The issue above, of course, refers to the British referendum on the 23rd of June which poses the question, should Britain leave or remain in the European Union? With less than a month to go, what have politicians around Britain been saying concerning either sides of the debate? Well firstly, I believe communication as a whole is a huge issue for British politicians. Communicating with the public and especially with the youth is becoming an increasing concern. The stereotypical behaviours of a politician i.e. dodging questions, spouting rough (normally inaccurate) figures, refusing to admit that there are advantages and disadvantages on either side of a debate are becoming highly unappealing to large segments of the electorate. All of these characteristics are present in both the leave and the remain campaigns. As pointed out on the BBC ‘EU debate- How should I vote?’ politicians are failing to perform their primary function, this being to accurately inform the public on the consequences of certain issues, and how such issues will effect them as individual members of their constituencies.
Concerning arguments on either side of the debate, it is important to note that most of the arguments are speculation. What will happen when we leave the EU is uncertain, as David Cameron has already pointed out. The arguments in favour of leaving the EU are not guaranteed to materialise. However, despite saying this, I believe the EU referendum debate can be split into three segments (similar to another BBC debate cornering the same issue hosted by BBC’s Political Editor-Nick Robinson). These segments consist of immigration, trade and sovereignty. Throughout this piece I aim to keep the figures to a minimum. This is because, as we have seen recently in the News, a lot of figures used by either side of the debate are exaggerated or simply inaccurate. Therefore, instead, I aim to provide points and arguments which are easy to understand and are perhaps more appealing, when compared to simply stating numerous figures which may be an exaggeration on the term ‘estimates’. Furthermore, not all of the arguments for and against will be covered in this piece; therefore, I urge you to state those arguments which are not mentioned in the comments below.
Firstly, concerning immigration, as Nigel Farage (the current leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party) tiresomely stressed, staying in the EU means Britain is subject to large numbers of immigration from numerous EU states. The exact figure is roughly around 330,000 a year according to ‘Migration Watch’. Not all of these migrants are, of course, from the EU; however, around half are presumed to be. If migration to such a large extent continues within this country our public services and hence the British people’s general quality of life will suffer as a consequence. Such large numbers are simply unsustainable. Public services such as the National Health Service, housing, schooling and many others will become over demanded, causing longer waiting hours in A & E and overcrowding in hospitals as a whole. Furthermore, the demand for council housing will of course rise, many of the current UK born citizens are still waiting for more convenient housing. This is due to the existence of family members who may have disabilities and hence need specific council houses which simply cannot be provided with current demand, which is, of course, increasing. Lastly, concerning schooling, many families who come to the UK do not speak English. This is not an issue unless such families bring small children who also do not speak English. This creates a problem for schools, or more specifically teachers who will inevitably find it extremely difficult to give such children a decent education. The number of schools in relation to the number of children living in the UK is also becoming an increasingly pressing issue. Therefore, if we were to leave the European Union it is argued that as a result we would have more control over our borders. i.e. we would not be subject to letting everyone from the EU who wishes to come to the UK and live do so. Instead, again, it is presumed, that the numbers of migrants coming to this country will decrease if we were to leave the EU. Hence, causing less demand for our public services and resources, which are, of course, limited. This is the most basic law of Economics. There are a scarce amount of resources, therefore we as a nation must allocate them in the most effective way, in this case, prioritising those whom are labelled as British citizens. I do believe something needs to be done concerning immigration in this country and perhaps leaving the EU is the best action towards solving such an issue.
Immigration is clearly an important problem for the British public. This was shown by the numerous polls taken throughout the general election last May and, of course, by the success (in regards to the number of votes) for UKIP. The main identity of such a party was to leave the EU and hence allow Britain to ‘take control of its boarders’. And with this message UKIP managed to gather a respectable 4 million votes, coming second in 150 constituencies (however, only winning one). However, this increasing support for nationalism and the continuing use of ‘scarce tactics’ used by the leave campaign stating the negatives of immigrations and quite frankly immigrates as whole is creating a divide within the nation. Not so much with the youth; however, will other age groups, such negative campaigning is leading to hatred for all forms of immigrates which is not at all beneficial not this country. If Britain was to stay in the EU, I believe the support for UKIP and other nationalist partys’ will increase. Britain will not be able to control it’s boarders, more EU immigrates will settle, the issues which made UKIP so popular will become increasing problematic and as a result hatred towards migrants will form. The ‘they take our jobs’ attitude will inevitably spread throughout the nation. This not good for the general culture of the country, and from an economic perspective will decrease tourism, making Britain a less appealing place as a whole.
