In many ways the world is shrinking – culturally, economically...
The EU Referendum Bill is now in Committee for detailed scrutiny. Tuesday’s debate saw 27 Conservatives rebel but the Government won the divisions with Labour backing. In my last blog I summarised the case for quitting so here I will try to put the other side of the debate without expressing my opinions.
Business backs remaining in the EU. A CBI survey in 2013 recorded 78% in favour and only 10% against. Access to a market of 500 million without tariff barriers is the reason. 75% thought leaving would damage UK business and lead to major job losses. The Business Department estimates that 3.5 million British jobs are linked directly or indirectly to our trade with other EU members. Fear was expressed that multi-national companies would move to mainland Europe to avoid EU tariffs, losing many British jobs. Suggestions that we could still trade with EU countries as Switzerland and Norway do was questioned because it would be on terms set by the EU over which we would have no say. A major victim would be the UK financial sector which constitutes 10% of our economy. Its success has been built on EU Internal Market legislation and its German and French competitors would love to diminish its influence and profitability.
Advocates of staying in the EU point to the personal benefits of doing so. These include the freedom to travel, live, work, study and retire anywhere in the EU. 1.6 million Britons live in mainland EU and after doing so for five years have the same rights as that country’s citizens. Advocates also recognise the need for cooperation on policies about North Sea fishing, crime, drug smuggling and terrorism. Trade Unions value the social protection the EU gives workers on working time, temporary work and parental leave, though the British Parliament could legislate to achieve the same protection. More serious is the need to collaborate with our European neighbours to care for the environment and reduce climate change.
Campaigners for staying in the EU argue that withdrawal makes no sense in an increasingly global context. Historically Britain had a global role and influence way beyond its size but that is no longer true. China, India and Brazil are emerging to challenge the dominant role of the USA and on its own Britain’s influence would be negligible. The UK has less than 1% of the world’s population. Our economy measured in terms of Gross Domestic product is only 3% of the world GDP whereas that of the EU is 20%. Those who want us to quit talk about restoring the ‘Great’ to Britain but their opponents say that will not happen if we stand alone. Some of them even suggest that we could lose our seat on the UN’s Security Council. They conclude there are no good alternatives to membership so we should stay.
The referendum will enable us all to have our say. A lot hangs on the outcome so thinking through how we vote is crucial and prayer is an essential part of that.