Wednesday, 13 January 2016

What Reason Do We Have to Stay in the EU?

by Oliver Clark

The year was 1975. Harold Wilson had won a referendum to keep Great Britain in the EEC (European Economic Community), a group that they had only joined 2 years prior thanks to Edward Heath's Conservative government. Wilson wanted to renegotiate certain terms but ultimately wished to stay in. The Labour Party was split at the time, with many believing that the Tories had negotiated an agreement that did not favour Britain and others fearing the ramifications of being a part of the EEC for Britain's regulations and laws. The opposition opposed this referendum at the time citing it as pointless and a mistake. 

Sound familiar?

One day, within the next 2 years, David Cameron will hold another referendum asking the British public whether they wish to remain in the EU or not. Before this date, he wishes to seek re-negotiations on issues such as benefits for EU migrants and the ability to opt out of certain political integration. However, like Wilson's 41 years previously, his party is split. Many people within the party see his aims as unrealistic and believe that Britain's position within the EU is weaker than ever. All the more worrying for Cameron is the increasingly Eurosceptic media, leading to an increasingly Eurosceptic public. Recent polls have in fact shown that if the referendum were to happen today, Britain would vote to leave. The real question that more people are asking, and that needs to be answered by David Cameron and the In campaign is this: what reason do we have to stay in the EU?

Some of the statistics below are not what Cameron and fellow pro-European Tories want to hear with less than 24 months before the deadline for his referendum.

As people - me being one of them - are struggling to think of many outright positives of staying in the EU, all that I can currently look at is the consequences of leaving.

Many people dislike the regulations placed upon Britain's economy by powers in Brussels, but according to the OECD club, Britain has the least regulated labour market and second least regulated product market in the entirety of Europe. Thus, politicians saying that they want to remove the red tape from UK businesses would be very disappointed when discovering that after leaving, there is not much that they would be able to change without going against public support (on matters such as labour and environmental regulations).

Another problem that is argued about frequently is the access to the single market of the EU. It appears that many do not wish to abide by the EU's rules, yet expect an equal entry into the market to those who abide by the rules. What is the solution to this, then? Well, we pull out of the EU and due to our strong bargaining position we will negotiate trade deals! The problem? The EU takes approximately half of Britain's exports, whereas Britain takes less than a mere tenth of the EU's. The reality of the matter is, on these current figures, Britain at this current stage needs the EU more than the EU needs Britain. If we were to leave, Angela Merkel would not be all too hasty in offering us a favourable deal unless it was truly necessary. 

Another factor to consider is the accuracy of the polls being taken. The typically euro-sceptic and right wing Daily Mail was the paper to publish the above numbers, and so the views of these 1004 people who were interviewed has to be taken with a pinch of salt, and is quite unlikely to be the view of the entire country. However, it was not just the Daily Mail publishing these sorts of statistics. It is clear that the Out movement is growing, and, if the latest polls are to be believed, it seems like people are either neglecting the statements that I argued above, or are listening to the other side of the argument. 

It wouldn't be politics if there wasn't another story. Nigel Farage, Head of UKIP, is adamant that the UK would not only survive, but thrive outside of the EU. He states that the £55 million daily fee of membership is ludicrous. He believes that the control over EU borders is weak in a time where it needs to be stronger than ever thanks to the imminent threat of ISIS. He thinks that Britain was lied to in 1975 with false promises and hope, and ever since then we have been bullied by an authoritarian EU. 12.6% of the voting population evidently agreed with Mr Farage at the general election, and it appears that although many do not agree with UKIP itself, their main ideology of freeing Britain from the shackles of EU rule is becoming ever more appealing. Even some major UK firms believe that a future outside of Europe would be a prosperous one. The head of JCB has even been quoted as saying that leaving would 'lift the burden of bureaucracy' from the shoulder of UK businesses.

The fact of the matter is, at this point in time, looking at the consequences of leaving is near pointless because everyone has a different opinion on how leaving the EU would affect this country. If these statistics above are to be believed, and if David Cameron wishes to keep Britain in the EU, he needs to start communicating with people as to what we will gain from staying, and not the consequences of leaving, because whomever you may talk to about the matter, do any of them know these consequences for certain? Leaving the EU is comparable to a person standing at the top of a cliff when you cannot see what is at the bottom. Unless we leave, and step off of this cliff, we have no idea as to whether there is a massive cushion to save us, containing all the riches and rewards of bravery, or a perilous fall of a foolish country too full of itself. Although I believe that, similarly to events in the Scottish referendum, the fear of leaving will hit the majority of the voting public when the day arrives, if Cameron and his supporters wish to be certain that it will not be a close run vote, and that they will not have to run the risk of leaving, they will have to be standing next to this person with a brighter future inside the EU.

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