Stroma has not released an official in/out statement on the EU Referendum and that will remain our position ahead of tomorrow’s vote. Nevertheless, we have been asked for guidance or advice from members and staff about the key topics which have contributed to the debate. For those who may be undecided about which way to vote on 23 June, here are some statistics and facts to read.
The Financial Times has posted a graph showing the trend in GDP since Britain joined the EU in 1973. There is a noticeable upward trend line which demonstrates Britain’s performance compared to France, Germany and Italy. From a position of deficit Britain’s economy had grown over the course of its EU membership to become more prosperous than our European cousins by 2013.
It has been incredibly easy to spin the amount it costs to remain a member of the EU. The EU budget is roughly 1% of the GDP for member states, but it’s difficult to measure this accurately. It simply isn’t true to suggest that a £350 million standing order goes from London to Brussels each week. Likewise, using the benefits received back from the EU to equalise the figure isn’t helpful either. You will not find a true and accurate figure for EU membership cost because the calculation is too complicated with many ever-changing variables.
The EU was designed in part to make a powerful collective of European countries with the financial might to compete on a global scale. The membership fee is one aspect which defines our participation, but Treasury finances are intricate and leaving the EU does not necessarily mean that Whitehall coffers will swell to the tune of £350 million per week.
There are many different statistics about immigration. They are varied, wide-ranging and confusing. Strangely, though the issue of immigration has been debated on an emotive rather than a factual level. The belief is that people come to Britain because of opportunity and Europeans may do so easily because of free movement of labour.
However, the latest net migration figures demonstrate that there are more Non-EU persons migrating to the UK than EU persons (191,000 vs 172,000 - ONS). Britain is an attractive place to live and work, but it works both ways too. The BBC estimates that 5.5 million British citizens live permanently abroad. Those living in Spain, Portugal, France etc, can do so easily because Britain is an EU member state. That stops with a leave vote, but it will not prevent migration altogether. Britain will still be faced with non-sanctioned immigration, we will still look to support people in countries affected by war and disease. The world is a smaller, multicultural place and Britain is a multi-faceted society. There’s no turning back from that and truly, would we want to?
Border control and “reclaiming our borders” has been a rallying cry for many Leave campaigners without much evidence to back up what that means. In comparison to many EU countries, Britain is relatively secure. Geographically Britain is an island and so we stand apart from many passport-free zones within Europe. Visitors to Britain are required to show a passport on arrival before being admitted to the country. The Guardian reports that 6,000 EU nationals have been turned away since 2010 because of security concerns. As the article goes on to say, EU citizens may be able to travel freely to Britain, but the responsibility of controlling safe passage beyond an airport, rail or sea terminal remains in the hands of the UK border agency.
The EU is Britain’s single biggest trade partner. This is an indisputable fact with a figure of 50% commonly quoted. Remain argue that Britain benefits from EU trade deals, including an ongoing negotiation with the US to create the largest free trade zone in the world. Leave have suggested Britain could adopt a similar situation to Norway, a European Community state who trades with the single market without abiding by EU law. This is true but Norway does have to follow EU regulation during trade and they have no say on what those regulations look like.
Opinions on new trade deals are diverse. President Obama has stipulated that a new trade agreement with the UK would be a low priority. Of his potential White House successors Hillary Clinton advocates a strong Britain within a strong EU. Donald Trump has backed Brexit, although it is unclear whether a new UK trade deal or the wall to the Mexican border would be higher on his priority list as President.
The individuals supporting Brexit include Duncan Bannatyne, Theo Paphitis, James Dyson and 250 business leaders. Those who favour staying in the EU include Baroness Karren Brady, Sir Richard Branson, Lord Sugar and 1,280 business leaders.
The EU vote tomorrow is not an easy one. Politicians on both sides of the debate have likely made your decision more difficult. It is incredibly easy to make a public statement of fact without the evidence to back up your claims. Media reports, social media posts, radio and TV have drowned the debate beyond the point of clarity. Voting ‘In’ leaves the same EU in place with the same frustrations. It does, however, mean that Britain remains a key player in European debate and can influence its policies. Voting ‘Out’ will change things – some may be positive, others will undoubtedly be more damaging and uncertain.