By: Joseph Watson and Joe Cook
For those of you who don’t know, in two months time, on June the 23rd the United Kingdom is to face a momentous decision. Whether or not its people wish to remain as a member of the European Union or to thrust ourselves into a future stood by ourselves. Whether we stay or not could very well have momentous effects not just on Britain but on Europe and possibly the entire world.
The arguments on either side vary, those who wish to leave believe the EU jeopardizes the sovereignty of the UK, that it allows for too many migrants to be able to enter the UK and that we would fair much better out.
I hope in this article to make a case for the UK to remain within the EU, to continue to grow and to continue to be a prominent and persuasive force within European affairs. Hopefully by the end of this you will see that for a variety of reasons the UK is much better off remaining within the EU.
Being a member of the single market has allowed our economy to grow, free movement has allowed British citizens to live and work throughout the continent as well as allowing the growth of Britain as a more diverse and culturally exciting nation. On top of this it assures the safety of the nation as well as the rights and livelihoods of our workers and our farmers. I also wish to put forwards a case that is rarely mentioned, that history shows that British influence in European affairs and the maintenance of the European balance of power is essential to ensuring peace and prosperity in Europe. I hope by writing this piece I can persuade at least one person to make the right decision and to allow Britain to continue to prosper and grow within the European Union.
The economic benefits
The primary reason for staying in the EU, and probably the one you would have heard the most is the massive benefit that being a member of the EU and the single market brings to the country. Just last week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that Brexit could cause “severe regional and global damage”. One reason for this is because as part of the EU the UK has access to many important trade agreements with other EU countries, as well as those with other countries outside of the bloc. While it must be noted that the percentage of exports that go to the EU has been decreasing since 2000, around 50% of the UK’s exported goods still go to EU countries. A complete break from the EU would also result in British goods being subject to import taxes which would inevitably result in a decrease in exports. Although Leave campaigners argue that we could just renegotiate our own trade deals without the burden of the European Parliament, this could take years and the outcome is far from certain.
A decrease in exports is not the only problem that the UK economy faces should it leave the EU. Already investors are starting to worry about the impact of Britain leaving the EU with the pound depreciating by 7% driven by concerns about a potential exit. The ‘City’, the banking hub of London, is hugely significant to London, contributing £60.5 billion of gross value added to the UK economy. With London acting as a European headquarters for many international banks, leaving the EU may make many of them decide to move elsewhere. Many jobs within the UK could be at risk with major multi-national companies such as BMW saying they may have to move to other parts of Europe in the event of Brexit. In addition to this top travel industry figures have warned that a vote to leave could result in more expensive flights and holiday prices, as well as the National Farmers Union cautioning of higher food prices. Although it is true that some cumbersome bureaucratic ‘red tape’ would no longer affect the UK economy should they leave, it is evident that these small benefits do not outweigh the huge advantages of being part of such an enormous trading bloc as well as the upheaval that years of negotiations on new trade agreements would bring.
Freedom of movement
One of the greatest parts of the EU is that it allows the free movement of people, one’s ability to travel where they like within the EU and to work in all of its member states. This has benefits to Britain as a country that accepts thousands of skillful, eager young workers from throughout the continent as well as for those Britons who wish to work, live and holiday wherever they like.
About 257,000 EU migrants entered the UK in September 2015, most of whom were eager to take up work in a variety of fields. From plumbers, to farm workers to stock brokers they settle in a variety of sections of British society. It is a common myth that many EU migrants don’t work and simply go to Britain to claim benefits but this is simply not true, 80% of EU migrants eligible to work who live in the UK do so, this may seem low but compared to the 75% of British born people eligible to do so this shows that they are certainly not work shy. Surely most people would prefer to have a hard working, tax paying Polish individual in their country than a young english person who has chosen not to work. But the benefit is more than economic, it’s also cultural. The coming of migrants to the UK, from all over the world creates a great sense of diversity, with London especially being a massive melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and languages.
This movement works both ways, every year 85,000 British people move to live and work in the EU. This benefits many, including myself, my family and I are able to live in France just as easily as we would be able to live in England, with nor visas or special housing permits needed, this will very likely change if Britain leave. Think of all of the thousands of Brits retired or working in France or Spain. In fact it is not only those who live abroad who the EU who benefit but those who wish to visit one of its many amazing countries. Think of how easy it is to hop on a ferry or the Channel Tunnel to get to France or how simple it is to get on a plane and fly to Spain or Greece, both extremely popular destinations for the youth of Britain as well as many families. This easy access would be lost and the cost of travelling between countries could very well increase if we were to leave.
