Debate: Should Britain leave the EU?

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YES

Tom Posa

In May 2013, the European Union passed rules mandating that olive oil put on tables in restaurants must now be placed in specially designated bottles and labelled in line with food standards legislation. This is just one example of the overbearing technocracy that the EU is imposing on member states. Statistics from the House of Commons Library suggest that the percentage of laws now set in the country from Brussels has increased from 9.1% in 2005 to 15% in 2010. We ought to take seriously claims from senior European politicians that we are heading towards a United States of Europe. These are not the views of an obscure low-profile European politician – this was Angela Merkel speaking in 2011.

We need to reassert our preeminence on determining national laws which apply to Britain and its people. The EU actively undermines the democracy of this country by standing against the ability of our parliament and our citizens to shape our own laws. This is not just a problem with the fact that EU laws and regulations immediately overrule those set in Westminster – institutions such as the European Court of Justice now overrule British judges and represent the highest appeal in our legal system. It is not clear why exactly we think that judges from Lithuania, Finland or Romania are better at administering legal judgements in this country than a British judge.

The key arguments deployed in favour of continued membership of the Union include that it maintains peace in Europe, that we have intrinsic cultural links to Europe, that the economic harms of leaving outweigh the benefits, and that since we would remain subject to some regulations from Brussels, we should have a say in making them. The EU may have maintained peace in Europe in the past, but the idea that in 2014, the UK would go to war with France, Germany, or Italy if we left the EU is farcical. Equally, our cultural links with Europe will not fall away if we leave the Union. It is fair to assume that reasonably liberal migration laws would continue (but without the current prejudice shown to non-EU migrants), and that tourists and citizens will continue to flow in both directions. Our ties with the USA, Canada or Australia have not been undermined by our membership – nor would ours with Europe were we to leave. On the economic front, we need only look at Iain Mansfield’s research proposal – which won him a Brexit award – to see an economic upside of £1.3 billion to our GDP. The false claims of lost trade and productivity do not translate into reality.

Finally, the idea of being continually subject to EU regulations is frequently trotted out in favour of membership. Yes, those companies which continue to trade with EU members will be subject to legislation. However, now they can chose between paying a higher cost of compliance in transactions with Europe, or trading with other countries where compliance costs are lower. This can only benefit us economically. And I ask you – when the EU is preoccupied with questions such as how high a hairdresser’s heel is, or how much in subsidies we should pay to cows in rural France, why should we continue to waste our time, money and political talent in this enterprise?

NO

Eleanor Newis

There’s been a lot of hot air floating around regarding Britain’s EU membership in recent times. In reality, despite the pro-Europe debate being severely handicapped by the continued presence of Nick Clegg, the argument for staying in the EU is actually very sensible.

The idea proposed by many Eurosceptics that Britain could have an ‘amicable divorce’ from the EU and make like Norway and Switzerland is nothing but a pipe dream. Marit Warncke, head of Bergen’s chamber of commerce said in 2012, “We are the most obedient of EU members, rapidly implementing directives to the letter, yet we have no say in them.” Norway contributes €340 million a year to the EU, without having membership. Switzerland, has actually reviewed all its parliamentary bills for their EU conformity since 1988.

Apart from this, the ‘amicable di- vorce’ idea is completely bogus, even if Britain declared that the marriage was loveless from the start and left, its exports would still be subject to EU laws. All export tariffs would still apply, and would have to meet EU production standards – only then, Britain would have no say in them. The impact on trade would be considerable – Farage’s “We’re Britain, we can stand out or own two feet” argument is just too idealistic. The EU is the UK’s main trading partner, worth more than £400bn a year – 52% of the total trade in goods and services. So, if we don’t have a say in any of those tariffs, a good portion of our trade will be impacted by laws we aren’t making.

UKIP’s nationalism is attractive to many, and Cameron’s promise of a referendum to many more. But the argument is becoming clouded by issues like immigration. Without turning this into an exposé on immigration laws, I will say that Mr. Farage should be taken with a large plate of salt, and we should all do some research. Any dangers people see in immigration are not down to the EU – they are, like most things that go wrong, the fault of our own elected politicians. The UK is better off economically inside the EU; yes, they are responsible for some pesky anti-tobacco laws (which I am personally quite offended by) and they do have an unfortunate poster boy in Clegg. Yet it remains that Britain simply could not have the economic privileges it currently enjoys without EU membership.

I understand that most people aren’t too bothered about tariff s and export charges – it’s hardly inspiring stuff . But there are other EU successes which are easy to forget, such as the capping of mobile phone roaming charges, and the rejection of ACTA, which would have severely restricted internet freedom. Let’s not forget fi nancial regulation either; without the EU, bankers could still be getting bonuses above 200% of their salaries. Please, please do some googling be- fore you jump on the anti-EU bandwagon. I know it’s becoming fashionable, but like hot pants and see-through stilettos, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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