Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. “Vote leave, take control” or the latest household document by HM Government reading “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union (EU) is the best decision for UK” – whichever stance you are more familiar with, you may still wonder: What is Brexit?
Brexit stands for “British Exit” from the EU. The long-desired referendum to answer the question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” will take place on 23 June 2016 in the UK. You may continue to wonder: What’s the big deal?
First, whether or not it is a “big deal” is subjective and if you are indifferent then that’s your call. Chances are, however, that that won’t be the case. Below is a rough analysis of what the implications of leaving the EU are and why Brexit matters.
The government argues that remaining in the EU will uphold the UK’s strong economy. The EU is the UK’s biggest trading partner and access to the EU means access to more than 500 million customers. Access to over 500 million customers generates jobs; more than 3 million UK jobs are linked to exports to the EU. If the UK were to vote to leave on 23 June, the access would be restricted and a significant number of employees would lose their jobs, resulting in economic disruption. Sounds horrific, say Leave campaigners, but they claim this is a far from accurate picture of the possible consequences.
So what is the right thing to do? Take the UK’s EU budget (estimated net contribution of £8.5 billion in 2015*) and invest it nationally, is the Leave campaign’s argument. It should, therefore, be quite possible for the British government to prevent that so-called economic disruption and deliver greater value for money. The UK shouldn’t just maintain a strong economy, it should build an even stronger one, they say.
The UK economy is not the only concern. Before David Cameron’s deal in Brussels, even the government was passionate about tightening immigration laws. That stance has changed; the deal appeals to many. The deal comes down to two achievements:
1. Any worker from the EU who does not find work within six months can be required to leave. If the level of migrant workers soars, the UK may apply an emergency brake, ie, stop paying in-work benefits to migrants, for seven years.
2. The country may cut migrant workers’ child benefits to the level of their home countries.
These elements are designed to reduce the flow of migrants and many believe that they will prevent workers from idly wandering into the nation. Yet others are not appeased.
“Fiddling a little with benefits?!” says Callum, a passionate supporter of the Vote Leave campaign, “I would even go as far as to say [the deal] is unfairly giving migrants a bad name within the EU.”
He certainly has a point: most people come to the UK to make a better living, and that’s before benefits. Yet there is no one right answer. Perhaps the government did actually secure a good position for the UK by tackling the migration issue alongside upholding access to EU’s Single Market. Perhaps it did not.
The last but not the least important issue is the effect Brexit may have on the education of British students. According to Sam Gyimah MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Department of Education, there is no guarantee that the many British students set to benefit from the Erasmus scheme by 2020 will be able to benefit if the UK leaves the EU.
So, alongside sudden restricted access to the Single Market, students may find themselves shut off from study opportunities in Europe as well. Not only would the former affect the graduate job market, but students would miss out on the many skills that employers look for in future generations. Yet supporters of the Leave campaign aren’t too disheartened about this. With the investment of the EU budget back into the UK economy, British students could be funded for their studies abroad and jobs would be created tailored to the specific needs of the UK market. In fact, much renegotiation (on trade and other issues) would be situation-specific to the UK as a whole, which would enable the government to build that stronger economy.
A very evident trend flows through the above analysis: uncertainty. Whether you back the Leave campaign or choose to vote Remain, no one can be sure of anything. If the UK remains in the EU, no one will know what would have happened had we left. If, however, the UK chooses to leave and the disadvantages begin to outweigh the current positive predictions, then that’s tough luck.
On the one hand, following EU rules over which the UK has less direct say (so that trading may continue despite restricted access to the Single Market) could be problematic. On the other hand, situation-specific trade re-negotiations subject to the UK’s demands (because Europe would not want to lose the UK as a trading partner) could be highly beneficial. The decision is yours. Have your say on 23 June.
*Dominic Webb and Matthew Keep, “In brief: UK-EU economic relations” (House of Commons library 2016) 9
Callum continues to back Brexit from @hosty96xD.