EU Referendum: In or Out?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016


With just a under month til we vote on the most important political decision of our lifetime, if you didn't know (what cupboard have you been living in?) it's the EU Referendum on the 23rd June. It's about time we all start coming to a decision about which way to vote. I'm certainly starting to really have a think about which way I want to vote and I personally have struggled with which way to vote. I think there's a massive lack of useful, trustworthy information that gives an overview of the pros and cons of both sides. 

I've been thinking about a post like this for quite some time. Now don't get me wrong, I am by no means an expert on the subject and I'm not claiming to be. I'm just hoping that I've put together a useful summary in one place in 'normal'-ish language rather than political mumbo jumbo that might help the decision making process a little more straight forward.

I ran a poll on twitter (a while ago now, this post has taken longer to put together than I 'd hoped..), purely out of interest, and you can see that the majority of people 'voted' In. 

There were also a number of people who don't know which way to vote.. of course my little poll didn't catch everyone and just from speaking with friends and colleagues I wouldn't mind betting there's substantially more with that opinion, so hopefully this post will help them...

It's a very personal decision, one that should be made based on facts. So here's an overview:

Why we should remain:


#1 The Influence

The EU is a big influencer that has the power to change the world, playing a role in controlling climate change, world development etc. It's also one of the largest markets in the world accounting for 25% of global GDP (the measure of goods and services produced in a period of time) and is also our biggest trading partner. 50% of the imports we receive are from the EU and 45% of the exports the UK makes are to the EU. If we left the EU the risk is that our trading in the EU could be compromised.
But: while the EU is one of the biggest markets in the EU (joint 1st with US), alone the UK still comes around 5th in the world, so would we really be such an unattractive partner? 

#2 We get a say

There are some countries, let's use Norway as an example, who are part of Europe (remember Europe and the EU are separate), they pay into the EU and must abide by the rules and regulations but they do not get a say in these rules and regulations decided by the EU. We get a say in our future by being involved within the discussions from the outset. 
But: you could argue the UK is a more influential country than Norway and it's possible we'd be able to negotiate.

#3 Let's get away

As a generation of wanderlusters being in the EU makes it easier than ever to travel across the EU. In leaving it may make it more difficult for us to travel or work abroad without the need for a Visa. The 1.4million Brits living across the EU would likely have to move back in order to get Visas and the same would be a case for those who have come to the UK from across the EU. Not only that but holidays would likely become more expensive and our driving licenses which are currently valid across the EU, likely wouldn't be any longer.
But: would travel really be that much more expensive? It's in the interest of airlines to stay competitive - particularly given their profits have been less recently due to all the recent issues.

#4 The Investment

We pay approx £12.9bn (it's actually closer to £18bn but we get some back) which is about £200 per person. Although we pay this into the EU, we get benefits in return, it goes into universities, businesses, etc. In fact, it turns out that we get around £10 back for every £1 we put in through lower prices, more jobs, more investment. So if my maths is correct that's essentially around £116bn deficit if we left... That's around £4,400 per household in the UK... so where would that money come from?
But: most of what we 'get back' is not actually in 'physical cash' it's sort of  invisible through investment and what not, would the investment stop? I doubt that.. Our universities remain some of the greatest in the world, our jobs market one of the strongest. 

#5 Protection

The European Arrest Warrant allows us to deport criminals and catch those who try to flee from the UK across Europe. It also means that tackling global threats like terrorism doesn't stop at borders, we can share data and information (including fingerprint and DNA) across the EU to help protect everyone from these threats as much as possible.
But: at the same time Schengen Agreement (which makes the EU 'borderless') also means convicted criminals to freely move around too and prevents us from deporting dangerous suspects. 

#6 Work Work Work Work Work

Wages could see an increase if Britain left the EU, which sounds a good thing, but this means that employers would need to make cuts somewhere in order to facilitate this increase (much like we've seen some companies doing recently post the introduction of the Living Wage) which could mean cuts to staff or to additional benefits. There are also many jobs that are reliant on the EU, around 3 million (which is 1 in 10 jobs) which could be put at risk if we were to leave.
But: many of these jobs are linked to trade with EU, not necessarily on the functioning of existing as a member with the EU, so if trade continued as it is they would not be at risk, if trade increased new jobs would be created.



