The case for Remain
Researched and written by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair of London4Europe and Chair, European Movement Branches Forum
This article was originally published on the European Movement website on 11 June 2018. Statistics and quotes have not been updated since
People are changing their minds about Brexit. The latest polls since June 2016 now show a solid lead for those in favour of a Peoples Vote on the terms of a Brexit deal and for staying in the European Union (EU). As the momentum for a Peoples Vote grows, campaigners may wish to have a brief recap of: the new facts across a range of issues which have emerged since June 2016, growing evidence about what we might experience after March 2019, and why staying in the EU is Great for Britain.
Brexit is reversible – it is not a done deal. Most lawyers agree Article 50 can be revoked.
Leading EU politicians have consistently said the UK is welcome to stay if we chose to do so (before the Article 50 negotiation period expires on 29 March 2019).
The European Court of Justice will hear a case on the issue on 27 November 2018.
Democracy did not start and stop on 23 June 2016 – democracy is not frozen in time. If a political party loses an election, it doesn’t stop campaigning to win the next one. “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.” - Davis Davis speech Europe: It’s Time To Decide, 19 November 2012.
The June 2016 referendum was a vote on an idea. Leave offered no agreed plan. Every Leave voter had to decide him/herself what Leave meant. A referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal will be the first time voters have a choice between two concrete options: an inevitably poorer deal and what we enjoy now as an EU member.
A referendum on the terms would be quite different from 2016. It would ask about the plan for Brexit, not the idea. No one takes a project from idea to implementation without renewing the project plan.
Voters only gave the government a mandate to negotiate Brexit. We have yet to consent to the final Brexit deal. It is like buying a house – if we don’t like the survey, we have the right to withdraw our offer. Jacob Rees-Mogg argued: "we could have two referendums… it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed." (24 October 2011).
As what Brexit actually means becomes clearer and new facts not known at the time of the referendum come to light, more are demanding a Peoples Vote on the final deal.
Brexit promises have been broken.
Brexit is the biggest peacetime challenge Britain has ever undertaken. The process is proving more difficult and will take longer than the government has admitted. This is creating considerable political and economic uncertainty for many, notably 3 million EU citizens and 1.2 British expatriates, businesses, the devolved authorities and good relations with our neighbours, notably Ireland.
Brexit is not delivering the benefits promised to the British people. What happened to the £350 million per week for the NHS? Instead, studies show Brexit is already costing us that much.
The British people were told leaving the EU would not mean reduced single market access: only 22% of Leave voters thought full access was at risk.
Sir John Major, former Prime Minister, has argued leaving the EU is a massive fraud on the British people and a historic mistake. He recently said "I know of no precedent for any Government enacting a policy that will make both our country and our people poorer…. So far, the promises have not been met and, probably, cannot be met". – 1 March 2018.
A state leaving the Union cannot enjoy similar benefits as an EU member state (EP draft resolution 29 March 2017). Yet leading politicians continue to engage in misleading ‘cakeism’: “a comprehensive free trade agreement will deliver the exact same benefits as we have” – David Davis, House of Commons, 24 January 2017.
Two years after the referendum, and a year after the triggering of Article 50, there is no clarity on the future relationship and even the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement is contested. Meanwhile the clock is ticking as we draw closer to the Government’s self-imposed late March 2019 deadline.
If the Government can’t decide, the people should. It’s time for a #peoplesvote.
THE DAMAGE ALREADY DONE
… to the UK economy
The UK will be worse off under all Brexit scenarios (HM Government, January 2018). According to the 2016 Autumn Statement, Brexit is forcing the UK government to borrow £58.7 billion more up to 2021. That means more pressure on funding for the NHS, social services, education and transport infrastructure.
Before the EU referendum, we were the fastest growing G7 economy, now we are the slowest. In 2016, the UK was the world’s fifth largest economy, now we are its seventh.
"UK businesses are in despair, (they have) no option but to consider postponing investment, or moving their money and investment from here to the continent. The downsides are becoming more evident as time passes.” – Michael Heseltine, former Deputy Prime Minister
“Leaving the EU would mean supply chains flowing less smoothly resulting in additional costs.” - Paul Kahn, Airbus UK chief executive.
… to squeezed living standards
Leaving the EU is not making things better. Brexit is already making families worse off.
