After looking at some of the main arguments from those advocating the UK remain in the European Union, it’s time to turn attentions to those arguing for a “Brexit”.
Just a reminder that : Red means it’s a load of bollocks, orange means dubious, grey is neutral, light green means leaning towards correct with a few reservations and dark green means a sound argument.
EU membership costs the UK £350million a week (£18.2billion a year):
Verdict : The UK is a net-contributor to the EU’s budget, but the Leave campaign’s numbers have been exaggerated and it doesn’t apply to Wales. Once the UK’s rebate (£4.42bn) and EU spending in the UK (£4.6bn) are discounted, the UK’s net-contribution to the EU’s budget in 2014 (pdf) was £9.8bn (£188.5million a week). Some, more up to date, estimates put the figure even lower at £8.5billion. Also, as mentioned last time, Wales receives more back from the EU than we spend on it (between £180-245million). So Wales is actually better off by between £3.5-4.7million a week in the EU.
We can use the money saved from EU membership on other things. What Wales would lose in farm subsidies and structural funding would be made up by the UK Government. It’s our money anyway:
Verdict : True, but there’s no guarantee. The UK would still have to make some sort of financial contribution to the EU if it wanted to remain in the free trade area (EEA) – though that contribution could be significantly less than it is now. If some programmes were maintained post-Brexit, like farm subisides or regional structural funding, then the supposed £8.5-9.8billion left over wouldn’t go very far. It’s not even 20% of the UK’s annual defence budget and successive UK governments have hardly been enthusiastic about public spending.
Leaving the EU would make households £933 per year better off due to reduced regulations and removing the costs of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies. This would result in lower prices:
Verdict : Dubious. Many of these claims are hard to quantify in monetary terms, like those relating to scrapping certain regulations. It’s not as if every single EU regulation would disappear automatically, particularly if the UK wants to remain a member of the single market like Switzerland. The NFU suggests farming producer prices could rise by between 5-8% in the event of a Brexit – which would be good news for farmers, but bad news for consumers. There are certainly areas where consumers could, but not necessarily would, be better off under a Brexit – cutting VAT on energy prices has been mentioned (EU law determines what has VAT applied to it).
The EU is undemocratic:
Verdict : Maybe it’s true at the very top (EU Commission and Commission President) but elsewhere the argument doesn’t stand up. The European Parliament is fully-elected. The EU Council is made up of the democratically-elected heads of government of every EU member state, who in turn appoint members to the EU Commission. The Leave campaign has a point that national (even sub-national) parliaments should have a greater say in, or veto powers over, EU legislation – as a Welsh nationalist I would agree with that. It’s also one of the renegotiated membership conditions David Cameron got. Meanwhile, the UK has an unelected head of state, a second chamber with more than 800 unelected members and an electoral system where people can be elected with as little as 30% of the vote, so forgive me if I don’t see the UK or Wales as a bastion of democracy either.
The UK would be able to take back control its own borders as EU free movement rules would no longer apply, meaning the UK Government would be able to fully-control immigration and limit or reduce numbers of immigrants:
Verdict : Could go either way. If there are skill gaps, they’ll be filled regardless and probably by immigrants. So I doubt a Brexit would limit the migration of skilled and professional workers, and it won’t necessarily put off unskilled migrants or refugees either. In Switzerland and Norway – which still apply some of the EU’s free movement rules despite not being EU members and whilst have no say in those rules – the percentage of the population who are foreign is around 24.3% and 15.6% respectively. Switzerland is also one of the most attractive countries for migrants. There’s absolutely no guarantee immigration would fall as a result of a Brexit. There’s also been discussion on the Leave side about open-borders with Commonwealth nations – that’s hardly going to stem immigration.
Leaving the EU would give the UK sovereignty to make its own laws; you cannot be independent within the EU:
Verdict : The bit about sovereignty and law-making is partly true in some specific policy areas, but any suggestion the UK isn’t independent within the EU is utter nonsense. All EU member states are fully-independent nations with international recognition and membership of major international organisations like the UN. The only powers that have been ceded either partially or wholly to the EU are those which are (mainly) required to make the free trade area run smoothly. You can certainly argue it’s gone too far, but it’s been done for a reason and to ensure all the rules apply equally to everyone.
EU rules and regulations would no longer apply to the UK; up to 70-75% of all laws that currently go through the UK Parliament and devolved administrations come from the EU:
Verdict : False (unless the UK withdraws from both the EU and free trade area/EEA/single market). If you want the UK to remain part of the free trade area (EEA) without EU membership, then a big chunk of EU rules, directives and regulations would still apply – as they do in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. On the percentage of EU laws argument, they’re mainly regulations, not primary laws/Acts. Most estimates suggest around 15% of laws are influenced by the EU, while 53% of regulations are. So the true figure could be anything between 10-55% depending on the interpretation.
Leaving the EU would allow the UK to chart its own course and improve its standing and increase its influence in the world:
Verdict : In geopolitical terms, probably; in economic terms not so much. It’s the flip side of the Remain’s argument. In geopolitical terms, the UK would be able to chart its own course in a similar way it did prior to joining the EEC. But the Empire isn’t coming back any time soon and for economic and trade deals in particular, the UK is unlikely to carry the same clout it might have as part of the EU – but there’s no reason it wouldn’t be successful either.
The UK can arrange its own separate “special” free trade agreement with the EU:
Verdict : True….but it could take a long time. It would take at least 2 years for the UK to actually withdraw, but what happens afterwards could take longer. It would be relatively straightforward for the UK to join the EEA (probably as a member of the EFTA). However, if the UK wanted to negotiate a TTIP-style free-trade deal, the process could take the best part of a decade. An EU free trade deal with Canada, for example, has taken 10 years and still isn’t fully ratified yet. It’s possible the main powers in the EU (France, Germany, Italy, Spain) would want to impose harsh exit conditions on the UK – or at very least stall things as much as they possible can – to deter others from considering their own referendums.
The EU’s political aims (a “superstate”) are similar to the Roman Empire’s or Napoleon’s, they’re just trying to do it via different methods:
Verdict : Ridiculous. Even amongst the most pro-EU people the idea of a federal Europe is a fringe view. Short of fiscal union between eurozone members (which won’t apply to the UK), this is as politically integrated the EU is going to get. If anything, there’s more chance of powers being repatriated to member states in light of growing euroscepticism and debt problems in the eurozone than national leaders agreeing to further union. One thing Leave campaigners are getting right is playing to the lack of any loyalty to “Europe” – it’s very much a voluntary marriage of convenience between independent nation states.
The EU courts prevent the UK from deporting terror suspects and foreign criminals. Leaving the EU means the UK can stop violent criminals coming here and deport foreign terror suspects:
Verdict : The situation’s complicated, but the Leave campaign have a point. There are around 6,000 convicted EU national criminals in the UK, many living here after release from prison and – logically – it should be easier to deport them, but progress has been slow. The UK successfully deported terror suspect Abu Qatada after reaching an agreement with the Jordanian Government that the Jordanians would not use evidence gained through torture. The European Court of Justice certainly holds proceedings up – and that can be dangerous – but it’s not as if they block all deportations.
The UK will be forced to bail out the euro if it goes into another crisis :
Verdict : Neither true nor false. A deal was agreed in 2010 which was supposed to mean the UK – and other non-eurozone states – would not have to directly contribute towards any eurozone bail outs in future. This was followed up by another, legally-binding, agreement in 2015 in relation to Greece. However, the UK still contributes towards broader EU-wide emergency funding that can be accessed by non-eurozone countries too.