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To Brexit Or Not To Brexit?

Our summary of the main arguments for and against staying in the EU

Sainka Shah

Naked Politics Blogger

Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary celebrations coincided with President Obama’s visit to the UK. The issue of Brexit has, of course, heavily dominated headlines on a daily basis, which was further amplified when Obama suggested that Britain could be left floundering ‘at the back of the queue’ in negotiations for a US trade agreement if it decided to vote ‘leave’ on D-day. The campaigns on both sides of this debate have been at times contradictory with the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign accusing the ‘Remain’ side of incessantly engaging in scaremongering tactics. Here are the arguments for and against remaining in the EU.

Why you should vote to remain in the EU…

Being in the EU enables Britain to have unfettered access to the single market which comprises of around 500 million potential customers. 44% of British exports go to other EU countries, which is certainly not a small amount.  If no deal with the EU is reached then WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules apply, enabling them to impose tariffs on UK exports to the EU, which could detrimentally harm our price competitiveness. Being part of a large trading bloc makes it easier for us to negotiate trade terms, however by leaving, Britain will find itself haggling with countries, such as the US whose economies are several times larger than our own.

The UK has attracted a great deal of foreign direct investment (FDI) as many investors value Britain’s unrestricted access to the EU market. The capital-intensive manufacturing industries could potentially take a huge hit, as firms may decide to relocate, thus leading to redundancies and so increased unemployment levels of lowly-skilled workers. The sector’s two largest investors, Land Rover and Nissan have already indicated this.

Britons are currently able to freely move around and live in other EU states without the need of applying for a visa, which therefore makes it easier and cheaper to travel, especially as driving licences issued in the UK are valid throughout the EU. British families can also enjoy lower roaming charges, cheaper flights and lower credit card fees, whilst British students face lower costs when opting to study in other EU countries. This is evidently quite popular as more than 14,500 UK students took part in the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange scheme in 2012-13.

The EU has undoubtedly introduced several directives that protect the rights of British workers which include: anti-discrimination laws; four months paid paternal leave; maximum working time of 48 hours per week and the list goes on. The EU has banned animal testing for cosmetics and many of the UK’s food standard laws have originated in the EU meaning that potential harmful additives are banned in foods. Such laws may not have been imposed by an elected UK government.

Why you should vote to leave the EU…

Regaining our sovereignty will enable the UK to have a greater authority and so power over the policies and laws made. As a result, the UK can, for example, gain control over its 200-mile fishing zone, which enables it to prevent foreign vessels from fishing in these waters, and so will, in turn, reduce over-fishing.

The EU are obsessed with the notion of ‘ever-closer’ union and so by leaving, we can prevent the further fiscal integration of our economies into the Eurozone, which has been experiencing a multi-year debt crisis post 2009. Costly EU regulation and red tape, such as the proposed taxes of 0.01% on financial transactions, imposed by France and Germany of whom many seem to think are envious of London’s financial sector’s de facto status, have been attacked by critics of trying to damage the UK’s dominance in this industry.

The question of trade has certainly proven to be a thorn in the ‘Leave’ campaign’s backside, however some argue that Britain will be able to increase its trade with non-EU countries, e.g. China, India, as a result of being free from the shackles of Brussels autocracy.

According to HM Treasury, in 2013 the British government’s net contribution to the EU budget was estimated to be £8.624 billion. The costs of EU membership to the average British household were calculated to be at £759 per annum. By leaving, we will not have to empty our pockets to a highly undemocratic institution, though arguably our contribution only constitutes around a paltry 0.5% of our GDP.

The famous Treaty of Rome established in 1957 enables the free movement of capital; goods; services and people. The latter of course, being the most controversial. The UKIP leader Nigel Farage has spearheaded the attack on EU immigrants claiming that they compress wages and put an increasing amount of strain on primary school places and health care provision, whilst immigrants from countries like India and Australia are being unfairly discriminated against in preference for Romanians and Bulgarians. Although EEA (European Economic Area) immigrants have been found to have fiscally contributed 34% more than they have received in benefits, since many are young and so are economically active. By leaving, Britain will have full control over its borders, though David Cameron has warned that this may not be possible if we want to remain part of the single market.

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Whether you are a remainer, a Brexiter or still finding yourself sitting on the fence, do try to look beyond the petty squabbles of point-scoring politicians at what really matters: our country’s future.

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