The 10% fall in the Pound against foreign currencies, notably the US dollar, since the June 2016 referendum has contributed to a 3% increase in inflation and a further squeeze in living standards. Brexit’s false promises have already cost each household more than £900 a year (Bank of England).
Brexit has resulted in an average increase of 5% for our food and drink including bread up 25% and beer up 16%.
The drop in the pound already means our holidays are 6% more expensive and free travel to 27 EU member states could become more difficult.
If we stay in, the EU will continue to help us curb banking excesses, tackle customer rip offs (eg reduce mobile phone roaming charges, cheaper air travel), and minimise corporate tax avoidance).
… to public services, notably the NHS
Brexit is hijacking government and impairing service delivery. “Leaving (the EU) would mean embroiling the Government for several years in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems of this country.” - Boris Johnson.
We were promised £350 million extra a week for the NHS but studies show Brexit is in fact already costing us that much. That means that if the government doesn’t borrow more money, there is and will continue to be less funding available for the NHS, education and social services.
According to NHS Providers, 75% of hospital leaders believe Brexit is bad news for the NHS (none of the remaining 25% believe it will have a very positive effect).
The 10% post referendum fall in the pound has pushed up NHS supply costs by £900 million pounds a year.
Nurses and doctors from the EU are essential to keeping the NHS running. The Royal College of Nursing notes “lack of certainty (about residence status) is undoubtedly a key reason that EU nurses are no longer choosing to work in the UK, which is already putting pressure on staff and services”.
Any trade deal with the US will be America first, Britain last. Any potential deal might involve the UK having to consider privatising all or part of the NHS.
THE DAMAGE TO COME
Brexit means losing our EHIC card, cancer treatments, latest medicines and funding
The European Health Insurance card (EHIC) gives us state-provided emergency healthcare for free or at a reduced cost when we travel in 30 European countries. If we leave the EU, EHIC benefits may no longer be available.
No one voted to leave Euratom yet the Government arbitrarily decide to leave. Leaving Euratom risks breaking a series of time-sensitive supply chains for Isotopes used in radiotherapy/MRI scans for cancer sufferers (the UK does not have suitable reactors).
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), whose headquarters will now leave the UK thanks to Brexit, carries out scientific evaluation of all medicines. Delayed access to the latest medicines could cost lives. “Leaving would lead to disruption, expense and significant regulatory burdens for a new authorisation system” - UK Life Sciences CEOs.
“Leaving the EU would be a disaster for (UK) science” - the late Stephen Hawking. About half of our overseas (research) collaborations are with EU partners. “The UK puts in 12% of all EU (research) funding yet wins 15% of (it)” Jo Johnson, then Minister for Universities and Science.
In June 2018, the EU stated that the UK outside the EU will no longer receive more Horizon 2020 funding than what it contributes.
Leaving the EU diminishes our sovereignty and control over our laws
No nation is sovereign in the conventional sense in today’s inter-connected global economy. We enhance, not lose, our sovereignty through membership in international organisations like the EU and NATO. “Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership of the EU” – Government While Paper, February 2017.
By participating in EU forums, Britain is deciding rules which affect not only us, but influences those of others. If we absent ourselves, others will decide the rules we shall have to follow anyway, without our input. If we are not at the EU table, we’re on the menu.
In order to trade, countries have to accept common standards and regulations, and in so doing, they pool some sovereignty. Large trading blocs such as the US and EU oblige smaller economies to comply with their regulations to gain access to their large markets. Size matters.
The UK ‘won’ 97% of the votes in the EU Council between 2004 and 2015. Why spend so much effort and money on going it alone when there are no obvious tangible benefits?
In today’s global economy, multinational corporations have real power which most nations cannot regulate alone. These corporations can pressure countries into offering tax breaks and subsidies. By banding together, smaller EU countries can better mitigate the anti-competitive and tax avoiding practices of Facebook, Amazon and Google. Mark Zuckerberg testified before the European Parliament but has yet to accept our Parliament’s invitation.
There is little that the EU has stopped us doing. Can you name three EU laws which the UK should repeal after Brexit? Can you name three UK laws the EU has prevented us from implementing? What has EU membership stopped you or your organisation from doing? Do you have control over what Westminster does?
Leaving means losing control of our money
The drop in sterling shows leaving means less for your pound in your shopping basket.