National security and Britain’s global influence
Britain’s membership of the EU is a large benefit to the state of our national security as well as our influence as a global power. Although it is true that Britain holds a very capable armed forces and intelligence community, as well a very strong relationship with the US, our membership of the EU greatly furthers our defense capabilities. In being part of the EU we are signing up to protect 27 other member states in the event that they are ever attacked, in turn they all agree to do the same to us. This is an invaluable deterrent to any potentially hostile nations. On top of this if any conflict were ever to occur between a member state and an aggressor, a combined defense would be much more effective than single states attempting to combat the aggressor on their own. The ability to share a variety of capabilities between nations makes the EU a much more effective fighting force. It could be argued that being a member of NATO is enough but one must consider the impact that being a member state of the EU has on our position as one of the leaders within NATO.
This is not simply unfounded rambling either, this year a group of 12 former high ranking military officers (including five former Chiefs of Defence Staff) signed a letter in The Telegraph calling for Britain to remain in the EU, saying we are “stronger” in than out. As well as this, various officials within the Pentagon have said that Britain remaining in the EU is much more beneficial to world security than us leaving. Without the use of Britain’s extensive Air and Naval capabilities as well as the superb training of its land army (perhaps most notably its officer training programme which is shared with and copied by countries throughout the EU) the EU is left in a much worse position to defend itself. On top of this without the EU Britain is left in a much weaker position militarily, as well as in NATO and on the world stage.
Britain’s leaving the EU and the potential economic and military consequences could have a serious impact on our ability to continue to perform as a global power. There are arguably two factors that most greatly affect Britain’s image and role in the world, our membership of the EU and our relationship with the United States. In being members of the EU we have the backing of 27 other member states when dealing with countries in other parts of the world, particularly during such affairs as conflict resolution and trade disputes. Having access to the diplomatic strengths of the EU and its member states as well as the economic might of the largest trading bloc in the world is tremendously useful to British diplomats and MP’s. While it is true that our ‘Special Relationship’ with the US isn’t directly linked with the EU, various public figures from across the Atlantic have voiced their concerns about the effect a British exit would have on Anglo-American relations. President Obama himself has come out in support of Britain’s remaining in the EU.
Our shared history
As any student of history knows, Britain has been an integral part of European affairs for the past thousand years. Ever since Napoleon was stopped at Waterloo (with the help of numerous European allies) Britain has played a major part in the complex system that is the European balance of power, keeping Europe in such a state that its nations are able to coexist peacefully and in a state of economic growth. We have seen in various moments, when this balance has been upset, how Europe rapidly descends into a state of chaos, often war. Before the First World War, the Great War, The War to End all Wars it was the emergence of a new great power that thrust the continent into disarray. Nationalism and arms production increased, aggressive competition amongst nations increased and for a long while countries such as Britain were able to put their influence into play and managed to calm tensions, but eventually it was not enough and the continent that had for so long led the world was thrust into chaos, violence and savagery. The diplomats of the world exhausted themselves finding a solution to the problems that started the war but it was not enough. Once again a nationalist tyrant rose to power and it was Britain’s inability to take action against this tyrant that was one of the major reasons for the beginning of the Second World War.
Millions of young British men have died fighting for the peace of this continent and I would argue we owe it to them to continue to fight to maintain that peace. In 1958, nearly a hundred years after the balance had first been upset, a real solution appeared to have arrived, the European Union. Since its creation the organisation has been able to work towards bringing together the continent, ensuring our safety and our prosperity. So does it really make sense for us to leave this Union, in a time where Europe is facing so much economic strain as well as the rise of viscous nationalist hordes all throughout the continent, from Poland to the UK. If we leave what will happen to our European neighbours and how will that affect our generations to come?
Many seem to think that if we were to leave the EU today we would be thrust into a new golden age of global supremacy, but that is simply not the case.
Many seem to think that if we were to leave the EU today we would be thrust into a new golden age of global supremacy, but that is simply not the case. Britain is not the same as it was in the 1950’s, it is no longer an empire. Britain today is much more reliant on the EU than we like to think we are. While it may seem appealing to go off on our own, many don’t see the fact that we will simply lose the ability to be part of the decision making process. If we wish to re-join the single market we would have to accept a variety of EU regulations regarding both the economy and immigration and would have no say in the matter.
No one is saying the EU is perfect, it has its problems but what I am trying to say to you is that we should be working to change things from within, instead of clambering to get out. Instead of voting for UKIP MEP’s who spend their time insulting EU leaders and claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of expenses (Men of the People? I think not), why not vote for real politicians who want to work within the EU to create change, change that would be beneficial not just to us in Britain, but to people throughout the continent. Simply leaving and sticking our heads in the sand is counter productive, un-British and quite frankly cowardly.