Sunday, 15 May 2016

Vote Leave - A Critique

I have been searching for a decent article or argument with a compelling reason to exit the EU. After seeing a number of Vote Leave videos and articles, I have been struck by the poor quality of arguments put forward by the pro-exit campaigners. Looking at their key arguments, most seem to be inaccurate or misleading. Therefore, I decided to examine these arguments and below is my analysis of them.

Argument one: Being in the EU means we cannot negotiate any trade deals on our own, we are stuck with whatever deals unelected EU commissioners think is best: This claim is false. Inside the EU British MEPs are involved in decisions on trade deals. From a Pro-EU perspective, being part of a larger union means we are in a much stronger position to negotiate trade deals with other countries. This is due to us being part of a larger, therefore more powerful, group.

A version of the above argument aimed at Labour supporters like me is that being in the EU means we will be stuck with TTIP. This is used as an argument against the left as American companies will be able to bid on contracts to provide health care services in the UK – privatisation of the NHS being something that most left leaning thinkers disagree with. I wrote to my MEP’s and asked them to vote against TTIP for this very reason, I also have been tracking which MEP’s are for or against TTIP. Conservative MEP’s seem to overwhelmingly be in favour of TTIP which means that even if we leave the EU, it is likely a Conservative government in the future will sign us up to a similar trade deal. The difference is we will not be making this deal from a position of enhanced strength within the EU, we will do so on our own. To me this means that we are likely to end up with the same or a worse trade deal as TTIP regardless of whether we stay in the EU.

Argument two: The majority of our laws come from the EU. This claim has been notoriously difficult to fact-check but here is the best one I have found, ( Regardless of whether this is true, I understand peoples discomfort with the idea of politicians from other countries being involved in writing our laws. However, from what I have been able to see, many of these laws seem to be standards and regulations, and one of the reasons standards are merged across the EU is to make trade easier for us all. One set of standards means any UK manufacturing company can trade across the whole EU and not have to produce products to a whole range of standards depending on which country they want to supply to. This also means that companies wanting to trade with the EU need to produce products to a minimum standard. I have yet to find an example of a European law I am unhappy with, but I have not looked in any great detail so stand to be corrected on this.

Argument three: Being out the EU will save us £18 billion a year and mean we can stop immigration from the EU. I believe both of these are false claims, the first is definitely misleading at best thanks to negotiations on the EU by Thatcher (as a Labour man, crediting her with anything is a little painful!!!). From Factcheck I have the figure the UK paid into the EU last year: “In 2015 the UK government paid £13 billion to the EU budget, and EU spending on the UK was £4.5 billion. So the UK’s ‘net contribution’ was estimated at about £8.5 billion.

Each year the UK gets an instant discount on its contributions to the EU—the ‘rebate’—worth almost £5 billion last year. Without it the UK would have been liable for £18 billion in contributions.

Most commentators agree that the UK will want to remain a part of the single market, we do over 40% of our trade with EU countries tariff free as a result of being in the single market. In order to remain in the single market (if we exit the EU) we will have to pay in like other countries (ie Norway and Switzerland) so how much we may actually save is unclear. From the following article, the suggestion is that we would pay 94% of current costs, and we would have zero influence on the decisions made: ( True, 6% is not an insignificant amount of money, but that loss of influence is not insignificant either.

Immigration looked at in purely economic terms is a positive thing, however, many outers point to the strain on internal resources. I do not intend to have that specific argument here as this is covered elsewhere like here: ( - NOTE I have not read this in detail so this is not an endorsement, just pointing to research being available). Being part of the single market would mean having to sign up to the free travel across the EU as the following shows, “the EU has repeatedly made it clear that free movement of people is the price that must be paid for access to the single market.” (

Michael Gove has argued that we could exist out of the single market, and leaving would not automatically mean tariffs would be added to trade. This is true, however, tariffs could be added to trade. We cannot say for certain either way, and uncertainty is bad for business.

Final Thoughts: We do not have unelected Bureaucrats making decisions on our behalf. Our MEP’s are thoroughly involved in the decision making process – hence why I wrote to my MEP’s about the TTIP deal. Unfortunately people in the UK are generally apathetic to the EU and voter turnouts are low. This means that we get lumbered with UKIP MEP’s who do a shocking job ( Nigel Farage was on the Fisheries panel that we got such a poor deal from as he didn’t even turn up to most of the meetings ( Just as with local politics, we need people in position who are willing and able to do the job.

A claim levied at the In campaign is that those wanting us to remain in the EU are using uncertainty and doubt to spread fear. This is the one true claim that the Out campaign have made, but that is because there is uncertainty and doubt. The outers cannot tell us what being out of the EU will look like as they don’t know. The IMF, Bank of England, The US President, Frontier Economics and thousands of Independent Economists have all said that being in the EU makes us financially better off and leaving will make us worse off. I am yet to see a single independent study that has given any positive spin to the UK being out of the EU. The harsh truth is that uncertainty is bad for business which will have a negative impact on us all. The only question is how bad that impact will be and who will feel the most pain.