Only a third of one penny in the pound we pay in tax is spent on the EU. For that, we get the right to live, work and study in 27 developed countries; export freely to the world’s largest market which has more trade deals than the US, China and Australia combined; have greater influence in the world than alone; have greater security, and benefit from greater protection of working, consumer and environmental rights and food safety. Above all, what value do you give to peace in Western Europe since WW2? Leaving means losing a bargain.
Brexiters promised more money to end austerity and chronic underfunding of the NHS, social services, education and transport. However, the 2016 Autumn Statement showed Brexit is reducing tax revenues, requiring £58.7 billion more in government borrowing before 2021. As the economy stagnates, there will be less money for public services and Government austerity will last longer.
Leaving won’t improve control of our borders
By leaving the EU, we are not just stopping EU citizens coming here, we are restricting our own freedom, particularly that of our young, to work and study and export to 27 developed EU nations. It also means foreign travel will be more costly and travel is more difficult for our pets.
EU citizens make a net positive contribution to the public purse, fill in skills gaps and draw fewer benefits per capita than other groups. We also lose friends, family and culture.
Key sectors of our economy are reliant on workers from the EU for their effective functioning. As we leave, there is a growing shortage of workers in health care, construction, financial services, creative and the hospitality industry. The Premier League could lose European stars.
“If it weren’t for people from outside this country, every single one of my businesses would close tomorrow.” Jamie Oliver, interviewed on Channel 4 News, 27 August 2015.
Most immigrants assimilate. It is up to Whitehall and local government to design integration and funding programmes to address and alleviate the concerns of local communities.
Leaving the EU will not reassert ‘control’ over the main source of immigration (more than half of net migration comes from outside the EU).
Much of the problem with immigration is due to shortcomings in our own policies and administrative systems. The Windrush scandal is the most recent example. If the diagnosis of the problem is wrong, so is the proposed Brexit cure. Much can be achieved ourselves without leaving the EU including checking people both arriving and leaving the UK, removing temporary foreign students from government targets, increasing resources for public services in local communities affected by disproportionately high inflows, and implementing the EU’s own free movement rules.
Justice and policing will be less effective …
“The EU helps keep (us) safe by sharing information across member states, tougher controls at airport security, and through the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) (which enables criminals and terrorists to be extradited across borders)” - former Home secretaries (Straw, Clarke, Smith and Johnson) quoted in the Evening Standard, 7 March 2016, p. 4.
Membership of Europol and access to the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) allows EU member states to share information on convicted individuals. Membership of Eurojust allows our CPS to partner with other EU countries to progress EAWs.
Outside the EU, anything less than full membership in these organisations will make us less secure. We risk not being informed of the movement of dangerous people in and out of 27 EU member states, shall be less able to share data and benefit less from cross border policing.
… to trade, investment and jobs
The UK becomes less ‘global’ by retreating from Europe. The EU enhances, not restricts, our access to foreign markets. As part of the EU, we benefit from trade deals with 27 developed affluent EU states as well as Preferential Trade Agreements with 52 third countries (many Commonwealth members) which together account for 63% of our trade.
Countries do not have to be an EU member to be a member of the Single Market (eg Norway) or in a Customs Union (eg Turkey).
Staying in both the Customs Union and Single Market is the least damaging Brexit option. However, we lose regulatory influence: “Outside the EU, Britain would lose influence over rules that would still affect the UK.” (Sir Jon Cunliffe, Deputy Governor, Bank of England in Financial Times 9 March 2016, p. 3). Staying in the EU is best for Britain.
Studies show new trade deals with other countries will barely compensate for what we lose if we leave the Customs Union and Single Market (NIESR) which is geographically closer and easier to export to. When we shop, we prefer proximity and less hassle.
There is nothing in EU regulations preventing us from trading outside the EU. Germany operates under the same EU rules and exports four times as much as we do to China.
For businesses, leaving adds an extra layer of regulation and costs, potentially eroding profit margins. “Large multinationals (locate) their investment and jobs in the UK to take advantage of the EU market” (Dr Meredith Crowley, University of Cambridge). Brexit UK would be a less attractive destination for foreign investment as we are no longer part of the world’s largest market (the EU) accounting for 22% of global GDP (foreign investment was 90% lower in 2017 compared to 2016).
An autonomous trade policy of a smaller economy may be more flexible but it will not deliver the best deal. Alone the UK, the world’s seventh largest economy with 2% of global GDP, would have less weight in international negotiations than as a member of a bloc eleven times larger.
