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The EU Referendum Debate 2016

Adrian Platt, 15 April 2016

1. What is the purpose and the aims of the EU?

  • For the 28 countries to work together to allow the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the Union. The aim is to promote economic progress across the 28 states.
  • To work together on matters such as environment, human rights, regional development, foreign policy, fisheries and agriculture.
  • To minimise the risk of war between EU countries.
  • Some members have taken the partnership further and operate a single currency (Euro) and have borders without passport controls (Schengen area)
  • Some members would like to extend the cooperation further to achieve “ever closer union” meaning an aim for some form of greater central government

2. Has the EU achieved its aims?

  • Whilst there has been some economic progress in limited states, the financial stability of most states does not show success in this aim.
  • There has been some progress in regional development in poorer areas of the Union, such as Portugal and Madeira.
  • Cooperation on Foreign Policy has been very random and ineffective, such as the poor response to the Syrian and migration crises.
  • It is generally recognised that, whilst UK farmers welcome benefits from the EU, the whole Common Agriculture Policy is heavily geared in favour of the French.
  • The Human Rights decisions emerging from the Europe, even though not directly from EU, have been criticised heavily in UK. It is strongly felt that this area has been a disaster. The original European Convention on Human Rights was, however, drafted by the Council of Europe and all 47 members of the Council for Europe have signed including all 28 EU members.
  • The Euro has been badly handled and states have been allowed to join without adequate application of the “convergence” criteria. This has resulted in major financial concerns and instability.

3. What are the biggest UK concerns about the EU?

  • The policy of free movement of people has resulted in a major difficulty for UK in adequately policing its borders. Despite some benefits from genuine migrants, it has resulted in massive extra costs, disruption and pressure on infrastructure from the many economic migrants.
  • The Human Rights legislation, even though it is part of the separate European Convention, has been seen to be applied in an illogical manner (with, inter alia, considerable difficulties in repatriating some migrants) and has been disruptive to the vital supremacy of UK law. If the UK were to resign from the European Convention, after leaving the EU, then it is possible that a new UK Bill of Human Rights might be proposed.
  • The massive cost of the huge EU apparatus of government in Brussels and Strasbourg is regarded with horror in UK.
  • The petty “directives” and laws issued by the EU bureaucracy (most quite unnecessary) are anathema to UK citizens and companies who find the added “red tape” is costly and disruptive. In particular some of the employment law and working practices are seen to make the EU less competitive and, in some cases, a laughing stock. Some examples of this are controlling where we apply VAT and interfering in state support of industries that we wish to assist.
  • Despite the fact that the UK is not in the Euro, there is a fear that the continued financial instability in EU will “rub off” on UK.
  • The moves to “ever closer union” are totally unacceptable in the UK because maintaining our democracy is vital.

4. What are the successes of the EU?

  • A better trading environment.
  • Avoidance of any conflict between EU nations for many years.
  • Some improvement in regional development.
  • Some environmental improvements.

5. What are the failings of the EU?

  • The migration policy has failed.
  • The economy of a large number of the countries continues to be very fragile (and as Angela Merkel quoted the EU is 7% of the world’s population, 25% of its GDP BUT 50% of its welfare spending, and this is unsustainable!)
  • Human rights legislation has been shown to be faulty and unfair (even though not directly the responsibility of EU)
  • The massive cost base and lack of democracy is unacceptable
  • The Common Agricultural Policy is skewed in favour of France
  • The employment law and working practices are disadvantageous
  • A foreign policy using the combined EU strengths has been totally ineffective
  • The new countries who have joined without proper adherence to the “convergence criteria” have made the future structure more fragile.

6. Are the terms negotiated by the Prime Minister an adequate improvement for UK?

The answer must be no for the following key reasons

  • The attempt to secure an agreement for the UK to withhold benefits for four years to migrants has been watered down to the extent that this “brake” can only be activated by the EU.
  • The attempt to be able to block “directives” or laws that the UK finds unacceptable has been restricted to only succeed with the support of 14 countries (55%). It can be imagined that any negotiation to try to block a directive would involve extended frustrating negotiations at considerable cost to the UK.

7. If we decide to stay in the EU will we be able to negotiate better improvements for the UK?

Not only has the Prime Minister said that we should not expect that, but the results and attitudes of EU countries in the negotiations demonstrate clearly the real lack of influence that we have. Having seen our eloquent and energetic Prime Minister be continually rebuffed and “put down” by other EU leaders, what possible hope of influencing the EU could we expect to have if we remain in EU. It is clear that other EU countries do not recognise that the UK (as, inter alia,  the fifth largest economy in the world with 70,000,000 people, a member of the UN Security Council, a Nuclear Power and a member of NATO) has compellingly serious concerns about its EU membership and they need to be listened to and responded to. The recent negotiations have completely destroyed any worthwhile negotiating position that the UK may have had and it now seems the only way to ensure that the UK’s interests are recognised properly is by an exit from EU.