Why we should leave: 


#1 Economic costs

Estimates suggest the total economic cost of EU membership costs around £200billion per year, the Brexit argument is that this money would be better spent and managed here rather than by the EU, to be spent on UK industries and research. The main contributors to the EU are Germany, UK, France, Italy and Netherlands, among the 10 countries who all put in more than we receive from the EU, many of the other countries in the EU receive more than they put in. Plus, UK growth has been on par with the US since the economic crisis in 2009 rather than the Eurozone so it seems the UK and Germany may be propping up the GDP of the EU as a whole, it's predicted the EU will account for just 22% of world GDP by 2025 (from 37% when it began)
But: It's difficult to determine the actual costs/benefits because of the free trade, investments and payments to private organisations, which arguably outweigh the 'cash' costs.

#2 Trade

In leaving the EU the UK would be free to seek international trade deals with the likes of China, India and the US and it could be possible to reach agreements with the EU itself, in the way Norway and Switzerland have but having access to the single markets without the agriculture, justice or home affairs laws. The worry is that we wouldn't be able to get trade deals with the EU but Switzerland is the biggest export partner after the US and Switzerland and Norway are the 4th and 5th main import partners, so chances are, we'd be up there with them.
But: The EU is already a free trade area to make it easier to trade. The EU has 46 trade deals and in negotiations with around 70, we'd remove ourselves from those and we'd have to set up new ones ourselves.

#3 EU innovation is lagging behind

The EU is highly regulated, which doesn't work well for innovation. Competition is the best thing for innovation but much of the regulation supports failing industries and protect from unfair competition but this means that Asia and America are storming ahead with better products and industries and is preventing growth in the EU. If we were to leave the UK would be able to design a regulatory framework better suited to the UK's needs.
But: EU regulation does also protect us and our rights and it's possible the EU could set up regulatory barriers to UK services and investment. 

#4 Immigration

One of the EU's founding principles is the free movement of people, this of course means that the UK has little control over immigration from other EU member states. A proposed idea is the Australian style, where migrants are assessed based on their skills and only allowed to stay if they fill a skill shortage (and speak English)
But: the Government has negotiated a deal which will make he UK's generous benefits system less of a draw. Plus the UK isn't part of the border free zone.

#5 Democracy

The European Parliament is elected, but the Commision (which holds the power and proposes legislation) is not! Then there's also the European Council, where in the last couple of decades Britain has voted against 72 measures in the European Council and been defeated 72 times. We choose who is elected to lead our constituencies and our country but we have no say over anyone elected to pass legislation in the EU, which then means they aren't held to account in the same way our politicians are. Democracy only works if you know who your representatives are. MEP's aren't in a meaningful position of power. Those that are appointed not elected hold the power and debate laws in secret whereas EVERYTHING debated in the UK Parliament is publicly available.


This of course is not an exhaustive list of every benefit in or out, I think i'd be here forever.. but it's something.

Considering my/our (assuming you're of similar age to me if you're reading this..) generation are among the least engaged in voting I really urge everyone to just go out and use your vote, because not only is this the most important political decision we'll probably make in our lifetime but our votes could really make the difference one way or the other!

Have I missed anything? Carry on the debate and let me know what you think in the comments!


12 comments

  1. I LOVED this! I've been itching to read posts on this and see what people think! So agree, so important to get educated and get voting!

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  2. This is a really well written post! I don't think it's a secret which way I'm voting haha, I've been pretty confident for ages but for many this will be useful. It's all about weighing up what's important to you personally.

    Number 5 on your leave list is a very, very complicated issue. However, the European Commission proposes laws true, but usually only diretly elected European Parliament and the Council of the EU debate, amend and actually pass the laws. I think the main issue here is that a lot of what goes on is behind closed doors, but I think this is something we could change if we stay in the EU. If we leave and strike up trade deals etc, laws and regulations will still be debated that will affect us but we will have no say in them. Also number 1, I'm not sure what the £200billion figure is, but our membership fee actually works out to £13 billion.

    One of the biggest issues I think of leaving is the fact that invesment in the next few years will slow down due to the uncertainty. It takes years to agree trade deals, and while all this is being debated, investors will be avoiding the UK. There is already evidence of this as the pound has weakened recently potentially caused by the uncertainty created by the upcoming vote. It's difficult to predict what would happen economically, but a lot of people in the know do not see a good forecast ahead of us if we were to leave.

