On June 23rd, voters in the UK will be able to decide whether the UK should remain a member of the EU or not. The campaign has been contacted by a number of people in recent weeks that have questions about the forthcoming vote. In this section there are a number of answers to range of questions from everything concerning jobs and the economy to health and technology.
The questions and answers are drawn from a variety of sources including Business for Britain’s Change, or Go and a leaflet produced by Gerard Batten MEP.
Changes and Processes:
1. Wouldn’t trade be affected if we left the EU? Might I lose my job? No. You do not need to be a member of the EU to trade with the EU – countries across the world trade with each other without being part of the same political system. Britain exports to the USA and the USA is able to export to the EU without having to have the same political institutions. There is no risk of mass redundancies and such talk is mere scaremongering – usually by the people who were ideologically committed to joining the euro 10 years ago. It is worth remembering that the heads of firms that threatened to leave the UK if we did not join the single currency found that they had to stay in the UK. Any repeat of these threats should be treated with scorn.
2. Isn’t it enough to simply drop the reference to “ever closer union” in the Treaties? No. The principle of integration is embedded within the institutions, so just tweaking the language would not change the institutions’ philosophy. The expression “ever closer union” is as much a term of convenience explaining what is already happening as it is a mandate for more. Former Prime Minister Edward Heath wrote in his autobiography: “I believed… that there was little point in debating theoretical arguments about federalism. What we were concerned with was making a success of the European Community, and the word ‘Union’ allowed us to do that. In contrast, the words federalism and confederation have always caused no end of confusion. In Britain there is still little understanding of either term.
3. Isn’t it enough to fix what’s broken? There is a lot that is broken, and the problems are growing over time. Fixing the EU needs Treaty change, not dropping a bad regulation or two. Anything less than this is merely a temporary solution. In order to amend the EU’s poor policies, the UK needs to have much more control over its own affairs.
4. Don’t we need to be at the top table? Yes – but the EU is not the top table. There are many international bodies, such as the World Trade Organization, where the EU sends a delegate as just one negotiator, and then EU countries are bound by the decision made by the EU, regardless of whether that decision is in Britain’s interests or not.
5. Doesn’t EU membership give us a seat at both tables? No, increasingly it confines the UK to just the lower one, often giving up a veto at the source of new international rules in exchange for a tenth of the vote later down the line.
6. Why is leaving the EU important? Leaving the EU would ensure that Britain’s future is in its own hands. It would mean that the public no longer has to face the prospect of unwanted, damaging laws because the country has, once again, been outvoted within the EU’s institutions. It would also free the UK to retake its seat at the top table in key international bodies like the WTO and have greater influence over world affairs.
7. What are the benefits of leaving the EU? There would be substantial savings, as the UK would no longer be required to contribute to the EU Budget (Britain currently pays in far more than it takes out). The UK would be free to develop its own trading relationship with the rising economic giants of the world and, most importantly, would regain its lost democratic powers, allowing decision-making to take place closer to voters. Many unpopular policies could be reviewed and changed. Quite simply, leaving the EU puts Britain’s future into Britain’s hands.
8. What would leaving the EU deliver for me? The EU impacts upon all walks of life. So leaving would allow greater freedom and flexibility across a vast number of areas. It could also generate £933 of savings for every household every year.
9. How would Britain leave the EU? There are a number of ways the UK could leave the EU. One of these ways would involve the UK deciding via its own constitutional process to leave (i.e. voting to leave in an In/Out referendum) and then enacting Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The UK would then have two years to negotiate a new deal with the EU before leaving.
10. How long would it take to leave the EU? The EU’s rules allow for up to two years from the point of notification, but this is a maximum.
11. What if there is no deal struck within the two years? One option is that negotiators may agree to extend the two year deadline. Another is that the UK is ‘parked’ inside the EEA while outstanding issues are resolved. The third option is to leave the EU, take up a WTO trading relationship with the EU and continue talks from outside.
12. How likely is getting a transitional agreement like EEA/EFTA membership? Were the UK to apply for such a relationship, it is very likely to get it. But allowing a country to join EEA/EFTA is ultimately a collective political decision and cannot be guaranteed. Fortunately, a WTO trading relationship is guaranteed and is much more attractive than the current status quo.
13. What types of transition assistance might be available? The tariffs that the UK would face outside the EU could be paid for from the savings that would come from no longer having to contribute to the EU Budget. ‘Compensation’ could also be paid without breaking WTO rules.
14. What about the loss of access to the EU’s third party agreements and the tariff costs from those? The UK would have to develop new deals with these countries. However, it would be highly likely that many of the existing agreements between the EU and third countries could be ‘photocopied’, meaning that the existing deal between the third country and the EU is replicated and amended to apply to the UK. This would allow Britain to continue free trading relations with other countries after it leaves the EU.
15. How long would it take for the red tape to be cut? EU regulations automatically become national laws without being passed by Parliament. EU directives have to be signed off. This means that, if the UK leaves the EU, regulations would automatically fall and directives would stay on the statute books. It makes sense – in order to avoid confusion – to pass an Act of Parliament confirming that all EU-sourced law is as it currently stands and will remain on the statute books, and to repeal backwards from there. This would be a gradual process but would avoid confusion.
16. How would repeal happen? Parliamentary Committees would likely be set up dedicated to the prioritisation and review of these laws, with direct input from businesses, unions and other interested parties.
17. What is meant by ‘grandfather rights’? This is an established principle in international agreements where old rules still apply to former practitioners. This means that current expats would continue to be able to live in retirement abroad, in return for current EU migrants to the UK still having residency rights to the UK.
18. Won’t leaving generate unexpected technical rifts with the EU, harming imports? No. Directive 83/189/EEC (as amended by Directive 88/182/EEC), for instance, currently requires that technical regulations produced by a country be notified to the European Commission in draft. If this level of mutual communication is maintained, problems would be identified at an early stage, eliminating the prospect of unexpected barriers emerging.