Without trade deals, we risk delays at UK ports and for example possible 29 mile traffic tail-backs, in particular on the M20 and M2 in Kent.
Both the UK and the EU agreed they wish to avoid a hard border in Ireland. This will be unlikely unless the entire UK remains in both the Customs Union and Single Market.
Brexit will harm farming and could disrupt food supplies
The EU helps fund British farmers and protect them from unstable prices, modernise farms and protect the environment. It also protects them against lower quality imports and using British brand names (Geographical Indications) such as Cumberland sausages, Cornish pasties etc.
UK farmers will have to compete with other UK sectors for government subsidies after they end in 2022. Without EU subsidies, 80% of British farms will go out of business (Yorkshire farmer speaking on Any Answers, Radio 4, 19/5/18).
UK fishermen will lose access to their major (EU) export market as greater access to UK territorial waters is likely to be accompanied by the imposition of EU tariffs on our exports. It is uncertain whether fishermen and farmers will secure government export assistance to enter new export markets.
The EU has been a reliable source of food - leaving the customs union could disrupt food supplies as lorries are delayed at borders. New and incomplete border arrangements will result in queues of lorries trying to transport goods in and out of the country.
EU regulation through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) helps improve food hygiene, informative labelling, product safety and packaging standards ensuring the quality and safety of food production. New trade deals might involve lowering standards and increasing foreign imports such as US chlorinated chicken and Australian GMO meat.
EU citizens hold a third of all food jobs. Uncertainty about residence conditions and the fall in sterling is discouraging EU workers picking produce in our fields, fishing, and serving as veterinary workers in our abattoirs etc. Without them, we shall be less able to produce our own food and we’ll have to spend more on importing more food from abroad.
Environmental protection will be weaker …
We all want a cleaner environment but pollution crosses boundaries. The UK benefits from EU environmental legislation and funding, helping the fight against climate change and pollution, ensuring the quality of safe drinking water, and agreeing pan-European standards to improve air quality.
Because of common EU standards we can safely raise our environmental standards knowing our businesses will not be undercut. Other member states cannot cheat because EU bodies will enforce mutually agreed laws on all.
The standard of British beaches has improved enormously since we joined the EU. Today Britain boasts 600 blue flag beaches, 620 Special Areas of Conservation protected under EU laws, and more than 8 million hectares of conserved nature.
The UK cannot combat climate change alone. As part of the EU, we have more international negotiating clout to, eg, help alleviate the adverse impact of flooding. The EU, lead by the UK, successfully concluded the major Paris international agreement to tackle climate change.
The Single Market does not prevent UK parties progressing their economic policies
Austerity has nothing to do with the EU or Single Market. It is a political programme chosen by national governments. Leaving the Single Market and Customs Union will reduce tax receipts and extend and intensify austerity.
The EU Single Market provides “a framework of rules including on employment rights, consumer and environmental standards that protects people from the worst excesses of globalisation” – Heidi Alexander, former MP et al
EU Single Market rules on state aid do not restrict the ability of the UK government to provide support to key industries. EU state aid rules shape how support can be given, not whether they can be given.
EU Single Market rules do not prevent renationalisation and public ownership, as the Government’s May 2018 re-nationalisation of the East Coast Mainline railway shows.
Britain’s membership of the Single Market has been overwhelmingly positive for the rights of workers, driving up standards in the UK and preventing a race to the bottom across the continent.
Brexit will weaken workplace, gender and disabled rights
EU legislation promotes non-discrimination on grounds of age, nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, belief, sexuality or disability and rights in the workplace: “Significant employment rights gains continue to accrue to UK workers as a result of our EU membership (including) access to paid annual holidays, improved health and safety protection, rights to unpaid parental leave, rights to time off work for urgent family reasons, equal treatment rights for part-time, fixed-term and agency workers, rights for outsourced workers, and rights for workers’ representatives to receive information and be consulted … in the years ahead, remaining in the EU may provide significant opportunities to extend employment protections.” Trades Union Congress (TUC) report, March 2016.
EU members give financial support to training (£12 billion allocated to UK over 6 years) and support the disadvantaged through its Social Fund.
“Brexiteers have made it clear that the first thing they want to do if the UK leaves Europe is tear up many of these hard-won protections.” Catherine Bearder MEP New Statesman 8/3/16.
