Why We Should Remain In Europe: The Impact Of Voting To Leave
I am presenting the case for remaining in the EU at a panel debate at Brighton Dome this afternoon.
My fellow panellists Peter Kyle MP, Councillor Steve Bell, Stephen Grant and Frank le Duc, and I will debate the impact of Brexit with students from City College Brighton & Hove.
According to Richard Branson, founder of everything Virgin, Brexit would be “the worst decision the British public ever made…We’ve got a great market, let’s make the best of it.”
Brexiteers claim that we can get a better deal trading with other countries on our own, but regardless of whether we remain in or out, we will want to continue trading with Europe.
Pro-brexit campaigners make comparisons with the Swiss economy – to trade with Europe, Switzerland has approximately 120 bilateral agreements in place. Recently, they were forced to accept “package deals”, requiring Swiss businesses to comply with EU law in order to market their products and services in the EU. Access to EU markets can easily be restricted and negotiations often stall with Switzerland being put under pressure to accept EU terms.
Our business relationship with the US will also be affected by an exit from the EU. President Obama made it clear that America wants to trade with Europe not just the UK. In a post-Brexit world many US companies would be likely close UK offices to relocate to cities within the European Union.
In order to trade with the EU, Switzerland had to accept free movement of people. In fact, Switzerland has the second highest population of immigrants in Europe, with 26.4% of the Swiss working population coming from other countries compared with 10.3% in the UK.
The Sun’s support for Brexit has added to the huge amount of disinformation surrounding the Brexit debate, much of which is focused on immigration. The negative attitude of the Brexit campaign towards immigrants ignores the importance role they play in our public services, especially health and social care. The NHS has recruited 8,000 nurses from overseas in the last five years, mainly from Spain, Portugal and Italy, to fill the UK’s skills gap and help keep our NHS running.
The NHS has become a key battle ground in the EU debate. Last week, Tory MP and former GP, Sarah Wollaston defected from Vote Leave saying that the Brexit pledge of £350 million a week for the NHS post-Brexit, is false. Such promises ignore Britain’s EU rebate and the Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that leaving would result in less not more money, per head, being available to spend on the NHS by 2020.
It is likely that little would change for existing UK law as the Human Rights Act is embedded human rights in domestic legislation. UK Courts would continue to be influenced by the decisions made in the European Court of Human Rights as most EU human rights law has been transposed into UK law.
Cross-party agreement on family friendly legislation such as Shared Parental Leave means that protective equality laws or new rights are unlikely to be instantly swept away by a Brexit.
The Conservative-led coalition government unsuccessfully tried to “tinker” with employment law to curb employee rights. Attempts to introduce “protective conversations” for all claims failed as they contravened equality laws. Brexit could lead to further attempts to further dilute laws that protect employees but this would also lead to uncertainty for employers and provoke industrial unrest.
It is likely that until we have decided which countries we are going to trade with, there will be very little change to current UK law. International trading agreements will require compliance with domestic legislation, such as data protection, to protect the customer, in the same way the EU has demanded compliance.
On 13 June, The Sun claimed “To remain means being powerless to cut mass immigration which keeps wages low and puts catastrophic pressure on our schools, hospitals, roads and housing stock”. Such propaganda ignores the benefits of immigration, especially to public services, and feeds into xenophobic ideology fuelling racial unrest.
While some aspects of the EU are not ideal, we can and should work from within to make improvements, particularly with regards to accountability and transparency of EU law-making.
Remaining in the EU will ensure economic certainty and stability and continuity of the trading agreements so vital to UK business.
No one can really say what the economic consequences of leaving will be. But what is clear is that leaving will not resolve perceived or real immigration issues or result in UK sovereignty.