8. What is the process to leave the EU?

Article 50 (moving to article 218[3]) of the EU treaty is the vehicle by which the UK would negotiate to leave the EU. The negotiations would be concluded on behalf of the Union by the European Council. The treaties shall cease to apply to the withdrawing state from the date of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that two years after the notification date, unless the European Council, in agreement with the state concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

In practice it would be likely that the UK would need at least two years to negotiate an acceptable withdrawal and so there would be a period of uncertainty at that time.

9. What are the principal risks for the UK in leaving the EU?

  • Difficulty in negotiating satisfactory trading agreements with EU
  • The significant short term disruption during negotiations possibly causing less growth and some job insecurity.
  • A possible temporary loss of impetus in progressing environmental cooperation
  • A possible short term difficulty for agriculture and fishing whilst UK substitute EU common benefits for UK tax concessions
  • An initial cooling of relationships with EU countries making it more difficult to implement common European security issues (The global security issues are not a problem in view of the continuance of NATO)
  • The need for the UK to fund future regional development even though this is less important in the UK
  • A further potential expansion of the EU to countries without adequate attention to “convergence criteria”. For example Turkey would be an important strategic member of EU but the absorption of a further 77,000,000 people in an area that might swamp EU might be disastrous.

10. What are the principal benefits from the UK leaving EU?

  • The avoidance of paying the UK’s budget contribution of at least EU 8,500,000,000
  • The freedom to make our own decisions about our future. In an uncertain world it would be a joy to manage our own certainties.
  • The joy of eliminating the massive EU interference in many unnecessary areas of our affairs.
  • The ability for our Supreme Court and legal system to regain control over our own laws
  • The avoidance of the impact that a break up or other inevitable economic problem of a fragile EU could have upon us
  • Even though we are not in the Euro, the minimisation of any adverse impact that a serious failing in the Euro could have on us.
  • The opportunity to use our strong bargaining position (as a country with a relatively strong economy – the 5th largest in the world – a population of 70,000,000 and a secure democracy) to negotiate favourable trading agreements for the future. In addition the likely lower value of sterling (in the short term) may more than offset any disadvantageous changes in tariffs.
  • We will have the freedom to ensure that we are able to adequately fund the NHS, Education and Emergency Services (without running the risk of an EU financial crisis disturbing this by putting pressure on our budget) as long as we continue to progress our strong economy.
  • The unique opportunity to once again be in control of our own destiny, such as importantly controlling the balance of our immigration. The aim would be for a future government to aim to make the UK the best country in which to do business.

11. What type of future arrangements might be ideal for the UK if we decide to leave UK?

  • The principle examples that are quoted most frequently are Norway, Canada and Switzerland
  • Each of them have some disadvantages, mainly in the area of the EU requiring the maintenance of the principle of “freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital” as part of their trading agreements.
  • Despite this Norway, for example, only follows about 75% of EU directives and about 17.5% of regulations, meaning that only 28% of the combined directives and regulations are applied by Norway. With the UK position it is unthinkable that we could not negotiate an even better deal.
  • It has been argued in some quarters that Canada might be the best model since it does not have these restrictions. However it has been emphasized that their negotiations have taken seven years and were not straight forward. Canada does already trade successfully with EU but the trade agreement has still not been ratified.
  • Surely the UK is such an important link for EU that we would be best to negotiate our own deal regardless of the others.
  • Some experts suggest that, should UK leave and negotiate suitable terms with EU, it is possible that other similarly minded countries might wish to join together with UK to form a new separate group. These might include Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and even the Netherlands.

12. What are likely to be the results of either staying or leaving?

  • In the event of a vote to remain it is probable that say nearly half the politicians and the electorate will feel frustrated and seek ways to effect a change in future. The result may be a significant change in the key people in political parties and a re-emergence of UKIP, with likely disruption.
  • In the event of a vote to leave, there will be some leading politicians who may not wish to be part of parliament in future but the vote to leave will still mean that the new leaders will tackle the EU negotiations with fire and commitment.

Conclusions

Each person reading this paper before voting in the referendum will wish to put his own values and emphasis on the various risks and potential problems. It is however strongly recommended that each individual’s views should NOT be over influenced by the leading politician’s views. On both sides to the argument there are brilliant and thoughtful leaders who care passionately for their views.

Clearly different generations may have varying views to cope with their age and personal concerns. But whatever they are it is surely important that all generations think only of the long term future for a country as important as ours.

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