Immigration has been the elephant in the Bremain campaign office, so let’s deal with it first. Pro-EU arguments around migrants tend to fall into two camps. One side says newcomers are a rich source of culture that plugs into veins, adding more than they take out and propping up our public services. Otherwise immigration is an unavoidable price of signing up to the single market, a cost offset by the advantages earned there. But there is a third way to think about immigration in this referendum. EU immigrants have long stood in as a proxy for those (more than half of the total) immigrants coming from outside the Union. We need to acknowledge that EU migrants are only half the story. As Matthew Parris writes in The Spectator: ‘I’m afraid immigration as an issue is fundamentally about race, but we’ve made EU migration a stand-in for those resentments.’
Around 2.5million people are employed in the UK as a direct result of our EU trade, according to South Bank University and nearly another million indirectly because of that relationship. That’s one in 10 people in work in Britain. If we lost only one per cent of those jobs as a result of leaving, that would mean 30,000 people out of work. The Remain camp has estimated that unemployment could rise by 820,000. Working wages haven’t recovered since the 2008 crash and people cannot afford another hit to their wallets. Analysis by think-tank NIESR suggests that wages could drop between three and six per cent if we vote Leave.
3. Trade and business
Our membership of the EU means every business in the country – from your local corner shop to Tesco – has the right to trade in a market of 500million people across 28 countries. This market accounts for around 50% of the UK’s exports (whether it’s above or below half is argued). As prime minister David Cameron wrote, this means ‘no Spanish customs official saying: “You’ve exceeded your quota”, no French minister saying: “That product is banned”’. It is the biggest free market in the world. Why would we walk away from that? Not only does is this common market a cornerstone of our economy, being part of the EU cuts red tape for businesses. Common rules mean manufacturers don’t have to deal with 28 sets of national regulations. Multi-national firms from America and Asia build factories in Britain because of this. As a result the EU is a big-hitter, negotiating trade agreements around the world. The Union has the strength to take on multinational giants like Microsoft and Samsung for unfair competition. The UK would not be able to do this alone. As BT chairman Sir Mike Rake said, there are ‘no credible alternatives’ to staying in the EU.
4. The economy
The Remain campaign has been accused of scaremongering, issuing dire warnings about the economy in the wake of Brexit, but there is truth in the warnings. Work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb cautioned that a ‘reckless’ vote Out would trigger an economic shock comparable too the 2008 banking crash. The treasury has predicted that the GDP will fall six per cent and house prices will drop by 18 per cent in the wake of an Out vote, while a family’s shopping bill will jump £220 a year. The UK’s economy is still too fragile after the 2007 recession to cope with a stock market crash in the period of uncertainty following Brexit.
5. Red tape
We could hold a bonfire of EU regulations after Brexit, jump over the flames and have a bacchanalian orgy, and the next day we would have to write them anew. Workplace fatalities in the UK have reduced by half since European safety directives were introduced in 1996. Similarly the running man fire exit sign is now standard across Europe, meaning you will know where to go whether you’re in a doctor’s waiting room in Surrey or a ski resort in Italy. Standardised red tape is there for a reason, and has become a proxy for our distrust of ‘faceless bureaucrats’ telling us what to do. Brussels is our current punch-bag, leaving the EU would just transfer that ire to London.
Equal pay for men and women is enshrined in EU law, as are at least 20 days paid leave and the rights of expectant mothers to sufficient maternity leave. That’s progressive EU legislation, as are the bans on discrimination over age, race or sexual orientation, paid time off to look after a child who is ill and protections for part-time workers. EU workers have rights if their firm is sold, guaranteed breaks and the right to time off for medical appointments when pregnant. Workers have these benefits in Britain and British people who live in other EU countries get them at work there too. But prominent Tory Brexiter, employment minister Priti Patel, has called them a burden and Boris Johnson has called failures to change ‘all that social chapter stuff’ very ‘disappointing. Would you trust your right to a lunch hour to Brexit campaigners who call it ‘red tape’?
Europe was at war for hundreds of years. It took victory in 1945 following the death of over 60million people in WWII for the continent to find peace – the longest continuous period of peace in Europe in history. One of the main reasons for this is that now our economies are intertwined, you don’t go to war with people you trade with. In sharing intelligence, policing each other’s borders and establishing the European Arrest Warrant (replacing long extradition procedures) cooperation is making us all stronger. What incentive would France have to stop problems landing on our shores if they have no interest in protecting them?
The average family holiday could be £230 more expensive if we leave the EU, David Cameron has warned, while Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said: ‘Air fares and the cost of holidays will rise: that’s not speculation, that’s a fact.’ Across Europe we enjoy lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled thanks to EU negotiation. Your driving licence is valid in every country too. This wouldn’t happen if Britain was on its own.
9. Work and play
While holiday benefits are a nice bonus of membership, if you live and work in the EU they are a lifeline. 1.2million British people live on the continent, while 14,500 UK students travelled for the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange scheme in 2012-13. The benefits are seen in British universities too. The UK is the second largest beneficiary of EU research funding, and, with higher education cuts, the government expects that funding to constitute a vital source of income for our universities.
10. A once in a lifetime opportunity…
…except I don’t think it is. It suits both sides to make us think this referendum is a one-off event, but that’s just not true. While we clearly can’t run a referendum every couple of years, there’s no reason that we can’t wait and see. The world is changing and the EU is changing with it. There are arguments that, outside the euro, the EU could end up costing more money than it is worth to us in the future – but we’re not there yet. Voting Remain is like having a two-way bet. Staying In is the pragmatic choice, it’s safe, sensible and secure. And if we don’t like where the EU is going in 10 or 20 years, there’s no reason we can’t have this debate again.