The United Kingdom is steadily moving towards a pinnacle and defining moment in its long established 300 year history, which will reach a climax some point before the end of 2017, when the entirety of the UK goes to the polls to decide the future of the UK. To stay in the EU, or leave. It’s proving to be a hotly contested issue, more so even than the general election, with battle lines being firmly drawn on both sides, arguments raised, counter arguments proposed and the typical tug-o-war like nature of this kind of politics. The kind of politics where the decision is clear before you. Voters don’t have to settle for their second or third (or even 4th) political choice in favour of the politics they truly believe in, because they know full well their first choice won’t win. Here, their vote actually counts. It makes a genuine difference and no vote, either way, is a wasted vote. And there are only two options: Leave or Stay. In or Out. And one of them will win. It isn’t like an election, where you can have potentially limitless options before you. The options are often very similar, with different variations of the same flavour, rather than a whole new taste.
It also determines the long term future of this nation. An election is short term. It lasts 5 years, if we aren’t happy with the government, we can vote them out (well, that’s the theory anyway), but this vote defines where this nation is, where it is going, and how it will get there. For that reason, it’s very, very important. It’s likely to inspire political discussion where the casual commentator would never expect to find it, it has the potential to engage a political generation like no election has for decades. It’s the exact same concept as the recent Scottish Referendum, which electrified the Scottish electorate, for better or worse, and sparked a political awakening the length and breadth of the land.
So, with the date (sort of) set, the campaign to Leave has begun in earnest. Cross party groups such as Better off Out, formed from Eurosceptics of UKIP, Conservatives and even Labour (there might even be the odd Lib Dem or SNP supporter too) and Leave.EU sprouting up to pave the way for British sovereignty. And, on the other side of the fence, a plethora of groups have been established, perhaps most notable of the lot is the imaginatively named ‘The In Campaign’, spreading a range of arguments designed to highlight why the UK should not be Independent. And it’s with that in mind that I present my own piece today. So, without further ado and in reverse order (or at least the order that I’ve heard them), I present to you – The Top Five Pro-EU arguments and why they’re wrong:
5 – “We need the EU for security, to protect ourselves in an ever dangerous, and ever changing world”
Those of you who have been paying close attention to UKIP, the Lib Dems or politics in general, might remember the former Deputy Prime Minister and former leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg debating Nigel Farage in 2014, in the run up to the EU elections promising (I know, the Lib Dems and a promise, I tried not to laugh too) that there were no plans for an EU Army. That there were only plans for cross nation co-operation. That “the idea there is going to be a European army is simply not true – it is a dangerous fantasy”. Fast forward 9 months and we discover that the ‘dangerous fantasy’ is closer to ever than being an even more dangerous reality. Jean-Claude Junker, the unelected President of the EU Commission has repeatedly, and clearly, called for the formation of an integrated and structured EU Military.
If that wasn’t enough, we now even have the European Gendermarie Force, an EU funded, EU controlled militarised police force that has the authority and power to enter any EU member nation and supercede the local authority in matters of law and order, policing and can even impose martial law. We have a self styled ‘European Defence Agency’, an EU Military staff department and even an EU Battlegroup, consisting of Land, Sea & Air elements. Including the ‘Euro Corps’.
Given that the presence of such a military will invariably render the purpose and requirement of individual nation armies redundant, the writing is very much on the wall for respected, established military services such as the Royal Navy, the British Army, the French Foreign Legion, the Dutch Royal Marines and many, many more. Now, aside from the ruthless, systematic stripping of national sovereignty, this so far strengthens and reinforces the notion that we do need the EU for protection, and that we would be weaker and less defensible outwith the EU. But this overly simplistic view washes over the simple fact that the UK is a longstanding and founding member of NATO. The most powerful and most successful military alliance in the history of humankind. Don’t get me wrong, NATO isn’t perfect. It needs some measure of reform, and needs to have its policies reviewed. But, it has been an immeasurable success.
In fact, 23 of the 28 EU memberstates are already members of NATO (the exceptions being: Cyprus, Malta, Ireland, Austria and Finland – Hardly the driving force and might of the EU). And another 4 nations that are geographically, but not politically, part of Europe also find themselves in NATO: Norway, Iceland, Turkey and Albania. In fact, of the 28 members of NATO. Only two are NOT part of Europe – The USA and Canada. Collectively, NATO has some 7.3 million personnel (active and reserve). An EU Military would have, at most, 2 million. And, NATO contains both of the EU’s current nuclear powers (France and the UK). It ought to be very clear by now that we absolutely do not need to be in the EU to be safe.
4: “If we leave the EU, we won’t be able to travel on holiday to Europe as easily. And what about all the ex-pats?”
