Returning from my Easter Holidays and sifting through the mail, I found one which roused my curiosity not only from the order of my names but from the sender address – Cribbs Causeway. Thinking this was perhaps something to do with a recent purchase from the mall, I opened it only to find a leaflet from Leave.EU asking for my support and stating why they were recommending that I should vote to leave the European Union in the forthcoming referendum slated for June 23rd 2016. Here’s my reply to each of the points (in italics) they touted.
To protect ourselves from the waste, overspending and misappropriation of funds in Brussels.
Government waste and overspending are globally pervasive and deficits whether here in the UK, the US or the EU are nothing new. For example, government overspend as per the OECD (2015) was 4.1% in the UK, 4.6% in the US and for the 15 Euro countries, it was 1.8%. The EU budget to 2020 is 960 Billion Euros which is approximately 1% of the EU GDP. So the overspend which goes on through allocations like the Common Agricultural Policy and regional policies is actually a small amount as a proportion of EU GDP. The Conservative Government in the UK was voted in 2010 to address government overspending and according to the OECD data government deficits have been falling ever since. But we still have deficits in the UK. Thus to quit for reasons of “protecting ourselves from waste and overspending” seems futile as we also have waste in the country. The UK has 73 MEPs who similar to those from other countries have legislative, supervisory and budgetary responsibilities. These MEPs should be forging alliances and influencing their peers to our way of probity and accountability. Historically we have succeeded in Europe by acting in concert with others.
Safeguard us from laws and regulations passed by Eurocrats who have never visited the UK.
On Leave.EU website there is mention of a list of 100 rogue legislation which according to independent assessors cost the UK £33 billion annually. OpenEurope.org as quoted by Leave.EU, names The UK Renewable Energy Strategy, The Capital Requirements Directive IV (CRD IV), The Working Time Directive, The EU Climate and Energy Package and The Temporary Agency Workers Directive as the top five EU legislation costing the UK. While not getting drawn on the numbers which are highly subjective, because the Government’s own figures show that net benefit from the EU regulations amount to £25 billion, it is worth noting that OpenEurope itself recognizes that these regulations will not go away upon leaving the EU and they state that “A Brexit could cut down on some of those costs” and crucially that “the UK would still need to ensure that it came into line with European rules on trade for all commercial transactions with EU member countries.” In short the statement by Leave.Eu that leaving will “safeguard” the UK from costly EU law and regulations (which by the way fosters equality and standardization across the union) is not factual. According to the World Economic Forum in 2014/15, Germany, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands are among the top ten globally competitive countries with the UK being ninth. Membership of the EU therefore, does not preclude countries being competitive.
We can remove our politicians who are answerable to us. Unlike unelected European Commissioners.
The European Council (comprised of heads of governments) appoints a President of the Commission who goes on to appoint commissioners. The commissioners are vetted and voted on by the European Parliament and their appointments signed off by a majority vote in the European Council. While the commissioners may not be elected ‘directly’ by citizens, but MEPs who vote on the commissioners, are. This current commission expires in 2019 and similarly UK parliamentarians have a shelf-life marked by their time to the next ballot box or in the case of being recalled, as per Recall of MPs act 2015. The complexities of the latter as documented in legislation.gov.uk make it easier said than done. So it is not so easy to remove our politicians and we do have a say – albeit indirectly in who becomes a European Commissioner.
The City Of London is integral to the UK’s GDP and a major UK taxpayer. The EU seeks to shackle it.
Most commentators according to the Financial Times are of the persuasion that banks, insurers and foreign exchange operators in the City of London, would be adversely affected by a vote to leave. At risk are the trillion euros of net assets in cross border funds managed by the City, the $900 billion daily turnover of OTC interest rate derivatives, the premiums from EU worth 17% of income to the insurance and reinsurance market, and the 12% contribution from the financial services to the UK economic output inter alia. Furthermore, if there were a clamp down on EU workers in the UK, in the wake of a vote to leave, then the UK stands to lose valuable talent from the EU comprising 11% of the City’s 38,000 workers. While such a loss of talent may not be terminal to the City, some would argue, it certainly would leave it weakened especially in face of competitors like New York or Frankfurt who would readily welcome these specialists in finance to help them woo business away from the City of London. These and other risks were perhaps what was in mind when Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, the largest bank in the US, warned of a “massive dislocation” to the City of London’s status as a financial hub if there was a vote to leave the EU.
Enhance our country’s security by re-establishing the vital control of our borders.
The UK has not signed up to SCHENGEN so it can be argued that, compared to the signatories of SCHENGEN in the EU, the country has control of its borders. Also while the spill of migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya etc occurs across Europe, the UK can be thankful to the EU’s Dublin Regulation which means the UK can repatriate migrants to their point of entry in the EU. In addition, as reported in France24, France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron hinted that were the UK to leave the EU, France would “move its northern migrant camps to the other side of the English Channel”. That eventuality would stretch local resources to breaking point and would neither “enhance” the security of Dover nor the security of the country. Lastly, in witnessing the Jihadi outrages in both Paris and Belgium, it is noteworthy that the European Arrest Warrant to which the UK is signatory has been instrumental in making necessary arrests to reinforce security across the EU.
A new freedom to trade with the dynamic parts of the world. The EU’s world position is in decline.
