Tag Archives: referendum

EU Ins and Outs

Sod it. Vote whichever way you want tomorrow, but make sure it’s a decision based on facts rather than which endorsement you prefer. Public services are stretched because George Osborne keeps cutting the funding, not because of immigration. I know there’s a long list of factory closures doing the rounds, each with “…with EU grant” tacked on the end, but James Dyson closed his factory and moved it to Malaysia without one. Votes for prisoners was decided by the European Court of Human Rights, a completely separate organization to the EU. Incidentally it was the European Convention on Human Rights (again separate) that led to the reopening of the Hillsborough Inquiry.

Yes, we do pay the EU for membership and get some of it back with conditions. However those conditions tend to be “you must spend this money on improving the environment” or “you must spend this money on reducing poverty”, or “this money is made available to charities to improve social conditions”. Stops George Osborne spending it on things like cutting higher rate taxes, or Boris on a vanity island and bridge. Two major funds are the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. I’m not convinced these would be replaced if we left.

It’s also true that the EU comes up with a lot of laws. However most of these enforce standards that are required for a functioning trade area, like making sure furniture doesn’t produce hydrogen cyanide gas when it catches fire. Quite a few of these standards are written by our own British Standards Institute. Even if we did leave, exporting products to the EU would still require them to meet these standards. Other trade blocs work the same way. Products exported to NAFTA countries must also meet specified standards. They aren’t too keen on toxic armchairs either.

One thing I’ve seen a lot of is a dislike of other countries interfering in our affairs. “Vote leave, take control,” as some say. It works both ways and we can interfere in theirs as well. That’s just what John Major did when he vetoed everything to protest against the export ban on British beef during the BSE crisis. Even if we left, any post-EU agreements would still need a certain amount of give and take. That’s how trading works. Being outside the bloc means we’d have less influence; we certainly wouldn’t be able to veto anything in the same way. Don’t worry about Turkey. There’s a list of rules they must follow before they can join. Even if they meet them, every country has a veto, including the UK. I can’t see Greece or Cyprus being too impressed.

The EU is also blamed for rising immigration, even for countries outside the EU. Migration from the Indian subcontinent in the 1960s? We weren’t a member back then, and that was Commonwealth immigration rules. “Bogus” asylum seekers not stopping in the first safe country? That’s because they pay a large fee to people traffickers who don’t tell them where they’re going and hide them in the back of a van. EU nationals taking “our” jobs? Nope. Employers choose to employ them, and the number of British nationals in work has also increased over the last few years. The strict rules on welfare mean that the immigrant who both takes a job and claims benefits is even less likely than it was. Reciprocal agreements on healthcare mean that NHS care is only available with an EHIC card, otherwise you have to pay for it. Even if you’re an EU national. You can get emergency care, but apart from that you’ll have to pony up the cash.

As for “we want our country back,” this is my country as well. Times change. Things move on. Even without being a member of the EU this country is very different to how it was in the past. Changes in society during the 50s and 60s were not caused by being a member of the (then) EEC. The oil shocks of the 70s were caused by Saudi Arabia. The Cold War ended at least partially due to the actions of Gorbachev in the 80s. The collapse of Yugoslavia in the 90s was one of the last Western(ish) European land wars. The War on Terror which began in 2001 had bigger consequences than being a member of the EU. The 2008 Credit Crunch started in the US. Leaving the EU will not reverse decades of social change.

Economies like stability and staying in is likely to be less unstable than leaving, given that no country has yet left the EU and no one knows what might happen. A stable economy is important because it helps long term planning. Most of us have some sort of long term financial commitment, such as a pension fund or a house or a student loan. It might be “our” instability but it’s also “our” pensions or house prices that would suffer in the meantime.

It’s probably obviously that I think we’re better off remaining, but if you do want to vote to leave, make sure your reasons for doing so are good ones. If you’re not sure, we can stay put for now and then review it if things don’t work out.