At the time of writing, and predictably ongoing into the not-so-near future, the news is being pretty much dominated by two very important upcoming events; the UK EU referendum and the presidential campaign in the USA. With the latter culminating in some very strong and well thought out opinions (“Donald Trump really is a git”), it would appear that the same cannot really be said for whatever is going on on our own turf.
What is exactly going on?
With the Tories’ victory last year came the awaiting fulfilment of a manifesto pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017. David Cameron, sticking to his guns (in true politician form, of course), has announced the country will vote on the matter on 23rd June. Whilst that seems simple enough, it’s fair to say that the issue has been complicated over the past few months. A fair few public and political figures have come forward with their own opinions, such as Boris Johnson last week stating he will be voting to leave the EU… followed rather strangely by his parents publicly declaring no such alignment. Of course, it is important for the public to hear the point of view of the ‘experts’, but it cannot be denied that these types of declarations will have a massive impact on what is supposed to be an independent and democratic public decision. The real crux of the issue is that, whilst it appears that many UK citizens have a firm stance on the question of Brexit (British exit from the EU) at the moment, people don’t seem to have many convincing arguments to justify themselves. And this makes us all the more influenceable.
So, I’ve taken it upon myself to make you, readers, that much more strong and independent (like the future of the UK perhaps?). Below, I have synthesised what I believe to be the most convincing and important arguments to consider when deciding whether we should be leaving the EU, to ensure that the decision you make on 23rd June is yours.
- No other country has ever left the EU before. Do we really want to be guinea pig?
- A huge advantage of the EU is free trade between its member states, making it easier and cheaper for British companies to export their goods to Europe. The single market gives British business access to the entire EU with its 500 million consumers. The UK will lose at least some of its international negotiation power if it decides to leave the EU.
- Free movement of people across the EU opens up job opportunities both in the UK itself and also for UK citizens willing to travel across seas to work. Leaving the EU may therefore result in a smaller pool of competent and skilled workers to fill demanding jobs in the UK. Eurosceptics (such as UKIP) will often use this same free movement of people argument as a reason for leaving the EU.
- It has been speculated that if Britain were to leave the EU, America would consider it to be a much less useful ally. This could severely weaken the UK’s military influence.
- More generally, leaving the EU would diminish our global influence, and we will therefore find it increasingly difficult to get our voice heard on topics that may affect us.
- Eurosceptics argue that the vast majority of small and medium sized firms are restricted by regulations set out in EU law, despite not actually trading with the EU at all.
- The Economist says that by leaving the EU, Britain would be able to scrap caps on the number of hours people can work per week, and also free itself from the EU’s renewable energy drive. Although I was tempted to put this forward as an argument for staying in the EU, many people feel that this independence is vital for the prosperity of our economy.
- Some of the public are convinced that by remaining in the EU, we are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position in the face of the ongoing threat of terrorism. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has come out in favour of Brexit, has stated “this open border does not allow us to control and check people”. This is often rebutted, however, with the argument that the EU is an important pillar of the UK’s security.
- With the current EU subsidy scheme pushing up the price of land, many British farmers are rooting to rid themselves of these constraints.
After two days of intensive talks in Brussels earlier this month, David Cameron came to an agreement with other member states’ leaders on a package of changes to the UK’s membership of the EU, involving matters such as migrant child benefits and welfare payments, the UK’s hold on the British pound, and some limits on free movement. Whilst these reforms can’t exactly be described as groundbreaking, Cameron is hoping they will persuade the public that the best decision for the UK is to remain in the EU, with the added benefit of more sovereignty.
With the question of Brexit generating almost as much excitement as the results of the Oscars this week, will the UK play it safe and remain in the EU, or will we follow in Leo’s footsteps and do something revolutionary, that we’ve never seen before?