The European Union isn’t perfect, but as an organisation it has been an incredible force for good across Europe and the UK has played an important role in leading it forward.
The EU was formed after World War II to promote international solidarity across the continent as it struggled to rebuild after decades of conflict. The founding principle of the EU is that by engaging in trade and co-operating with fellow European countries that Europe will be safer, stronger and more prosperous. And that’s exactly how it has turned out.
The freedoms we enjoy within the EU are unlike any other international unit in the world, and these freedoms are ones that we take for granted. These are freedoms of movement, that we don’t need visas to visit (or work in) France or Italy or Spain; freedom of goods, so we can buy something over from Europe and not have to pay extra to import it; freedom of capital, so businesses and people too can use their money anywhere in the EU just like they do at home and freedom of services, so businesses can be founded anywhere in the EU and have access to the customer base of 500 million people.
But even though we enjoy these freedoms we still have our distinctive political culture in the UK. Westminster can essentially do as it pleases, as long as it doesn’t impinge on any of those four freedoms which ensure people, money and businesses are treated equally across Europe, and these are things that we want here in Britain anyway.
Immigration is one of the key parts of the Leave campaign, as they believe that the levels of immigration to the UK are too high and believe that leaving the EU is the solution. This is a short-sighted and incomplete solution to something that isn’t an economic issue that would leave us with a far, far bigger problem.
I’ve already written about how immigration benefits us culturally and economically before but here are a few of my favourite facts: Immigrants from Europe contribute 34% more in taxes than they take in benefits compared with UK natives. Immigration is good for our economy and our country, and by staying in the EU we can work with the rest of Europe to find a common solution to the influx of refugees from Syria.
The scare stories the Leave campaign have about Brussels writing all our laws are ridiculous. Between 1980 and 2010, only 10% of Britain’s acts put into place any EU law – and these could be simply a single clause in a wider bill. This compares very favourably with other countries, with the same Government report estimating that EU regulation made up 38% of Germany’s law and 20% of Iceland’s, which isn’t even apart of the EU.
The “loss” of sovereignty we have to the EU is completely counter-balanced by the influence we have on Europe and the world as a key EU member. We’re still arguably the 2nd most powerful member of the organisation after Germany and we are being given concessions on currency, payments etc. that other countries couldn’t imagine bargaining for. Even though David Cameron’s renegotiations back in February didn’t change matters much, it showed that the EU is still willing to bend over backwards to keep us involved and at the top of the table.
Another favourite scare story about the EU is that we contribute massive sums of money and receive very little back. In 2015, the Treasury estimated our net contribution to the EU (after the rebate where the EU gives us some of our money back) to be £8.473 billion, representing 12.57% of the EU’s total budget. For reference, the UK makes up 12.74% of Europe’s population and our Government has an annual budget of £742 billion. The UK pays about our fair share to Europe, even fractionally less so, and makes up just 1.2% of our national expenditure, hardly marking a massive burden on our economy. Our payments to the EU help secure a more equal and more prosperous life for people across the continent and we should be proud that we play our part in that, rather than shying away from helping others.
The benefits from EU membership even come closer to home, with Scotland (and particularly the Highlands) benefiting from the European Regional Development Fund which helps create jobs, build infrastructure and ultimately stimulate the economy of distinct regions across Europe. This year alone there has already been £130 million in funding announced for projects here in Scotland helping to give jobs to young people and boost manufacturing. This is money that makes a big difference to our local communities and economies, and it’s all thanks to the EU.
I believe these are all good reasons to stay in the EU, and that’s without the fact that Britain’s largest trading partner is the EU, with 45% of our exports and a massive 53% of our imports coming from the other 27 EU countries in 2014. This also accounts for over 3 million jobs in our country.
Leaving the EU does not mean that we will not be able to trade with the EU or that millions will lose their jobs, but what it does is force our Government and businesses into an impossible economic and political dilemma.
By leaving the EU we would be left with the choice of negotiating free trade deals with the EU, which is the far larger economy and the side that would hold all the bargaining chips, or dealing with taxes on our trade with our largest partner that would significantly hamper our economy.
With the first option, we’d be at the mercy of a 27 v 1 negotiation that would be very, very unlikely to give us a deal that was fair and one that would likely end in us having to accept to conform to parts of EU law in which we no longer have a powerful voice in deciding.
With option two, we simply, as a country, wouldn’t have as much capital as we do now. This would force the Government into action, either to cut services or raise taxes or likely a mixture of both.
If we leave the EU, neither of the two options we’d then be faced with gives us the economic and political freedom that we enjoy now within the EU, so why go down that road at all?
The EU isn’t perfect, but staying involved in the organisation that has brought us a more free, more equal and more prosperous Europe is the best move for Britain.
The simple truth is that we gain very little from leaving the EU while we enjoy many advantages by staying.
So when you make your choice in the EU referendum, pick the choice that gives the UK the most scope to succeed and vote to remain in the EU.
If you still need convincing, please read some of the links below.
Reasons to stay
“A vote to leave the European Union would diminish both Britain and Europe” – The Economist, June 2016
“The UK has very little to gain by quitting the EU and much to lose” – Centre for European Reform, January 2014
“The alternatives to EU membership are unsatisfactory: they either give Britain less control over regulation than it currently enjoys, or they offer more control but less market access.” – Centre for European Reform, June 2014