The Pros and Cons of the EU Referendum

"Underground/Tube sign - London, UK / EU (Europe) flag" by Descrier is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On the 20th February an as indistinguishable from any other public appearance David Cameron announced that the UK would settle a burning issue in British politics on 23rd June: whether or not to remain in the European Union. This has been a much-awaited announcement since this was a measure pledged in the successful Conservative election last year. Cameron himself has come out in the ‘in’ camp, but was seemingly encouraged to use the impending referendum as a tool to alleviate the Eurosceptic backbenchers within his own party.

Since the announcement I’ve personally been asked a dozen times where I sit on the issue and how I’ll respond to the ballot paper. Almost every time I have answered in the same way: “I don’t know really…” “How will this effect things?” “I’ll look into it.” For those that do seem to have an opinion on the matter, their arguments are often very unbalanced and although convincing, difficult to push me in one way or the other. I thought I’d do some research and subjectively display the facts and opinions of both sides to help me make an informed vote rather than a rushed guess at what I think I believe.

“EU referendum “NO” poster, Sydenham, Belfast (March 2016)” by Albert Bridge is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The 5 Key Points: 1. Budget The UK would save a considerable amount of money on the EU budget that could be distributed elsewhere. According to Full Fact, “the UK’s ‘net contribution [in 2015] was £8.5 billion.” Considering according to UK Public Spending 2016’s forecasted public spending is just short of £760bn should this relatively small percentage of budget be a burning issue to sway a voter either way? 2. Trade For member states, there is no tax imposed on imports or exports. Ons says, “the EU in 2014 accounted for 44.6% of UK exports of goods and services, and 53.2% of UK imports of goods and services.” However, the same source states that whilst these percentages are high, “the proportion [of UK trade] accounted for by the EU [has been] falling consistently since 1999, despite the value of EU trade increasing. This is thanks to emerging economies outside the EU as well as greater trading agreements with other super-economies. 3. Business The Economist argues that London’s large businesses ‘would look to its former glories’ as they would no longer need to abide by the ever-changing EU regulations. Similarly, an article in theweek.co.uk comments that Eurosceptics argue that small and medium sized businesses don’t trade within the EU market, yet are constrained by the same regulations as those businesses that do. 4. Immigration Currently EU law allows any citizen of a member state to be permitted to live and work in any other member state. Whilst some argue the mass EU immigration to the UK is an overwhelming positive force culturally, others will argue it’s a drain on resources. Ons states that for the year ending September 2015 Net EU immigration to the UK was approximately 172,000, which was up 9% from the previous year. Conversely, Ons also says there was a Net 5% decrease in non-EU immigration to the UK for the same period. Some Eurosceptics such as Farage demands EU immigration should be cut completely, whereas some other Brexit supports concede that Britain should simply take control of their immigration policy rather than the current ‘open-door’ legislation.

If the UK decides to leave the EU obviously a drop in immigration would open up job opportunities for those free to work in the UK. However, labour shortages from lack of EU migrants potentially could see the slowing of growth of the UK economy. Similarly, whilst our economy may rely on EU migrant labour, our big businesses would also miss out on the opportunity of recruiting the best and the brightest the EU has to offer. 5. Security Security is another contentious point in this debate. Pro-campaigners argue being part of the EU is vital especially during ‘this time’ of volatility in the Middle East and resurgence of Russia’s nationalism. However, Brexit supporters state that domestic security outweighs long-term international security. They will argue that free-immigration, and lack of border-stringency opens up Britain to terrorist threats.

“President Obama” by Northern Ireland Office is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Others, including the most high-profile of the Pro-EU cause, Barrack Obama, believe the UK would be seen as a less useful ally on the international stage and according to The Guardian he will be reaching out to persuade British voters to stay, as to leave would be a ‘disastrous gamble’.

“Global Panorama” by Global Panorama is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Various polls are announcing that the Cameron-backed cause to remain in the EU is coming out marginally on top at the moment. I’m still unsure of which way I’ll vote. However, it’s clear that every voter needs to know the true realities before submitting their cross in either box, as the consequences will be truly significant for everybody regardless of personal status. There are some European countries (Switzerland) that are yet to fully join the EU and some (Norway) that are only partial members. However, no country has left the union as of yet, therefore, it is s a significant gamble, which nobody can predict the full implications of.

How do you plan to vote?

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