Britain heads to the polls this Thursday 23rd for the EU referendum. If you haven’t heard, where have you been? Didn’t you know that this is a very important decision that you have to make. Planes may fall out of the sky. The lights may go out. World War 3 is for certain. Of course these statements are NOT TRUE but they have been spoken from MP’s mouths in the varying campaigns. Ahhh the joys of democracy. I have made a decision on which way my vote lies but I often hear a lot of people say they still are not sure. Well here comes a20somethingguy to the rescue delving into political writing for the first time. Here is a blogger’s guide to the EU referendum.
Why a referendum and what even is the the EU?!?
An EU referendum was promised by Prime Minister David Cameron in is his manifesto for the 2015 general election. The EU has changed a lot since it’s early days with a lot of politicians, particularly in the Conservative and UKIP parties, arguing that it now has too much control on the UK and no longer just carries out it what it originally set out to do.
What was the original goals I hear you say?
The EU was set up post World War 2 and now consists of 28 countries in an economic and political partnership. The idea was that countries that trade together as less likely to go to war with one another – a clever initiative. It has grew from those days and is now often described as a ‘single market’ allowing goods and people to freely move around. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by the 19 countries in the EU. It also has its own parliament and sets rules on a wide range of areas including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even simpler things like mobile phone roaming charges.
PROS AND CONS FOR LEAVING
We currently pay £35 million per day to be a member of the EU. Whilst that sounds shocking on its own we do get at least £18 million per day back by means of other investment. Leaving would immediately result in this cost saving as we would no longer have to contribute to the EU budget. Sounds brilliant! On the flip side, it’s harder to determine if the financial advantages of membership, such as free trade and inward investment outweigh the upfront costs. A risky move if you ask me.
According to the IMF, if the EU were a country it would be the 2nd largest economy in the world nestled nicely between the super powers of the United States and China. Trade wise, 50% of UK exports go to other countries in the EU with our membership allowing us to have a say on the trading laws that are drawn up.
On the other hand, the UK is in talks to create the world’s biggest free trade area between us and America – something that will happen regardless of our membership in the EU. As well as this, Eurosceptics have proposed a Norwegian style system. Norway is not an EU member but still has access to the single market through different trade laws. Others argue that since we will be leaving the EU and not voting to join or leave we wouldn’t be given the ‘Norway treatment’ due to our ‘divorce’ with the EU – probably correct.
The topic of investment has been a heated debate with many unsure as to how the referendum would affect it. Pro-Europeans believe that the UK’s status as one of the world’s biggest financial centres will be diminished if the UK is no longer a ‘gateway to Europe’. Sceptics think that our position as the 5th largest economy in the world will always bring us investment regardless of Europe as we are 5th alone and without Europe.
Barclays Bank has said that if we, as one of the major countries in the EU leave, a ‘domino effect’ will occur with other countries also beginning to leave. This, in the long run, could lead to the complete devolution ofs the EU – a scary prospect perhaps? Maybe the world no longer has a need for such cohesion between countries?
Immigration and the control of it has been hotly debated for many general elections through recent years. Under EU law Britain cannot prevent anyone from another member state coming to live and work in this country. This has resulted in a mass influx of southern and eastern Europeans entering the country. Having said this, the biggest source of foreign workers in the UK are from India and China which are, of course, not in the EU. Pre-Europeans have said that although immigration has caused some difficulties with housing and service provision, the net effect has been overwhelmingly positive. UKIP leader, Nigel Farage has said that leaving the EU will allow us to “take back our borders” and introduce a points like immigration system similar to that of Australia’s. One thing I do agree with myself is that we should be able to control our own immigration levels which is more likely to happen if we leave the EU.
Due to recent terrorist atrocities in France and Belgium the topic of security has also been hotly debated with Ian Duncan Smith saying that remaining in the EU leaves an “open door” to terrorist attacks. This, in my opinion is scaremongering. Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon has said the EU, as well as Nato and the UN memberships, allows the passing of criminal and passenger records to work together on counter-terrorism.
What has an affect on you?!?
As well as the important topics presented above you should also look at what else effects your personally. I know I look to LGBT anti-discrimination laws and environmental issues and what good the EU has done for those topics.
Europe, as a continent, is one of the most progressive in the world with its LGBT laws being some of the most inclusive. Is that due to the EU? Some would argue a resounding YES! Due to European law, the human rights and anti-discrimination laws against LGBT people have been put in place. Some even argue that same-sex marriage would not have been pushed for in the UK without the pressure from Europe.
The EU laws and so called ‘red tape’ have actually done a lot of good for the environment in this country and throughout Europe. Although unpopular the EU has saved some fisheries from collapse with strict quotas often doing what most governments don’t do; thinking in the long term. As well as this, the EU has committed to combating global climate change with at least a 40% reduction in C02 by 2030. Renewables have also greatly increased with EU policy making with 51% of new power capacity being renewable between 2000 and 2012. Again, thinking for the future.
Whatever way the UK votes I’m sure that, after some initial worries, we will be okay. There will be no World War 3 and planes falling out of the sky I’m sure. The economy may falter initially but if we can get through the 2008 recession I’m sure we could get through the shock of ‘Brexit’. I’m hoping that this post will help you to come to a decision as it is very important; even more important than a general election. If you’ve enjoyed it please let me know in the comments as I’ve actually really enjoyed researching and writing this post!