The saying “A bird in the hand … “ comes to mind because the EU still represents a market of 500 million consumers. The UK does just about half of its trade with other EU countries and the EU represents 14% of the UK GDP. Being a member of the EU has created conditions for the UK economy to expand and attract foreign investment. This continues to be so as “passporting” of financial services allows firms from around the world to set up in the UK in order to access markets in the EU – adding to the UK’s status as a financial hub. Leave.EU wants more trade with the rest of the world – that’s fine – but why does it have to be at the expense of direct access to the biggest single market in the world? The EU’s trade with China is a billion Euros a day, and that is growing as bilateral trade in services, which is currently 10% of trade in goods, grows. Being part of the EU confers us with scale and leverage when trading with China or any other partner. In a decade to 2014 the EU’s trade with India grew from 28.6 billion Euros to 72.5 billion Euros and likewise, the EU is Brazil’s first trading partner – accounting for about 19.5% of total trade. In Africa the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and South Africa, has resulted in a 120% increase in trade between the two entities. These and the multitude of other trade overtures around the world are hardly the characterisation of a position of “decline” as stated by Leave.EU.
Shelter us from the frustrations of negotiations with 28 disparate economies who will never agree.
The remarks are reminiscent of kids in the playground, i.e. quitting the playing field in a sulk when they disagree with other members of the team, and delivers the Leave.EU argument to the realm of spoilsports. Shortcomings of negotiators cannot be a reason to quit and key representatives such as the PM, Chancellor, Business Secretary, Foreign Office, Royalty, British Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry etc. would not disagree that the strength of the United Kingdom lies in its ability to forge alliances. This is how the UK has prevented hegemonies on the continent – and has shed a great deal of blood doing that. So, the thought of abandoning history and retreating to leave Europe to the French and Germans would do disservice to a great number of people who have worked and died for a secure, peaceful and prosperous Europe. Besides, what is the outcome desired by Leave.EU? Is the UK going to have European Economic Area access like Norway and in that regard being, as some would put it, “run by Europe”? Or is it going to take the Swiss model, with limited access to the single market but leaving the City of London at a disadvantage as UK banks would lose their passports? Or perhaps the Leave.EU fancies the Turkish model, a customs union for goods being used as a stepping stone for Turkey’s accession? Or maybe Leave.EU just favours the most disruptive of the alternatives, a complete break from the EU, to fall back on WTO membership for access to the single market? Even if “frustrations” were a valid reason to quit, the latter an option for example, begs for bigger headaches and bigger frustrations negotiating with many more parties who have their own national and regional agendas to defend.
The UK is the world’s fifth biggest economy: Independent we can sit at the world’s top tables.
As Nicola Sturgeon has noted, a vote for leaving the EU will reopen the recently closed door for another referendum in Scotland – which it is more likely than not, that the Europhile Scots would then vote to leave the UK, reducing the country’s economic output by about 7.7% according to the ONS (2012). Having lost Scotland and exited the EU, would the rump of the UK still be at the Security Council? Probably. The UK would still have a nuclear arsenal although the base in Faslane in Scotland may have to be closed in the event of Scotexit. Also, the world’s ‘top tables’ includes NATO – so, would the rump of UK still be a member of NATO? Nothing points to any change there but the 2% of defence spending required by NATO members may bring to the fore, questions of relevance. This would be especially so in an environment where GDP has been shaved by a series of clippers from the loss of Scotland to the decrements in tax revenues firstly from the City of London and secondly from a slowdown in investment as uncertainty constrained business activity with the inevitable loss of jobs. Case in point, Airbus in Bristol has warned a vote to leave the EU would put jobs at risk. Other risks are already live as currency speculators have already fired their first salvo of warning shots and Sterling dropped some 9% from December on worries of a vote to leave the EU. If this is indicative on a pending run on Sterling, what would happen to the UK’s foreign reserves, should the Bank Of England decide to backstop the pound? What would happen to mortgage holders when interest rates soar in the battle to curtail speculators? With all the seismic shifts economically and politically, would the UK still be the fifth largest economy? And even if what was left of the UK still sat at the “world’s top tables”, how credible, or an effective partner would she be politically, financially or militarily?
Reclaim our territorial waters, prevent over fishing to provide affordable and choice of fish.
It is worth noting that overfishing is not just an EU problem as Greenpeace notes that 63% of fish stocks globally are overfished. The EU has also recognised the problem and in 2011 it recommended a cessation of cod fishing in the Irish sea and West coast of Scotland. Also, in 2012 the European Parliament voted against new subsidies and instead to direct 6.5 billion Euros towards conservation research and protection of fish stocks. The Common Fisheries Policy has been reworked and practices like discarding fish have been proscribed. There are still many pressing issues such as illegal fishing outside EU waters but the revamp of the CFP was possible through negotiation among member countries and serves as a flag to check the rhetoric by the Leave.EU and others stating that nothing can be achieved through negotiation in Brussels. Notwithstanding, if the UK were to vote to leave, there is one fact that’s not going to change and that is the EU is the biggest fishing market in the world. The CFP ensures that 71% of the EU annual Fisheries Expenditure goes on “Structural Intervention” in other words, subsidies to the tune of a billion euros to fishermen within the CFP. Thus outside the EU, would the UK Chancellor be able to match this level of subsidy or would the UK then see its fishing fleet shrink, with the ever increasing likelihood that the EU would be dictating terms of the fish trade to the UK, with the result being fewer policy options to combat overfishing and possibly lesser not more ‘choice’ of fish.
Cameron’s woeful concessions aren’t permanent. They can be revoked. No second referendum!!
For those on the ‘Leave’ persuasion the renegotiation was an exercise which no ‘concessions’ would have satisfied. In the intense media frenzy, following the PM’s announcement calling the referendum, it was the perfect platform for those who wanted out to make and justify their ‘Brexit’ declarations. Yet, it revealed firstly that the Prime Minister in his whirlwind tours across the continent was taking the matter serious and he will go the last mile to keep the UK in Europe. Secondly, it was indicative that Europe still listens to the UK and in making the concessions they could, Europe wants the UK in. There is a general consensus that there would not be a second referendum, in which case the UK hopefully gets it right the first time round and votes to stay in the European Union.