The EU’s contribution to peace and diminishing British influence in the world
After centuries of conflict, both the EU and NATO have helped preserve peace in Europe for 60 years. Armed conflict between any EU state is now unthinkable. “There is a remedy which … (would) make all Europe … free and happy. It is to re-create the European family… and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom.” – Sir Winston Churchill, University of Zurich, 1946.
Security is not guaranteed by military strength alone – our military power is underpinned by a strong economy and shared foreign policy goals, in particular with our immediate neighbours.
The UK benefits from the EU’s contribution to building democracy across Europe (for which the EU was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize). It supported Spain and Greece in their transitions from dictatorship to democracy. The EU, with the UK in the lead, helped transform Communist Central European countries into democracies with market economies.
"The EU amplifies our power. Brits don’t quit. We get involved. If we left, they'd be making decisions about us, but without us." - David Cameron, 21 June 2016.
As part of the EU, the UK is able to influence EU decision making in the EU Council and elected members in the European Parliament. Britain outside the EU will be a weaker and less credible military and diplomatic ally. "To absent ourselves from the biggest of our markets and the largest political union in the world is an extraordinary self-defeating act if you want this country to remain strong." Tony Blair - 29 March 2018 at Article 50: One Year On.
Brexit undermines the unity of the United Kingdom and the Irish peace process
Brexit is increasing tensions between the four parts of the United Kingdom. Westminister’s apparent ‘power grab’, possibly reneging on a promise to return powers previously pooled in Brussels to devolved authorities, increases constitutional tensions with in particular Scotland. Brexit is increasing the likelihood of a second Scottish independence referendum.
More than 3,600 people died during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ from 1968-1998, including in London Canary Wharf and Warrington. The UK agreed in December 2017 to full regulatory alignment and no physical infrastructure to avoid a hard Irish border and undermining the Good Friday Agreement. Technology alone can’t stop a hard Irish border. An unsatisfactory resolution with the EU on the border issue could eventually lead to a border poll on Irish unification.
Ultimately the only way the UK can reconcile its obligation to keep Northern Ireland free of regulatory and customs barriers, and the opposition of the DUP to intra UK border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, is for the entire UK to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market.
THERE IS A POSITIVE VISION: STAY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
Imagine there’s no Brexit, it’s easy if you try. The EU gives us:
- ability to work, travel, study, live and export freely to 27 advanced economies with almost half a billion affluent consumers;
- the best access to our major export market without tariffs and few regulations;
- participation in the world’s largest trading bloc which has more trade deals than the US, China and Australia combined;
- ability to decide and influence more global policies and standards which will affect us anyway, eg we can advance our competitive advantage in services and the digital economy;
- ower inflation and less squeezed living standards;
- membership in the European Medicines Agency and EURATOM allowing the best access to life saving medicines and cancer treatments;
- greater security through membership of Europol and Eurojust;
- mutual recognition of educational and professional qualifications and driving licenses;
- benefits for consumers: making our food safe through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), cooling off periods and guarantees for goods purchased online, no mobile roaming when making any calls within the EU, low cost air travel throughout Europe, compensation for flight delays and cancellations;
- ensuring greater airworthiness of aircraft, safe work time limits for air crew and safety compliance by third country operators through the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA);
- free or low cost emergency health care with the European Health Insurance (EHIC) card throughout the EU;
- greater power negotiating with energy suppliers, notably Russia;
- support for poorer areas in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North East;
- cleaner air, water and beaches and stricter protection of animals and wildlife;
- stricter competition policy against monopolies;
- greater protection for workers and non-discrimination on grounds of age, nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, belief, sexuality or disability;
- punching above our weight globally as part of the EU; and
- above all underpinning an unprecedented period of peace in Europe, most recently in Ireland.
“We should be proud of our enduring desire to join together, seeking better, safer, fairer lives for ourselves and millions of others… I don’t think the EU’s perfect. I simply believe its benefits (not only economic) greatly outweigh the negatives” – J.K. Rowling, 22 May 2016.
"If we look at the challenges we will face, of security, trade and the economy – Britain's prosperity will be more secure if we're inside the EU." - Theresa May on the Andrew Marr Show, BBC1, 24 April 2016.
This summary reflects the views of those quoted and the author, and not necessarily those of London4Europe