EU Membership

As ever, I am very interested to hear your views, this time on the hugely important question of our membership of the EU. 

For a full draft of the agreement and summaries and commentary by the BBC and Sky, please follow the links below:……

My own summary of the agreement David Cameron has concluded with the EU Council (comprising the heads of state or governments of the 28 EU member states) contains the following provisions:

  • Measures to stem flows of migrants and prevents choice of countries to asylum seekers
  • Calls for cessation of civilian bombardment by Syrian govt. allies
  • Level playing field for countries outside Eurozone
  • Lowering admin and compliance for business, especially SMEs
  • Excludes UK and others from political integration  (ever closer union)
  • Red card for new legislation (requires 55% majority of member states)
  • Right to define and set conditions for access to welfare
  • Excludes access to Jobseeker's Allowance for new EU migrants
  • Prevents immigration through marriages of convenience and those with criminal records or threat to national security
  • Index child benefit to country of residence of the dependent
  • Restrict full access to in-work benefits for 4 years

 Sovereignty and protection for countries outside the Eurozone will be treaty changes when next redrafted, welfare changes will be implemented through secondary legislation. The agreement will be agreed as a legally binding treaty deposited at the United Nations that would only be reversible if all 28 countries, including Britain, agreed to repeal it. Of course, I would like to have seen more reforms, particularly with regard to greater controls over migration. I am, however, heartened by comments from the Prime Minister that “the task of reforming Europe does not end with today’s agreement" 

My personal position is that this is a very difficult decision but, whatever the public decides on June 23rd, life will go on and we will make the very best of the result. I have no doubt that our economy will be successful in the medium to longer term. However, my concern has always been that a decision to leave would create significant uncertainty in the short term and may well lead to a recession. Business organisations representing small and large organisations are in favour of remaining, including the CBI (71% of members), IoD (60%), EEF Manufacturers Federation (80%) and the Federation of Small Business (54% of those expressing a preference). Business investment, a crucial factor in our eventual recovery from the 2008/13 recession, is almost certain to be curtailed. As in all recessions, those suffering the greatest impact would be everyday people affected by job losses, consequent difficulties with mortgage/rent payments and business failures for SMEs. 

Both sides of the argument have stated that Brexit may cause a break down of the entire EU project and may also probably provide another opportunity for Sturgeon and Salmond in their declared aim for a second independence referendum, and therefore, raise the possibility of a break up of the Union. 

Would this be good for the UK, Europe and the rest of the world? Personally I think not. Due to the disparate collection of groups which make up the Leave campaign, it is impossible to get answers to some pretty key questions:

  • What would the post-Brexit deal with the EU look like? 
  • Would a future agreement exclude us from the obligation to free movement of people? (Norway and Switzerland, who are outside the EU but part of the European Free Trade Area, have had to accept this)
  • Who would lead the negotiations and what political mandate would they have to agree a deal? 
  • What would our financial contribution to the EU need to be? (Norway currently contributes more per head to the EU than the UK)
  • What would happen to the 2m EU citizens who live in the UK and the 1.3m UK citizens who live in other EU member states? 
  • Would our departure, and the almost inevitable collapse of the EU, make us and the wider world more or less safe? 

And those are just the known unknowns. Sorry to be so negative, but our economy is strong and we are just recovering from the deepest recession since the great depression. I think it is the responsibility of the ‘Leave' campaign to answer these questions and more. Personally, I intend to vote to remain and to push for continued reform.