Sleepwalking out of the EU – the gap between rhetoric and reality

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The British people’s support for staying in the European Union is “wafer thin”, David Cameron told the CBI yesterday. Labour’s Ed Balls warned that the UK could “sleepwalk” away from its biggest trading partner at the same meeting.

Why?

Is it because most people don’t understand our relationship with the European economic area? Is it because they have been infected with propaganda from the right-wing press?

Is it because there really is a plan to make the UK a third-world country, and withdrawal from the EU is necessary to remove citizens’ human rights, thereby making them easier for the ruling class to exploit? The idea seems paranoid but the actions necessary for it to happen have been coming together.

Isn’t it time we had a public debate about the Union – how it works, how we function within it – in order to find out whether we really are better or worse-off? And why – considering all the bluster – hasn’t this happened already?

Let’s look at the main issues: cost of membership, perceived over-regulation, immigration, and our place on the world stage.

The UK contributes around 14 billion Euros (£11.9 billion) to the EU budget every year, but receives 10 billion Euros (£8.5 billion) back – so in fact we contribute £3.4 billion to other countries within the union; the UK is a net EU payer. A study by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten has claimed that red tape, waste, fraud and other factors adds another £62.3 billion a year to the cost.

But the EU is the UK’s main trading partner, with contracts worth more than £400 billion a year. That kind of money make the membership fee look like a pittance. And the EU has been negotiating with the US to create the world’s largest free trade area in a move that could hugely boost our businesses (although this has a huge potential downside that nobody is talking about).

Perhaps the problem is that the companies profiting from these trade deals aren’t paying their taxes properly? The UK Treasury should receive £92 billion at the current rate of Corporation Tax. How much does it actually get?

Let’s not forget that the Coalition government is trying (ineffectually) to pay down the annual deficit. Any money saved by leaving the EU would not go into domestic projects but would contribute to debt repayments. In effect, it would be dead money; at least, in the EU, it helps bring in business.

Okay, so it’s possible that the UK makes more cash from the EU than it spends on it. But what about all those pesky regulations bogging us down all the time? Wouldn’t we be better-off without them?

Sure – if we didn’t mind losing those £400 billion worth of trade deals. If the UK left the European Union but still wanted to trade with its member states, then we would still have to abide by EU regulations. UKIP’s Nigel Farage points to Norway and Switzerland as countries that have access to the single market without being bound by EU rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs – but he doesn’t mention the fact that those countries must abide by EU market regulations without having any influence over how they are created.

A break from the EU, allowing the UK to trade with other nations around the world, means Britain’s exports would be subject to EU export tariffs – and would still have to meet EU production standards.

Yes, the EU burdens us with rules when it probably doesn’t have the right. Why does the EU dictate our policy on water? So there is room for negotiation – but within the Union.

Well, what about immigration? The UK has a huge problem with its borders having been opened up to millions of incomers – mostly from Eastern Europe, with millions more on the way next year, right? Wouldn’t leaving the EU put an end to that?

Yes. It would also put an end to Britons’ chances of living and working in EU countries. 711,151 UK citizens were living in other EU countries in 2011, according to Eurostat. Their right to work and live there might be restricted if Britain quit the union.

While 2.3 million EU citizens were living and working in the UK in 2011, their effect on the country’s economic well-being has been hugely exaggerated. There is no ‘open door’ immigration policy. The immigrant population does not have access to a vast majority of the benefits available to UK citizens, the benefits they do receive are nowhere near the same value as those received by UK citizens and they are a third less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens. Meanwhile, they contribute to the local economy and pay their taxes.

The UK would definitely lose stature on the world stage. There can be no amicable divorce from the EU, as the other leading members are unlikely to allow this country any special privileges or influence. We would surrender our ability to influence EU policy while remaining hostage to EU decisions. The ‘special relationship’ with the United States would also be in jeopardy as that country has made it clear we are a more valuable ally as part of the EU.

As a member of the EU, Britain is viewed by many non-European manufacturers as a key point of access to the European market – but this reputation would be lost if the UK quit the union.

British banks and businesses also see membership as important because it provides access to crucial foreign markets.

Oh, and the UK would still have to deal with the European Court of Human Rights, which is separate from the EU, even after ridding itself of the pesky Human Rights Act that ratifies so many EU employment laws and social protections that prevent Theresa May and her friends from exploiting us all.

Add it all up and the evidence seems clear: Britain is better off with Europe. Yes, there are problems, but these are matters for negotiation, not reasons to run away.

Don’t you agree?

41 thoughts on “Sleepwalking out of the EU – the gap between rhetoric and reality

    1. jaypot2012

      I don’t believe a word of the BBC report. I don’t believe any report that states that the immigrants are not costing this country money! Go along and see the different nationalities that go along to the post offices and banks and do transfers of a hell of a lot of money each month to their families overseas. They are not working, I can assure you, yet they are able to send so much, it makes no sense.
      They do cost us in every way, including the free health care, free education, and that does not include the money they receive each fortnight from benefits.
      Don’t tell me or most people that each immigrant works as they don’t, which is seen around this country daily.
      Immigrants take more money from us than they give back, and they will continue to do so!

      1. Mike Sivier

        How do you know they aren’t working? How do you know they cost us in healthcare, education and benefits, when all the facts indicate they cannot qualify for the same as us and in fact claim far less. Unemployment among the immigrant population is very low, as figures quoted on this blog and elsewhere attest.

      2. one voice

        They don’t even have to go to the bank or post office to do this THE DWP are doing it for them Poland …Benefits £60 million +for children they are supposed to have !

