So it begins. And continues. And continues. And on. And on. Over a hundred days of debates and rows have already started, with many more to come in the coming weeks and months. I would imagine that already, a lot of the public are already sick to death of the EU debate. But it’s easily one of the most important votes we have ever had, and time should be taken to think about what the implications are for all of us moving forward.
The BBC’s show Question Time has shown already the public demanding two contradictory things: they wish the fear-mongering (on both sides) would end, so they could just get “the facts”. But on the other hand, the “facts” are too dry and boring, and they want to be talked to in plain English.
I personally think you can only chose one of those things. You either want the facts – as best as they can be presented – or you want to be told opinions on general terms.
But either way, (and I’m putting this here for my reference as much as anything), here’s how things look as I see it right now:
- 3 million UK jobs depend on our trade with the EU. But that’s trade with the EU that those jobs depend on, not membership. There’s probably tens of thousands of jobs in the UK that depend on our trade with Hong Kong. No one is suggesting we form a union with them. Besides which, the other 27 member-states have some 6.5 million jobs between them that depend on trade with the U.K. Will they put that at risk? Which leads me to…
For every £3 worth of goods and services we trade to the EU, we buy £5 worth of goods and services from the other 27 member-states. If talk of a trade deficit is too “wonkish” for you, how about thinking about it like this: we’re basically the customer. Will the EU want a tariff-free trade deal with one of its biggest customers upon us leaving the current arrangement? Will it help Angela Merkel politically if she makes it harder for BMW and Mercedes to sell cars to us? Will Francois Hollande look good to the French people of he ignited a trade war stopping French cheese and wine making its way to British supermarkets?
We aren’t voting on whether or not we leave Europe. Come June 24th, the tectonic plates won’t suddenly shift and push the UK out into the mid Atlantic somewhere. We’re voting on whether or not to leave the political union known as the EU. Including places like the Channel Islands, there’s 47 countries that can be described in some way as being in “Europe”. Two of them (Russia and Belarus) have no free trade agreement with the EU, choosing instead to form a pan-Asian trade block. The other 45, are part of the free trade area in some form or another (EFTA, the EEA, or members of the EU). There’s three layers to the European cake: 45 countries, of which 28 are members of the EU, or which 19 are members of the Eurozone. So 17 countries/states are in the outer layer (free trade and not part of the political union), 9 are in the middle layer (free trade AND political union) and the remaining 19 are in the inner-layer (free trade, political union and a single currency). The choice is not so much “leave” or “remain”, as it is “move to the outer layer” or “stay in the middle layer”. By and large, the inner layer does worse per capita than the middle layer, and the middle layer does generally worse per capita than the outer layer. Whether in the outer layer you think we’d also be strong enough like, say, Switzerland (as we have the 5th largest economy- set to take over Germany as the 4th in 2030 and Japan as the 3rd in 2045, with currently the 4th largest army, a head figure at NATO, the UN, WTO, whose language is the most widely spoken in the world, whose trading maritime and philosophical links exported around the world are one of the fundamental reasons for the decline in world poverty), is up to you.
There is no vote on offer for the status quo. Voting leave will mean we walk away from the union we’ve been part of since the early 1970s. But voting remain will be a vote to be part of a changing EU, which contains both David Cameron’s new reforms, but also changes that confirm the middle layer can’t impede the changes of the inner layer, which means that one way or another change is coming. The question is, what change do you want?
As I see it, those are the facts as they stand, stated as simply as possible. There’s benefits and costs to either decision. The real question we each have to consider, is which solution provides the best future for us?