Better Off Out Or In? With the 2017 Referendum Looming The Gryphon asks: Should Britain leave the EU?
The argument to leave the European Union is often lumped in with UKIP’s policies but, if you look beyond their xenophobic nonsense, then there are actually very compelling reasons to desire a Brexit. The EU was created to give European nations a greater voice on an ever increasing world stage, to promote trade between member states, and to create a standardised political, economic, and social system for all members to operate in. This seemed like a good idea, with Russia, America, and more recently China dominating the world stage. Now however, the EU has become like a prison, and the UK finds itself trapped in its corrupt and incompetent claws.
Take the way Greece were treated (#thisisacoup). After being crippled by austerity measures, they voted in an anti-austerity party, and then voted against another bailout from the corrupt European Central Bank. This decision was overridden by Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister. The draconian demands given to Greece, including 50bn Euros worth of public Greek assets were handed over to private German companies, clearly this is anything but a fair system. The EU has always existed like this, the bigger nations bullying the smaller ones. In the 1990’s Germany and France persistently breached the rules set in the Stability and Growth pact however, neither received any fines due to political pressure.
Why should the UK play a part in this? The EU creates a lot of trade the UK, but what good is trade when all the money is being made by big businesses. The free trade agreement is perfect for tax avoiding, multinational corporations like Uber, who can easily start up in the UK and undercut British taxi firms, driving them out of business. Over fishing is another serious issue, as big European fishing companies can fish in British waters, meaning local fishermen lose out. Instead of having a common agricultural policy for millions of farmers, we could allow British farmers to have their own policy for their own farm.
The argument about a loss of trade if we left is incorrect, as we would be able to trade much more freely with non-EU countries than is currently possible under the common external tariff. In the 1970’s trade in Europe amounted to 36% of world GDP, but by 2020 this will fall to just 15%. Emerging markets such as Brazil and India give much better opportunities to trade. Norway, a country who never joined the EU have a surplus of half a trillion dollars. That doesn’t sound like a country struggling to be competitive in a global market.
The need to be a powerful voice in the world is a ridiculous arrogance derived from our hideous colonial past. The EU is a desperate attempt to try and make Europe world leaders again. In the coming years we will have a golden opportunity to start afresh and leave this stagnant union, and this is surely an opportunity to big to be missed.
Since Ted Heath shakily ushered the UK into the EEC in 1973, the country’s position as a truly ‘European’ nation has remained an uncomfortable one. Whilst today British cultural identity has somewhat moulded to the European image doubt prevails, and once again will be afforded forum in the upcoming 2017 referendum.
Back in May, Nigel Farage and his merry band of pseudo-patriots achieved a landmark 3.8 million votes in the General Election. Hence the advocates for Brexit are many, made so by Farage’s capitalisation on an already confused national image and furthered by general suspicions surrounding foreign control of domestic issues. The prevalent attitude appears at all points to be that the EU cannot be reformed and that exit is the only reasonable option. The presentation of Brexit as the only path to harnessing the national potential begs a wider catalogue of questions as to the overall feasibility of divorce from the EU.
The EU affords Britain the power of influence which advocates of Brexit seek to gain in leaving. Retreating from the EU would forfeit this seat, potentially ridding Britain of the powerful political identity it has enjoyed for centuries. Ignoring the clear economic and cultural benefits of the EU, it at minimum provides a platform with which we can maintain a voice in an ever-changing world. It is in the all-too-recent past which we have seen the eruption of the Arab Spring, the advent of ISIS, and the Russian annexation of the Crimea; these events provide evidence enough for the need of a united European continent, with a clear British voice at its head. As such, to discard the idea of the EU is to discredit in all capacities the value of the UK’s involvement in foreign affairs.
In addition, a short glance back to 2014 and the Scottish Independence referendum is enough to understand that ostensibly sound economic reasoning can be pathetically misguided. Alex Salmond claimed Scotland’s oil wealth as a key asset in the nation’s independent future – oil prices crashed. Markets cannot be trusted to continue growing or to remain stable in the event of Brexit, nor will the continent look favourably upon a litany of new trade deals. With the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney establishing last week the overwhelming economic benefits of membership to the EU, the strident calls to scrap this decompose into the weak and wishful thinking they are. Those who favour divorce forget how long patriotism withstands empty tables and emptier stomachs.
The most overt patriot is the most basic. To truly love this country is to understand its potential but to accept its constraints. We must therefore be clever and shrewd; striving to reform the EU as a trading bloc and as a political body, shaping it to resemble a union that we can all be proud of and which can represent us all in equal measure. Only then through honest, pragmatic, discourse, will we achieve a union and a Europe of unparalleled economic, political, and cultural success.
Image sources: ‘Adjacent Government’ & ‘Business Insider’