Twelve reasons Britain is better off remaining a member of the EU
I studied the process of European integration in some detail at the College of Europe in Bruges where I also became a teaching assistant for a year. I then had the pleasure of doing my PhD thesis at the European University Institute in Florence. So it is probably no surprise that I have a bias on the EU. But let me state 12 simple reasons why I want the UK to vote to remain.
1. Trade. About 45 per cent of British trade is now tied up with the EU. It’s our biggest export market and I also like the imports: from German cars and French wine, to Belgian chocolates, Danish bacon and much more, all tariff free. And it is not just trade in goods at stake. The UK is increasingly a service economy and the EU concept of “mutual recognition” gives us a passport to sell services throughout the EU.
2. Domestic investment. The plain fact is that much UK company investment is heavily linked to having a guaranteed EU market of 27 other countries that we can openly export to. Why would I want to risk job losses and lower investment in the UK?
3. Foreign direct investment. The UK has traditionally been one of the biggest attractors of foreign direct investment in the EU. The reason is that we have a fairly competitive economy and guaranteed tariff-free access to the 27 other EU member states. If we vote to leave, much of the FDI, associated investment and jobs will disappear and go to competitors who do have access.
4. Immigration. The UK is a beneficiary of EU migration. A lot of EU citizens come to Britain and contribute skills and pay taxes. Yes, some abuse the system to unfairly claim social security benefits but the vast majority do not. Much of this migration means we are able to fill skills shortages in our hospitals, care services, and building and service industries.
5. Freedom of movement of capital and labour. I like the fact that, if I want to, I can take my pound notes, turn them into euros, and the UK government cannot stop me since capital controls are outlawed by the EU. I like the fact that, if I want to, I can find a job in another EU member state, and these countries have no right to stop me from doing so. I think it is great that UK businesses have the right to set up subsidiaries in other EU countries if they want to. Our kids have the right to work and study in these countries as well.
6. Jobs. Britain is a large trading nation and many British jobs would be put at risk if we were to leave the EU. A Brexit would mean lower domestic investment, lower FDI, and lower exports. All this translates into fewer jobs. Estimates of job losses vary from 500,000 to 3m. My best guesstimate is around 1m job losses over two years were a Brexit to occur.
7. The cost of living. Even for the vast majority who will keep their job, there is a real danger that prices will rise quite rapidly if we leave. First, the pound is likely to fall significantly, pushing up the price of imports. Second, the UK might be forced to apply tariffs to imported EU goods if we cannot negotiate a free trade arrangement that is acceptable to the World Trade Organisation. Third, EU competition keeps British firms competitive. Without EU competition, over time we would turn the clock back to the late 1960s and early 70s when the UK economy was very uncompetitive.
8. Peace and stability. There is an old adage that “trade knits nations together” making it much less likely that they will want to spend their time and resources fighting each other. Let’s remember that one of the reasons the EU (EEC as it was originally called) was formed in 1957 was to help reintegrate Germany into the European economy and make war between France and Germany unthinkable. In this respect, the EU has been an outstanding success. It was even awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2012 in recognition of this.
9. Britain has more influence as an EU member. The Americans, Japanese and Chinese pay a lot more attention to the UK and our views because we are a member of the EU and can influence how it is run. The UK is simply not a big or strong enough economy to negotiate with the US, Japan or China as equals.
10. Safety and security. Sure, the Nato alliance is the primary guarantor of European security, but as members of the EU we are able to use law enforcement intelligence from the 27 other EU countries and have access to fingerprint and DNA information. Since 2004, using the European Arrest Warrant, over 1,000 suspects have faced justice in UK courts and over 7,000 have been extradited from the UK to face trial or serve a sentence.
11. Globalisation. I am in favour of globalisation and the benefits it brings, and being part of the EU is being part of the process of globalisation. I am fed up of hearing arguments from Little Englanders pretending that all would be fine and well if we left the EU. Things will be worse and potentially much worse.
12. Keeping the UK together. A Brexit would be a disaster for the unity of the UK since it is highly likely that Scotland and Wales would want to remain part of the EU. This could lead to them both having referendums to leave the UK followed by applications to rejoin the EU. That will mean years of further uncertainty, and we just have other priorities to worry about.
The EU is far from perfect. I would like to see further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and also for the EU itself to be made more democratically accountable to its citizens. But such faults are not a good enough reason to leave. Our youngsters have a brighter future if the UK remains part of the EU. Leaving would only be a reckless gamble.