Turn on the news – the EU. Open a paper – the EU. Go on any website – the EU.
There is no doubt, the European Union is a huge talking point at the moment, and it has been for a while. Why? One reason springs to mind: the rise of UKIP.
Ever since UKIP’s victory at the European Elections (which confuses me greatly, why stand for election to a parliament that you don’t believe in, and then not make the best of a bad situation?), the country has been swept with EU-mania. Before the 2015 General Election, Nick Clegg (former leader of the Liberal Democrats) and Nigel Farage (leader of UKIP) debated the issue on live television, accompanied by the seemingly ever-present David Dimbleby. That debate is more crucial than ever as Prime Minister David Cameron tries to renegotiate the UK’s role in the EU before an in/out referendum sometime in the next year.
I study Economics alongside Politics at A-Level, and both are concerned with the EU for quite similar reasons – money, culture, welfare, houses, education, the NHS… These things are all very important to the UK, and the in and out camps have very different views on what EU membership contributes to each.
Politicians (mainly Nigel Farage) use the EU as a scapegoat for many of Britain’s issues, such as unemployment, the housing crisis and the deficit, claiming that it is too costly, it erodes our sovereignty and it is no longer fit for purpose. However, others believe that the same union is central to our trade, our “standing on the world stage” and our job security. With both arguments sounding convincing, which side should you pick?
Below are some arguments I’ve compiled for staying in the European Union and also for leaving.
LET’S STAY IN THE EU!
- We have free trade within Europe, which is also our biggest trading partner. If we leave, this privilege may be lost.
- The Single European Market creates strong and healthy competition which should, if expansion leads to lower prices (known as economies of scale) give customers cheaper goods and give businesses more free cash to spend in the economy.
- Norway is outside of the EU, but still has trade links. The problem? Norway also has to accept EU regulations, such as open door immigration without any MEPs to stand in its corner. Leaving wouldn’t give us more control, it would simply give us less.
- The EU is where most of our trade goes – they are our largest export market. Outside of the EU, a tariff would be introduced onto our exports and this could reduce demand.
- Red tape is a pain. Leaving the EU would create new, British regulations which businesses would have to pay for.
- There is no link between unemployment and immigration.
- There is no guarantee that Europe would want to trade with us if we left; expensive tariffs and trade agreements could be put in place, thus lowering our attractiveness as trading partners.
- Nigel Farage often states that the UK spends £55 million a day on EU membership, however fullfact.org states that in 2013, ‘after rebates and other receipts, our net contribution was £8.6 billion, or about £24 million a day on Nigel Farage’s framing’. Farage’s figure is more than double the actual expense, and is greatly misleading the public.
- Students who wish to study abroad in Europe may have to pay increased university fees to do so if we leave the EU.
- More than 1.8 million British people work and live in the EU; free movement of workers is a benefit to them, not a curse.
- Because we joined the EU, income per capita is up 12% compared to a UK that had stayed independent of the union.
- We can fight climate change and terrorism much better as a union than we can alone.
- 1 in 7 UK businesses come from EU migrants and 26% of doctors in the UK are immigrants.
- The EU encourages multiculturalism and diversity which creates a more united world – the EU was created to promote unity and togetherness.
- EU immigrants make a £20 billion net contribution to the economy. They give more than they take, regardless of what UKIP tells us.
- Britain could lose by leaving the EU and having stricter immigration policies. This could badly damage the slowly recovering economy.
LET’S LEAVE THE EU!
- Out of the EU, Britain could negotiate its own trade deals with emerging trading partners, such as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) countries.
- Leaving the EU would cut our membership fee
- Food prices may fall if the UK left the Common Agricultural Policy – a chunk of EU money is spent on this policy, which has been said to be inefficient, wasteful and beneficial to agricultural sectors more than consumers.
- The UK is the EU’s biggest export market, so the EU needs to maintain trade relations to ensure its own trade survives.
- Complete control over laws and regulations would return to Westminster, therefore restoring sovereignty from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
- Immigration through the EU’s open door policy has put added pressure on public services, housing and infrastructure. With control of the UK’s borders, immigration can be managed.
- Greece owes Germany €56 billion – as a member of the EU, the UK may be asked to help bail out Greece or other struggling economies in the future. As the economy is only just recovering, such an expectation is not ideal for a delicate economy.
- In terms of how the EU has treated Greece in recent years, the democratic and kind side of the organisation is certainly leaving a lot to be desired.
- The UK needs to build a new house every 7 minutes to cope with immigration pressures, according to UKIP.
- The EU is now outdated and not fit for purpose. Created as a post-war union, it is now an expansionist union which is more concerned with money than unity.
- It is hard to tell how much of UK law comes from the EU, some estimate around 70%. The figure below shows that the majority of regulations come from the EU, which erodes our power.
So, there are the arguments. I’ve been doing a lot of research into the EU lately, and I am strongly of the belief that we should stay in the EU. I resent the scaremongering that UKIP presents, particularly their arguments that ignore the positives of the EU or aim to reverse inclusion and promote divides within communities. I think that the UK benefits from the EU, and the whole immigration argument has come solely from UKIP’s rise to fame. All the major parties now focus on immigration because of UKIP. The 2015 Election saw voters move to UKIP across the country – these people were undoubtedly enamoured with Farage’s strong immigration rhetoric which was not as strong in the other parties. Farage talks a good game, but he falls down massively when you conduct in-depth research.
I don’t think we should blame the problems of the UK on immigrants or the EU; to me, that is defeatist. We should be working to increase income, to develop a stronger health system, to ensure education prepares students for the real world. We can’t blame immigrants or the EU for the government’s failures.