Britain Needs to Stay in the EU – And Here’s Why
By Teni Shahiean of OTS Solicitors
Over the last few weeks, I have written many articles about the dire consequences of Britain leaving the EU. However, in our weekly meeting on Monday, one of our staff piped up and said that maybe we should try and see things from the other side of the fence; after all, seeing both sides of an argument is part of a solicitor’s job.
I always take feedback well, I went back to my office and started to consider the Leave camp’s arguments.
And in fairness, they have some good ones. But not good enough.
It must be remembered that when the EU was first founded nearly 60 years ago, British people hated the idea. Yes, we wanted a loose trade agreement, more co-operation and the constant threat of another decimating war removed, but not a single market with ubiquitous laws.
However, we lost the argument and ended up with exactly what we didn’t want.
But, since being part of the EU, Britain has grown in leaps and bounds economically. London is second only to New York as the most powerful economic city in the world. Britain is set to become the world’s fourth largest economy over the next two decades and unlike many countries, our economy and government is enjoying a period of stability and relative peace.
But in the spirit of intellectual curiosity, let’s examine the main arguments for vacating Britain’s membership of the EU.
The economic argument for leaving the EU
The Leave camp is relying on three main themes when it comes to proving how exiting from the EU will strengthen rather than weaken the UK economy. They are:
- UK businesses would be free from the stranglehold of EU regulations
- Trade with the EU would continue as normal, as we import more from the EU than we export
- Britain could negotiate independent trade deals with different markets
Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Freedom from EU regulations
EU laws regulate industrial, agricultural and commercial industries across the 28 member states. Goods manufactured in France must meet the same standards as those created in Poland or Denmark. Trade barriers are illegal.
Public procurement, VAT, environment and Employment laws are also regulated by Brussels.
However, most of the laws that affect UK citizens on a day to day basis are made in Britain. The House of Commons library estimated in 2010 that the percentage of new laws influenced by the EU is between “15 per cent and 50 per cent”, depending on how you do the sums.
Besides, by having all European member states abide by the same basic rights enshrined around Employment, environmental and health and safety and Human Rights laws, you prevent a ‘race to the bottom’ with countries competing with each other by stripping the liberties and rights of their citizens and destroying the environment even more.
I would argue that as a progressive, first-world nation, this is not an ideology Britain wants to turn its back on.
Trade with the EU would continue as normal
One of the Remain campaigns strongest arguments is that the British economy needs access to the single market, and the limited control we have over Immigration from EU countries is the price we pay for unfettered access to 500,000,000 consumers.
But is the single market vital to Britain’s economic success? We are one of the strongest economies in the world. Could it be that Europe needs us more than we need Europe?
Only time could answer that question. But access to the single market has been a cornerstone of our economy for years, and to leave it without a realistic idea of what comes next would leave our economy on shaky foundations for years to come. More than 43% of international corporations have based their European headquarters in London because of our access to Europe as well as our business-friendly environment. If some of them were to move their organisations onto the Continent because Britain chose to exit the EU, the consequences for Britain’s economy would be dire.
Negotiating independent trade deals
Negotiations with the EU are notoriously slow and cumbersome. The economic needs and political views of 28 member states must be taken into consideration before Brussels can even sneeze, let alone knock-together a free-trade agreement with an emerging market.
Could Britain strike out on her own and negotiate independent trade deals?
Not for a long time, according to analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). And the economic uncertainty whilst new deals are being put together could be catastrophic.
The OECD's recently published analysis of the economic consequences of Brexit concluded that by 2020, UK GDP will be 3.1% smaller than it would be with continued EU membership, and more than 5% smaller by 2030. The report also assumes that the UK will not reach a new trade deal with the EU until 2023, implying that trade after 2018 will be conducted under WTO rules, which will raise costs for UK exporters.
Countries outside Europe, which the Leave campaign claims will be chomping at the bit to sigh deals with us, may see a strategic advantage in delaying entering into negotiations, as it is highly likely that Britain’s position at the negotiating table will become weaker if the OECD’s predictions turn out to be correct. The organisation predicts that the UK will not sign any new free trade deals with non-EU countries before 2030.
That’s a long time for exporters to wait.
The great Immigration debate
Immigration is turning into the pivotal issue in the minds of ordinary British citizens. The passion of the discourse from both sides has resulted in EU nationals currently living in Britain rushing to obtain permanent residence cards and applying for British Citizenship to secure their status.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics released last month that showed net migration for 2015 was the second highest on record has served to fuel the flames of the battle between those who see unfettered migration as a threat to Britain’s sovereignty and culture, and those who claim we need more people to run our growing, and more pressingly, aging population.
The fact is, the figures bandied around by the Leave campaign are mostly false (to put it politely). Study after study shows that EU migrants contribute far more to the UK economy than they take out. Far from being a drain on the health service, EU immigrants make up 10% of registered doctors and 4% of registered nurses and many are teaching in our schools. Recent research conducted by the London School of Economics concluded that EU migrants have had no negative impact on wages in the UK.
Looking at the cold, hard data, few, if any negative stats for EU migration can be found.
There is no denying that both sides of the Brexit debate have valid arguments. Would the UK as we know it collapse if we left the EU? Of course not. Countries have survived war, pestilence and revolution and gone on to prosper.
But the cost to our generations, and our children’s could be dire. Do we really want to step into the unknown on such flimsy arguments?
I hope not.
OTS Solicitors is a fully regulated, highly regarded law firm, based in the centre of London. To make an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, please call out office on 0203 959 9123.