Of all the pro EU arguments, this is by far and away the most ill-conceived and least truthful. The notion that popular resorts in the sun in Spain, Portugal & Greece will make it harder for UK holiday-makers to visit, and so damaging the local (and national) economy drastically, just to spite the UK, is beyond ludicrous. I’ll cover more about this in argument one, but upon leaving the EU, the UK would be able to negotiate terms for visas, insurance and healthcare for holiday makers with select nations. Additionally, how often do Brits holiday abroad in non-EU destinations? Such as Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt? And further a-field to the US, Caribbean and even the Far-East? And how often do citizens from non-EU countries, namely Russia, visit resorts in the Spain, Portugal and Greece? If they can, why can’t we? Then we come to the ex-pats. Ignoring the fact that ex-pats have made the conscious decision to leave the UK, either for good or for a non-permanent long term, it overlooks the simple fact that, under EU law, any person who arrives legally to one EU nation, from another, as part of the Free Movement of People is legally entitled to stay there… Even if their country of origin leaves the EU. That’s enshrined in EU law. If the UK leaves, the ex-pats sunning themselves on the Algarve or Costa Del Sol will be just fine.
3: “The EU has funded so many projects in the UK, without it, we wouldn’t have many things we take for granted”
I hear this one a fair bit. A lot of buildings, particularly public buildings, are now coveted by a small square plaque, somewhere near the door, stating proudly that it was ‘Funded by the European Social Fund’. There is one problem with that however – Every penny we’ve ever got from the European Social Fund, or any other EU funded project, is our own money anyway. We have, consistently, since the formation of the EU contributed more per year to the EU than we’ve received. And it’s not even close. In 2014, for example, the UK contributed £55 million per day to the EU. And received £22 million per day back… That means that the UK, every day, was contributing £33 million net to the EU. Let me state that again. The UK was, in 2014, giving the EU £33million. Every. Single. Day. And that was 2014, in 2015, the gap is even larger. And it’s set to get larger every year.
We don’t need the EU’s money. The EU needs ours. There would be absolutely nothing to stop an elected party in the UK using the money we would save by leaving to fund these projects, and still have some left over to improve life in the UK elsewhere.
2: “The UK is economically better off in the EU”
I vaguely remember the first day the currency known as the Euro was first rolled of the ECB out across the EU and adopted as the standard. The UK government had, thankfully, the foresight to opt-out of this monetary union. Since then, it’s peaked, and is now rapidly falling. We’ve seen a multitude of bailouts in the EU, supporting the weaker economies of Southern European nations such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and, most recently (and most famously), Greece. Ignoring their geographical location, you can also chuck Ireland a few Eastern European nations into that mix. The UK has been front and centre of the EU bailout fund, alongside the other strong(ish) economies of Europe (namely Germany & France), channeling money in a futile attempt to stabilise economies that should never have been brought into a common market in the first place. As above, the UK economy is hindered by being in the EU, not strengthened.
1: “If we leave the EU, our trade industry will be damaged”
This is the most common and regular argument presented by the pro-EU lobby. It’s their linchpin. They hang it over our heads, talking about mass job losses, increased prices and the UK going into free-fall economically. It’s almost impossible to know where to start debunking this one (not because there aren’t enough arguments, but because there are too many). Let’s start here: The UK is the 5th largest economy in the world. And the 2nd biggest in Europe. We’re one of the largest export markets in the world. And we buy more products from Germany, France, China, Pakistan and Japan than any other country in the EU. There is no way, there is simply no way, that these nations would stop trading, or reduce trading, with the UK if we leave the EU. Will Germany stop selling us their cars because we no longer take a seat in Strasbourg? Will China stop selling us electronics just because we stop flying the blue and gold? And, as I alluded to in number 3, EU law is, for once, on our side here. Any nation that leaves the EU is permitted to negotiate trade agreements with remaining member nations, without charges or penalties. We needn’t even be impacted by coming out of the free movement of trade, as we can negotiate individual free trade agreements with select nations, if we so wish.
And, when we come out of the EU, we will be able to reoccupy our seat on the WTO (the World Trade Organisation), the most influential and powerful trading organisation in the world. The seat we should be sitting in is empty, our representation done by one person, who also represents and makes decisions for another 27 nations. Wouldn’t it better to have our own voice there?
Finally, the notion was mooted by the former leaders of Labour and the Lib Dems that an independent United Kingdom would not be able to trade with other major economies like China, India, the USA, Japan and nations in the EU… Here is a non-exhaustive list of nations that are of similar size (population wise) to the UK, or smaller, that manage to trade with all those places, without being in the EU:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- South Korea
And that’s just the nations I can think of off the top of my head… So, I ask you now: Why can’t an independent UK trade with China?
So, there you have it, my list of the Top 5 Pro-EU arguments, and why they are wrong… But, I’m just one man, with one opinion.