In this feature piece three Young Perspective editors – Naina Bhardwaj, Noah Brown and Gareth Luke – all give their opinions on the EU referendum debate and what they believe would be best to vote on June 23rd.
Firstly, Naina Bhardwaj argues regarding the pointless of the whole debate and how disappointing it has been as a whole. Secondly, Noah Brown gives his view on why voting to leave the EU would be beneficial to the country’s economy and culture. Lastly, Gareth Luke rounds things up by explaining the issue of immigration why we should remain in the EU.
Pointless Question, Boring Debate
“In my reporting life I cannot remember a worse-tempered or more abusive, more boring UK campaign than that which is under way right now” – wrote Jon Snow in the Radio Times and I could not agree more.
With a little over a week left to the date of the EU Referendum, I’ve found myself unable to engage in the debate in the way as I had in the Scottish Independence Referendum. For example, I find myself avoiding any of the ‘Brexit Headlines’ of ever-changing figures on the costs of being a part of the EU; or the number of immigrants who come to Britain as a result of the open border policies which plague the daily newspapers on my morning commute; or the half hearted campaign carried out by the Prime Minister in recent days.
The major concern of the referendum being held now seems to be to do with immigration in light of the recent refugee crisis however many policymakers privately regard this issue as economically insignificant. At the moment, we seem unsure of the European Union which we are choosing to leave or remain in. So arguing about third order issues is not a sensible way to determine the country’s political and economic future.
Granted, it has been 40 years since the last referendum on the EU in which Britain voted yes to joining what was then known as the European Economic Community and Europe has changed in the intervening years but the timing still seems off.
It is likely that over the next few years, the EU and the relationship between the Eurozone and other member states, in particular, will change profoundly. Surely when we have a sense of what this is going to look like it would be a much more appropriate time for a referendum.
Other countries in the EU seem bemused at the concept of this referendum. Considering the vast majority have domestic issues other than aspects of the wider migration issue they understand that this is a serious political issue – not one to be addressed through a form of negotiation. Other policymakers within the EU are said to be unable to comprehend precisely what the UK is worried about and what they hope to achieve in lieu of this. Many also worry that the referendum debate weakens rather than strengthens their hand.
“Voters in the EU referendum are following their hearts rather than their heads” – said Ben Page the chief executive of Ipsos Mori with the proportion of undecided voters increasing in Ipsos Mori’s longitudinal surveys.
“This is not about numbers; this is not even about facts; this is about emotion – and the details of the exact amounts of money that are paid to the European Union or gotten back, the actual numbers of immigrants that might or might not arrive if we stayed or left, a lot of this is just confusing voters” he added.
If both the government and the opposition are against a Brexit, then why is such a referendum even being held?
Brexit: A case of national sovereignty
Voting to leave the European Union would guarantee us one thing: the ability to regain control over our country’s trajectory. The UK is in serious need of rejuvenation of its heavy industry and primary industries and the recent steel industry collapse in this country has shown us how the EU has a dire effect on the country’s ability to manage this and prevent it. Britain needs to stand apart from the common market which, as it stands, is weak but it also needs to stand apart from the restrictions placed on it with regards to establishing independent trade relations with its former colonies and other global markets. This all would go towards boosting the economy. It has been shown that if the sliding of the pound is indeed inevitable that it is not an entirely negative prospect.
Immigration is also one of the key arguments at play across the whole of the campaign. Net immigration has increased in the last five years even while net emigration has done so also and the UK is fast running out of space to feed and house all of our people and the children that they will potentially have. We also have the current refugee crisis which poses its own sets of problems with regards to the EU freedom of movement. Once the refugees have entered the EU it is incredibly hard to prevent them from going where they want and the issues that two completely different cultures meeting witness do not go untold.
However, this is not to say that the crisis in the Middle East should be ignored and innocent refugees refused asylum – it requires better management and integration policies. The only way we can guarantee that we can manage it well is to ensure we do not have two competing immigration systems, as we do by being in the EU, instead we should have only the one – based upon need and merit.
The risks of leaving the EU are not undocumented – we are taking risk if we choose to do so. However, this is the same risk that I was willing to take when I voted in favour of Scottish Independence because I believed that the preservation of culture and autonomy was a far greater reward than simple economics. Exposing the UK to both economic independence and economic uncertainty would hopefully be the impetus for the necessary steps to be taken in this country to widen our economic base.
The culture of the UK is inherently different from that of mainland Europe and as such should be preserved apart from it. This does not mean that we should have no connection to mainland Europe and its culture but that we should be free to protect our own way of life. Indeed, the tying of European culture to the fate of the European Union has in its own way spelt disaster for the culture of the European mainland. In this country we risk doing the same, even while there are some who do, and by tying our culture to the fate of the EU and its politically correct agenda we run the risk of losing what defines us as a people. The values of this country have been fought over and as we speak the very people of this country are neglecting them.
Truly, we cannot allow the political elite to put this country at risk any longer by exposing us to unchecked immigration and economic uncertainty within a trading bloc but we cannot leave the innocent hard working migrant to bear the brunt of the frustrations of the native populace. By choosing to leave the EU we can once again seek to hold our politicians to account and protect our culture from the globalised consumerist culture foisted upon us by EU market Capitalism.
Immigration, miscinceptions, and the benefits of the EU
The question of immigration is one of the most important issues to voters and is particularly salient with Brexit supporters. There is a fear that immigration, which amounted to a net inflow of 330,000 in 2015, has become out of hand and is taking jobs away from British people. Yet, this argument forgets the fundamental fact that this inflow means that more people are spending their money in Britain. In turn, this generates growth for the economy as economic activity increases, which creates more jobs. In this regard, the dichotomy surrounding immigration and unemployment is proved false: rather than leading to greater unemployment, immigration allows for more jobs to be created. This is proved by the fact that, despite record levels of immigration into the UK in recent years, employment remains at a record high of 74.2%.
Herein lies the answer to the economic question of immigration: if immigration is causing growth, then it is helping the British economy in its current phase of economic recovery. The UK economy has been relatively shaky as of late as it rebuilds from the recession of 2008. It was not too long ago – the 2nd quarter of 2015, if I recall correctly – that the economy was experiencing negative CPI inflation, a sure sign of an economy in desperate need of growth. Hence, immigration is required if for nothing else than for its capacity to facilitate growth in the nation, where current CPI targets still fall below the targeted 0.5% per quarter which are set by the Bank of England.
The argument against immigration has also contended that immigration puts a strain on public services. Although an increasing population does indeed require more of all public services, the foil of the NHS reveals that immigrants often provide more than British nationals do to our public services. Statistics produced by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that a whopping 26% of all doctors and 11% of all NHS staff as a whole are non-British. Numbers of this scale reveal that the question of immigrants and public services is a two-way street: they may require these services, but they contribute far beyond necessity to these vital facets of public life.
Regarding the question of immigration, I believe it should be noted that there are misconceptions surrounding the utility of the practice. Firstly, I have addressed the notion that immigration spurs economic activity by placing more people in an economy, and hence meaning more money is being spent on that economy. Then, I have suggested that immigration’s capacity to facilitate growth is vital given the relatively weak economic growth which is being experienced by the UK in the status quo. Lastly, I have attempted to tackle the misconception that immigrants place strain on our public services noting that, in the example of the NHS, they provide more utility than they require.
Thus the only way we guarantee the continuation of the benefits we receive as a result of EU migrants is to choose to Remain.
Image credit: flickr.com/ykoutsomitis