      3. Mike Sivier

        The fact is that immigrants provide a net contribution to the UK while people who were born here do not. That’s official. Where did you get your figures?

  1. Nick

    member of the EU is critical for vulnerable groups of people who would have no protection at all if the UK was to pull out

    1. Joanna

      Despite what I said earlier, what protection?!? Vulnerable people are already suffering and dying how many more have to suffer before Somthing is done? Human rights are already destroyed by the evil prats in power!!!

      1. jaypot2012

        Agreed, what protection, if any, have we had? People are dying here, people are starving, are homeless and are working for very low money, if at all.
        The EU know that we are suffering, yet they continue to sit back and ignore what we, as a people, are having done to us.
        They have ignored everything that is going on in Romania and Bulgaria and have the cheek to “open” our borders to them when we are unable to sustain the number of immigrants that we already have!
        They sit in Brussels and as long as it doesn’t affect them then they don’t care – just like our government do to their own people!
        Disgusting!

      2. Mike Sivier

        We’re perfectly capable of sustaining the number of immigrants we have. They’re a net gain to our economy. Don’t ruin a reasonable point by descending to that argument.

      3. Nick

        indeed they are but if we were out of the EU we would be like the middle eastern countries a sort of police state with no redress at all

      1. R J Edge

        Its a very expensive club for failed politicians rich greedy business men and all the other over paid parasites stripping ordinary folk of any thing and every thing for some utopian dream, theirs not ours. They will not rest until we all owe them our very lives, That is not why I served 12 years in the services of this country. I am first and foremost an ENGLISHMAN then British I am not nor will I ever be a EUROPEAN before my proud long heritage. Which is being eroded daily by people who have caused more death and destruction in the last centuary than all those preceding it. Down at my level I see no benefit what so ever and we went into this charade on a political trick we were conned by Heath.

  2. beetleypete

    You make some good points, and present a compelling argument as always Mike. However, wanting to leave the EU is not only the claim of the Right. Those of us on the Left also detest this huge Euro-Capitalist mess, and believe that we would be better off out of it altogether. There are sufficient examples of other countries in the world, that do not depend on such alliances to prosper, and provide a decent place for their citizens to live.
    Regards as always, Pete.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’m not presenting it as a left/right issue, Pete; the question is, would the UK be better-off out of the EU and the answer – as far as I can tell – is no.
      Or at least, not now.

  3. Joe Smith

    Personally, I think two things, firstly, we have been in the EU much to long to be able to effect a clean break even if we wanted to. Secondly, we are one of the “big” nation members and assuming we have skilled capable leaders ( Cameron? No he’s a self seeking egotistical arrogant dimwit ) we can exert massive influence over the EU. Yes the monetary contribution is a heavy burden and if not paid would with the correct political leadership help a lot. ( equally so would a reduced foreign aid programme)
    The problem is that our Pygmy brained prime minister promised us a referendum just prior to the last election which enabled him to defraud his way in to power. He has since broken that promise ( no supprise there) and given another date thus ensuring his second term if we want a referendum. UKIP also want out, but for very much more honest reasons than those proposed by Cameron ( let’s face it Cameron doesn’t give a toss one way or the other as long as he cons his way in to a second term. UKIP reason is that historically, the vote was for an economic union not the monolithic expensive political machine it has become. My personal concern is this,Cameron is neither liked or trusted by other EU leaders at best he’s tolerated as a noisy disruptive youth who talks mainly garbage, or he’s just not listened to at all. I believe the best we can hope for is force change from within ( not with Cameron) on the basis that it’s easier to piss out from inside the tent than be outside trying to piss in.

  4. Joanna

    Wow I never understood any of this before, it seems that if (damien)cameron succeeded in pulling away from the EU then it seems he may possibly make a lot of powerful enemies including the US. If I am wrong please let me know as I am still learning!
    Thank you Mike!!

      1. Mike Sivier

        In fact, on this subject I think differing should be allowed to any extent people wish to do so, provided they have good reason for it.
        The reason I wrote the article was to have the debate, rather than just having constant reference to the issue without making an attempt at tackling the details.

  5. Angie

    Come on people think about it all those people who now have job’s working in other EU country’s if we come out of the EU they may have to come back to the UK and what work do we have for them hear so that would be more people on JSA and other benefits more people not being able to make ends meet and feed there family’s.

    1. Tim Chiswell

      Ive got a wife and six children, work outside the UK in the EU (in a job Id find it VERY hard to replace in Britain) and pay UK taxes on my income (as Im still registered as UK resident).
      So in my case that’ll be several thousand a year in tax lost, and an extra 2 adults and six children you’ll be paying income support and housing benefit for, if we leave the EU…

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  8. Ian Cropper

    There is the risk though that the transatlantic deal will lead to a loss of many of the advantages of the EU. Government power will be overridden by corporate power, which could be crucial in respect of employment rights.

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  10. Thomas

    My EU thoughts are mixed. It protects us to a point, but it also nags and has too much power over us and does not always use that power well.

  11. hugosmum70

    well all i can say is if we do come out, unless we can retain the ability to go to the EURO COURTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, we as a nation are done for . because our own courts are in the pockets of cameron n his henchmen as is the media. we common people (hate that phrase but for want of a better one) will have no rights, no redress for wrongs against us at all. not that most could afford to go to the ECHR when it boils down to it seeing as those in power are seeking and succeeding in a lot of cases in making us eat dirt literally.

      1. hugosmum70

        so i have read Mike but can we trust the libcons to keep us in that once out of the main body??? personally i wouldnt trust them on any issue when it comes to our rights. they are evil.

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