Monday, 20 May 2013

So what if we left the EU?

This the second of my 'what if' blogs, where I examine topical events and ask a few what ifs?

I'll take an alternative view wherever possible to stimulate some debate and possibly actions to counter what might be perceived as injustices or just plain greed and stupidity!

Of course there are two sides to every story and there may well benefits to leaving the EU, however I do not believe that they would emerge in a short enough time frame to be of any practical benefit. In fact I believe that anti European sentiment is driven by anachronistic dogma and greed. The greed being on the part of the wealthy elite, who would stand to benefit from a reduction in legislative protection for workers and the environment (two of the pillars of sustainability).

On the other hand, the impacts of leaving the EU could be quite severe and impact with almost immediate effect. It's worth taking a little time to look at some of the potential impacts , as most UK citizens stand to be affected in some respect.

I have outlined some of the main arguments, in the hope that it should become evident that we would be much more vulnerable outside the EU.

Some politicians have said that if we leave we would not be paying into the EU pot, but that we would still have all the free trade agreements, which would allow us access to our biggest market. This might well be true, for a while at least |(until we are slowly written out of various agreements), however the Americans seemed to make it quite clear during Cameron's visit to the White House, that we would be foolish to leave and that it would direct impact investment into the UK.

It would also be true that in order to trade within the single market, we would still have to meet all the EU production standards (as do Norway and Switzerland) which would entail cost, but with no representation in the making of those standards. What's more, we would still pay tariffs, which would affect our competitiveness.

So what about jobs? It has been widely argued that EU regulations have been a brake on our SME's, which make up a large part of our economy and only a fraction of which, trade within the EU. There is an element of truth in this, but surely there is room for negotiation on such issues, the EU has already recognised this and is taking very similar measures to those that we have proposed.

So by coming out of Europe we could create nearly a million new jobs in the UK, however that is only one side to the story and the fact is that we are likely to lose millions of jobs, as large production sites move in to mainland Europe (Airbus/cars manufacturers, etc.). This would have a very detrimental impact as these are high end earners for the UK and many SME's depend upon them for their orders.

As well as these issues, we would have fewer rights in the EU than we do now, which would make it much harder to retire to other EU member states or buy property there.We would also lose much of power at the negotiating table by not being in Paris, Berlin  and Brussels, this could see us increasingly marginalised by the US, China and Russia for example. None of this would be good for either our trade or status which is an invisible benefit.

The cost of being in the EU, whilst it is a big number, doesn't look so big when put alongside the trade figures, as our exports are just over 50% into the EU, which is a much bigger figure!

Don't forget also, that many EU laws benefit the environment, social well being and human rights, we have come to rely on these and changing them would cause an imbalance and could lead to many UK citizens losing out, with fewer protections.

At the end of the day, the case for leaving the EU just seems to be a charter for large corporations and wealthy industrialist to prey on UK workers by pushing down wages, restricting recourse to the courts and generally lowering everyone's standard of living. It is somewhat ironic that some of these corporations are those that don't pay their share of UK tax, something the EU has been trying to sort out!

For me there would be no point in having a vote without all of this being discussed openly and with access to information on the expected impacts. In such circumstances, I would not expect the vote to be a foregone conclusion!

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