EU Referendum. IN OR OUT?
That’s the question we will all be asked on June 23rd in a referendum about the UK’s membership of the EU. The referendum will ask a very straightforward question do we want to REMAIN or LEAVE the EU.
The UK voted to join the European Community in 1973 as a result of Prime Minister Heath’s (Conservative) negotiations and in 1975, Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Labour) held a referendum to decide whether we wanted to be part of the European Community. The vote was a clear decision at that time by the people of the UK to be part of the European project which brought countries together.
Labour is very clear that in 2016 there is no good reason to leave the EU and is campaigning for remain IN the EU. Labour is not campaigning with Tories who want us to REMAIN because we have different objectives. The Tories have tried to force the EU to adopt more aggressive less regulated Free Market policies. Labour believes we should be creating a more Social Europe where the needs of people have a greater priority and where there is a greater balance of capital and labour in economic terms.
This referendum has caused massive divisions amongst the Tories and has shown David Cameron to be a weak and superficial Prime Minister.
CLAIM & COUNTER CLAIM
Particularly as a result of Tory infighting, the electorate has already been faced with claims and counter claims about the positives and negatives of EU membership and will be faced with more before the 23rd June. We should treat many of these claims with scepticism especially the claims about the benefits of leaving the EU.
The only absolute truth we have about what would happen economically if we left the EU is that we just don’t know and that in itself is a good reason to say “remain”.
We know our relationship with the EU is strong economically and whilst the “Leave” camp say they are confident we would be able to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU as an individual country, we cannot be sure of that. We don’t know on what terms such a deal would be concluded or indeed how long it would take to achieve. It is suggested that it would take a minimum of two years to achieve but could take ten or more. That is a massive uncertainty for our economy.
Most economists are predicting that a “Brexit” would be damaging to the UK economy, certainly in the short term and probably in the longer term. This will affect lower paid citizens most and for Labour that is unacceptable.
It is interesting that in polls undertaken within employer’s organisations both large and small businesses have shown there is an overwhelming majority in favour of remaining. Farmers too feel we should remain. The vast majority of trade unions are in favour of remaining as they are concerned for their member’s future job security and prosperity outside the EU.
The current uncertainty over this referendum is affecting investment decisions by large organisations who are having to re-assess whether or not to invest in the UK. In Bicester and Oxfordshire there are many companies who are wholly reliant in their business strategies on the UK being in the EU. A decision to leave would bring major questions about the future of organisations such as BMW’s MINI plant in Cowley for example. It’s just not worth the risk.
Labour made it clear when in Government that it wasn’t prepared to join the Eurozone without several criteria being met. That has proved to be a very sensible decision. Labour will not be pressing to join the Eurozone monetary system in a hurry. It’s a red herring.
One of the principal arguments from many on the leave side of this discussion is that the EU is responsible for the massive immigration issues we have in the UK. It’s an emotional argument not a logical one.
It is true that the UK as a member of the EU is bound by the principle of free movement of labour across the EU but to conclude that this free movement is damaging the UK is just daft. It has been shown that the net benefit from EU immigration is positive and a little thought would confirm that. Every person who comes to the UK from an EU country will be pay their income tax; their national insurance; they will buy in our shops and generally contribute to the UK economy.
There are issues about people coming to work in the UK from EU countries but these are issues within our own control. We are not members of the Schengen Agreement in which countries have agreed to waive Passport Control and as such we CAN control our borders if there are sufficient Customs & Immigration Officers to undertake this task. Cuts to public spending have not helped this process.
Leaving the EU will not help this issue; employing more Border Control staff will, as would legislation to ensure jobs are not exclusively advertised in Eastern Europe as some are now.
Claims that adopting the “Swiss” (EFTA) model or the “Norwegian” (EEA) model will be better is just not true – countries in EFTA and EEA all currently accept the principle of free movement of Labour.
The fact is there has always been free movement of labour because people will always gravitate to places where there is work. The key is to control our borders and we already have the ability to do that. We don’t need to leave the EU to make those changes.
We will undoubtedly be told in more extreme and outrageous claims that mass immigration is the cause of housing shortages; pressures on our public services and in particular the NHS. The truth is that these areas are all struggling because of lack of investment by our own Governments and more recently public sector cuts.
If we had invested properly in more social and affordable housing over the past forty years we would not have this issue. Government needs to address that issue and Labour is making it clear this will be a priority.
So too will be the NHS. The current stresses and strains on this great institution is principally because of significant underfunding and unrealistic aims by a Tory government who are content for the NHS to disappear in privatisation oblivion. In the case of the NHS, immigration of Doctors and Nurses is vital for our service to survive at all because of insufficient training and education opportunities for our own school leavers. Labour is committed to supporting and developing the NHS into a better and more effective public service.
We should address these issues and not blame foreigners for our own failures
Finally we are being told that leaving the EU would enable us to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) give priority to our own courts. We could, but is it a good thing to do that and what difference would it make?
The European Court is based on the principles contained in the European Convention of Human Rights and this Convention was in existence before the EU or any of predecessor organisations existed. It was developed chiefly by British Lawyers after WW2 to ensure against any extremism developing across Europe and supressing peoples as had been seen during the rise of Fascism especially in the 1930’s.
As a developed nation we pride ourselves on fairness and justice and leaving the EU won’t change that.
Leaving the EU won’t change our commitment to the Convention and frankly we should worry for our own freedoms if we were not committed to supporting it.
In summary why leave the EU? Like most organisations some things work well. Some things don’t work so well. The way to ensure they work better is to REMAIN and seek change to remove bureaucracy and waste; to improve transparency and democracy; to improve security and develop communities – all things we would want to see in the UK government structures.
This can be done by working with like-minded people in other EU states and building alliances for positive change rather than trying to bully other nations. Labour MEP’s can play a big part in this process.
The UK in recent years has been lukewarm toward the institutions of the EU when in fact many countries want us to play a bigger part in the development of the EU and we look to provide leadership rather than walk away.
Labour is committed to a process of change without leaving the EU – it just makes sense!
VOTE “IN” TO REMAIN IN THE EU