There is to be a referendum on June 23rd that will decide whether or not Britain remains a part of the European Union.
Both the Remain and the Leave campaigns are touting stats and figures of varying validity, but we wanted to cut through the hyperbole and present the core political science arguments, without the bias.
The staying in campaign, as you might guess, are all for us remaining in the EU. They argue that Britain will be safer, stronger, and more economically secure if we were to stay. They suggest that the cost of remaining In is tuppence compared to what we get back – £10 for every £1 spent according to the Treasury.
They argue also that cancer research and medial investment in general benefits as a result of our continued membership within in EU. Those aren’t the only health benefits either. They present the case that the EU has secured worker rights such as guaranteed holidays, breaks, and a limit of how long we work in any given week.
Below are some of the key arguments for voting to Remain in the European Union. A link is at the bottom to view the opposing argument.
Why stay in?
Economic benefits – Access to the single market
The European Single market allows for the free movement of goods and services across the EU without any internal barriers. There are no tariffs on trade, which makes it cheaper for businesses across the EU to export their goods. A report from HMRC in February showed that the UK exports £11.2bn worth of goods into the EU market, and imports £19.4bn of goods and services. Non-EU exports and imports are higher, at £12.9bn and £15.8bn respectively, but that is obviously going to be including trade with the US and China, who are big economies in their own right. If we left, each trade agreement we have with other countries would have had to be negotiated individually, instead of having automatic, tariff free rights as part of the EU. Indeed, economists ‘overwhelmingly’ suggest that staying in will be better for Britain economically. The EU also offers many grants for social regeneration, and funding for things like science research.
A seat at the table
One of the main complaints about the European Union is the loss of national democracy. While it is true that a certain number of decisions are made at the supranational level, Britain does still have the power of veto on any big decisions.
The reason for this is that we are a member state with a seat at the table. The Brexit campaign present the case that we could have a relationship with the EU similar to Norway, but the reality is that they have to accept all the same laws, and they don’t have the luxury of helping to shape that policy.
Every new country that joins the EU has to accept wholly and unconditionally, all legislation and law passed by the EU to date, and integrate it with their own laws. This is known as acquis communautaire.
Over the years, Britain has negotiated many opt outs, including opting out of the Economic and Monetary Union (which allowed the retention of our own currency), exclusion from the Schengen Area (meaning you need to show a passport to enter the UK), and a legal exemption from “an ever closer union”. If we were to leave the EU, there is no certainty that these exemptions will be retained, or granted under renegotiations.
Social and work protections
All member states have to ensure that their national law is in keeping with EU directives on social and workplace protection.
In the workplace, there has to be adequate health and safety checks, as well as equal opportunities for women and men – including equal treatment at work, pregnancy and maternity leave, and parental leave. Workplaces are not allowed to discriminate based on sex, race, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation. Under the Working Time Directive, we have a right to a minimum number of holidays in a year, rest breaks, a day off after a week’s work, and a rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hour period. There is also the right to not work more than 48 hours in a single week, although the UK allows workers to opt out of that should they so wish. It ensures sick pay, and equal rights regardless of contract type.
Socially, the EU protects our human rights and animal welfare, allows us to easily travel, study, work and retire abroad, restricts the use of pesticides. They enforce a level of data protection, and regulate big businesses to stop a monopoly forming. Additionally, it ensures that when we travel abroad within the EU, we have access to the same level of healthcare as other EU citizens.
Protect Britons abroad
Did you know that if you are travelling outside of the EU, you are permitted to request consular protection from any EU country under the same conditions as a national of that country. For instance, if you were in trouble while travelling in Mexico, you would be able to request help from the Spanish embassy if it was impossible to reach the British one. The same would be true of any of the other EU member state embassy. They can help in cases of death, serious accidents or illnesses, arrest or detention, if you are the victim of a violent crime, and the relief and repatriation of distressed Union citizens. Having the legal access and protection of 28 embassies is exceptionally helpful when travelling, but is something that’s not well known.
Entering the unknown
The simple truth is we do not know what will happen should we choose to leave the EU. It has been such that for over 40 years we have been an (awkward) member, and the global markets have changed since we joined.
We don’t know whether or not the EU would continue to grant us access to the single market, and what terms would be attached to it. We don’t know whether or not large businesses would opt to migrate elsewhere to retain that access.
Checks and balances
National sovereignty is important, nobody refutes that, but staying in the EU does not mean we lose that. Our Government has a habit of simply ignoring laws imposed by the EU that it doesn’t like – for example, voting rights for prisoners. Voting to stay in is unlikely to change that, but it does afford us as citizens some extra protection. Our human rights, for example. Although imposed by a separate treaty (the European Convention of Human Rights), it is still mandated that all member states subscribe to the protection of these rights. More than one politician has indicated a desire to remove these human rights in favour of a tailored British bill. We don’t know what will (or won’t) be included in this alternate bill, and more importantly, what would prevent it being amended as and when to suit a particular Government’s needs. Remember, no Parliament can bind its successor, or be bound by its predecessor, and as such, laws can change. Some would argue that remaining in the EU will keep our Governments in check, for they cannot amend the supranational institutes to suit their needs in the same way they can alter domestic ones – just look at the vindictive reforms to the House of Lords.
Stronger In are the official delegation for the Remain campaign, and their website provides more information on the arguments for staying. Remember that you will be reading a website with an agenda though!