This is meant to be a simple summary of the Remain arguments and touches on some of the Leave campaign’s key points but is not supposed to be comprehensive.
Lord Evans and Sir John Sawers, heads of MI5 and MI6 respectively until 2013 say leaving is a bad idea. The lack of a formal intelligence sharing agreement with the EU is irrelevant – we share lots of data which are key to many intelligence operations.
Ex-Met police chiefs Lord Condon and Lord Blair say the European Arrest Warrant speeds up the process of deporting European criminals (over 5000 2010-14) and extraditing British ones (675 2010-15). This includes failed 21 July London bomber Hussain Osman, extradited from Italy in 8 weeks.
- Britain is not a part of the Schengen area, the EU’s passport-free zone. As such, we have as much control over our borders, in or out of the EU.
- The system of France and Belgium checking entrants to the UK before they come here – called juxtaposed controls – is indirectly threatened. That could see Calais migrants arriving on our shores as France and Belgium have less incentive to manage this problem for us.
Some Leave campaigners argue Brexit would allow us to negotiate trade deals with Commonwealth countries more easily. The last four of the aforementioned countries are in the Commonwealth, support Remain and make up the lion’s share of non-UK Commonwealth GDP. It gives them access to the single market; a trade deal with the Commonwealth is best achieved through Remain.
(Leave also say we pay £350m/week (£18.7bn/year) to the EU, a claim for which the UK Statistics Authority have reprimanded them. Net, we pay £161/week (£8.3bn/year). This gives us access to the single market.)
Why does the single market matter?
It allows free trade with 440 million Europeans. This means British business can buy and sell in Europe without having to pay a tariff to do so. It also means regulation across Europe is the same.
Often, Leave campaigners cite this as ‘red tape’. However, it means with one set of regulations across Europe; if your product is legal in the UK, it’s legal in the EU with no modifications. 44% of exports and 50% of goods exports from the UK go to the EU. That’s a massive part of trade to put at risk.
Won’t we just get another trade deal?
Vote Leave – the primary Leave campaign – say we would leave the single market. That would mean tariffs on British business of some description. Leave campaigners have proposed a variety of trade deals but if we do not negotiate within 2 years of voting to leave, we will have no trade deal.
Whilst the EU will want to trade with us, it also has an incentive to make things as painful as possible. Leave supporters argue the EU is undemocratic (to which I’ll come) and too centralised. Thus, on their own terms it makes sense that the EU will want to consolidate power by making Brexit a costly affair. British failure would make it less likely other members try and leave.
A net 330000 immigrants came to the UK in 2015. Leave supporters argue for an Australian-style points system. Intuitively, this makes sense – let’s get immigrants who actually fill gaps in the market rather than a large number of unregulated EU migrants
However, immigration’s impact on public finances is “relatively small“. Further, in certain sectors, EU migration has a major impact. 1 in 10 doctors and 1 in 25 nurses are EU migrants. 93% of research scientists say the EU is a “major benefit“. The bureacracy of a points system would discourage EU migrants from trying to work here.
There are Leave campaigners who want Britain to resemble a 1950s idyll which probably never existed. However, Remain campaigners often forget that particularly in poorer communities large migrant communities put pressure on public services like schools and hospitals.
Though nationally migrants are net contributors, we should not forget these local effects. This is however a problem of domestic policy – money should be focussed on ensuring adequate public services and education are available to both British citizens and immigrants. Brexit does not solve the problem.
I don’t think this is as complicated as is often made out. Sovereignty is our ability to govern ourselves, ostensibly by electing a government. Leave argue we have lost control and ceded power to Brussels.
Firstly, we vote for MEPs directly who stand in the European Parliament. We are represented on the European Commission and Council of the EU. Whilst it’s beyond this post to explain how laws are passed in the EU, this graphic from Simple Politics hopefully explains:
Secondly, even if we had ceded power to a massively undemocratic organisation, we chose to do that. We keep voting for parties who want to remain in the EU. We can leave and reclaim those powers. If the powers were really gone, the EU would prevents from having a referendum. It’s just that we’re better off in the EU.
Thirdly, there are democratic deficits at Westminster and in councils. Few argue we should scrap councils on the basis only 30% of voters elect them, roughly the same as the number who elect MEPs. The UK sometimes disagrees with Brussels – disagreements are a sign of a healthy democracy.
(NB: Eurosceptics often slate the European Commission for being an undemocratic and overreaching behemoth of an organisation. It has 23000 staff, less than half that of HMRC‘s 56000 and almost a twentieth of the 406 140 who work in Whitehall.)
The EU is an imperfect organisation. It needs reform. Britain knows too little about how it works. But these are not arguments for Brexit.
Remaining in the EU is the only road to prosperity.