    Sorry for such a long comment! I am so interested in all this and love a good debate on it haha. Brilliant post weighing up the pros and cons though!

    Hannah xx

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    1. Thanks Hannah! Oh it is, I mean I wrote that little bit about it but I just don't know enough about how the whole thing works to be honest. I agree it COULD MAYBE be changed if we were in there, but we get voted against in almost everything so i'm not sure..

      Ah yes the £13 billion is what we pay in 'cash' but the £200 billion comes from all the other economic costs surrounding it (I believe.. again I don't know who decided that figure but.. there it is hahaha)

      Love the long comment, you make some great points, that's what this is all about - being informed from both sides!! Weighing up what we all deem to be most important.

      Whatever happens, in or out, the EU is going to change some how.

      I'm looking forward to reading your post!!

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  3. I loved this post! It really has helped me cement in my mind which way I'm going to vote.

    It was really good to see such a balance of in and out, and none of this scaremongering which is all over the media at the moment - not helping anybody!

    Also, cannot agree with the last bit more - so many young people I've spoken to have said that they don't think they're going to bother voting on the referendum. It makes me SO angry. Every vote counts on this - and we are the generation that are going to be effected more by it as we're going to be around long enough to see all the changes carry through.

    Such a well written post though :) So interesting!

    Mel xxx
    www.melberryy.com

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    1. I'm so pleased! I couldn't agree more there's so much rubbish being thrown around I really wanted to try and keep to the point..

      I really hope people go out and vote, it's so disappointing that people aren't willing to go just down the road, that in itself is undemocratic. They should count 'non voters' as 'I dont know' when they count the votes and then re do it if that gets alot.. just an idea Dave if you're reading! Haha

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  4. This is the first piece of well written information I've seen showing both sides to the Brexit argument and you've actually helped me to make a decision - so thank you!

    Will be sharing far and wide as I know many people are in the same position as I was: not having the foggiest.

    Georgie xo
    www.georgienicks.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you Georgina! I'm so glad it's helped you come to a decision!!

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  5. I really enjoyed this. The referendum has been a disaster in terms of it being full of opinions without fact, exaggeration and arguments. It's nice to see another source of information which mentions just the facts, so thank you.

    I've voted to remain, but I thought it would be good to comment on a couple of these points from both sides, as there are some things I've learnt which challenge the common misconceptions...

    1. According to reports, Norway may not have a say but it doesn't have to adopt all EU laws as part of the European Economic Area (EEA). A recent study says it's around 9%: http://www.aecr.eu/less-than-10-of-norways-laws-emanate-from-brussels/.

    2. Another point to mention is the European Convention on Human Rights. 'Remainers' want to stay for the basic protection of these rights, whilst leavers prefer the Tories and their British Bill of Rights, which addresses some issues with the convention.

    3. Also, there's the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (given the fancy name TTIP), which means big, unelected corporate businesses can dictate government policy and sue them if anything they do affects their business or its interests. This can then mean the NHS is sued for being the only healthcare system free at the point of use, for example. Inside the EU, the policy has crumbled and the PM has said the NHS will be exempt. Leavers say if we leave, TTIP will no longer apply, but people wanting to stay in the EU say we can fight it from within, and David Cameron would sign up to a 'Brexit equivalent' if we leave.

    4. Finally, the two options we have if we did leave in terms of accessing the single market is the EEA and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). We're already a member of the EFTA, so remainers don't know how that would help us if we leave, and the EEA means we accept EU laws and freedom of movement. Those wishing could argue that Vote Leave want us to control immigration, but we would still end up with free movement whether we stay or join the EEA.

    Also, in terms of the whole post, I think it would be really cool to have some links or a mini-reference list at the end, so we can find out more about the data?

    Great post - really useful!

    Liam
    www.thelifeofathinker.wordpress.com

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    1. I totally agree with you! That's politicians for you I suppose..

      Some great points there! Particularly the TTIP and businesses dictating policy in their interests. I admit I didn't know about that.

      Thanks for your feedback! I probably should have referenced it, I got bits from all over the place.

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  6. I absolutely loved this. I still haven't decided which way I am going to vote and this was really helpful to show both sides! Thanks :) xxx

    Sarah / Sarah Smiles

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    1. I'm still swaying I've got to be honest. Glad it's gone someway to help you though!

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