which no solid facts seem to support.
A few months ago, if you’d asked me what side of the referendum I was on, I may well have answered “what referendum?” I knew nothing of politics, the European Union, or how it impacts our daily lives. Yet now here I am, advocating that we vote to remain because it is now clear to me that the only way we can be sure of our continued safety, security and prosperity is by voting to remain. I want to live in a country where I, and the future generations, can live in comfort without worries of losing my job, without concerns of how I will manage to pay for my children’s dinner, and without the fear that an uncooperative security agency is allowing dangerous individuals to run amok in my community. This coming week will see the most important decision of our lifetime take place, and I can only hope that we make the right decision. Only together can we be a better, stronger and Greater Britain.