In regards to the other side of the debate, immigration is beneficial in a number of ways. Firstly, it can be argued that the NHS would not be able function without EU migrants and the roles in which they play in such a service, may this be as doctors or nurses. If your son frequently has to go to A & E the truth is he will often be treated by foreign doctors. Though the waiting times may be increased due to the presence of more immigrants seeking health care, without such doctors no care could be provided at all. Migrants are a large part of the reason why we all, including British citizens, receive healthcare. Furthermore, in terms of other industries, such as within the hospitality industry, or more specifically within hotels, most of the workers are again EU migrants. Many argue, without migrants Britain simply wouldn’t be able to function. So, why do we state that migrants coming to this country is always a bad a thing? Of course it is not always a bad thing; however as noted above, one is able to reply by stating the extent and sheer numbers in which they are coming to our country needs to be controlled. Furthermore, one is able to argue that the doctors and other such workers which effectively run of NHS can be recruited from other countries outside the EU. Therefore, controlling EU immigrants may not effect the NHS quite as much as one would expect, if doctors are brought in from say India, China or the US.
Secondly, concerning the economy or more specifically trade with numerous countries, overall, perhaps it is more beneficial if we stay in the EU. This is due to the free trade agreement which exists throughout all EU states, as well as our trade position with America. Barack Obama stated, late last month, that Britain would be at the back of a long line of countries looking to make trade agreements with the United States. Therefore, implying a trade agreement would take a long time to materialise and hence work as a huge negative if we were to leave the EU. Hilary Clinton, the current favourite to become the next President of the United States, was in agreement with Mr Obama’s comments. Donald Trump, on the other hand, the Republican nominee, whom many argue has just as much chance of securing the Oval office as his rival, Hilary Clinton, claims that Britain and the US will not lose this ‘special relationship’ if it was to leave the EU. He, in fact, claimed that Britain and the United States would have a better relationship than ever. Furthermore, if Britain was to leave the EU, it would of course have two years to construct and implement trade agreements with other countries before its current free trade agreement can be denounced and discarded, this being a huge argument in favour of leaving the EU.
Concerning the economy and the economic relationship between Britain leaving the EU and staying in the EU, the NHS is ‘free at the point of use’; however, in effect it is funded through taxation, both from indirect taxation (taxes levied on goods and services) and direct taxation (taxes on the income of people and providers). As George Osborne stated in his economic forecast if Britain was to leave the EU, such an exit ‘will cause a year-long recession’, with increased interest rates, rises in inflation and unemployment, which will indirectly negatively effect the NHS and other public services. This is due to the lack of economic activity and hence less taxes being received. As a result of rising unemployment (hence less revenue from income tax), and less demand for goods due to the rise in inflation (hence less revenue from taxes levied on goods and services) government revenue will decrease, and with it government spending. Therefore, judging by the forecasts presented by the Chancellor, all public services as well as the NHS will struggle if Britain was to leave the EU, as opposed to the arguments presented by the leave campaign stating that the NHS would be able to grow. The justification the leave campaign presents for such a statement is regards to the amount of money Britain would save by leaving the EU and hence not pay the EU ‘350 million a week’ (an inaccurate figure) demanded from Britain. A more accurate figure is 8.5 billion a year, which could, in effect, be spent on the NHS and other public services.
I will only briefly mention the issue of sovereignty, for it does not seem to be a hugely important problem for British voters. Most of our laws are made in Brussels, we as a nation are subject to following the ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights). However, if Britain was to leave the EU we could, in effect, create laws which are more personal and moulded to the British culture. This is, however, a very complicated and time consuming process; therefore, perhaps more immediate and pressing issues should be prioritised.
On a completely separate note relevant to my Scottish readers, if Britain was to leave the EU another referendum concerning Scottish independence could be on the table. When Scotland voted to stay in the UK it also voted to stay in the EU, and if the majority of Scottish people wish to stay in the EU Nicola Sturgeon (the current First Minister for Scotland) may well call for another referendum. If this is the case, I believe, under these knew circumstances that Scotland will leave the EU. This is because a large majority of Scottish voters who voted to stay in the UK did so due to UK’s influence in the EU; however, this influence may soon be non-existent.
I agree, to some extent, that the European Union is used as a scapegoat for many issues which could simply be the fault of our current government. Perhaps there is a lack of housing simply because the government isn’t building enough houses to match the demand and is unaware of such a problem, rather than it being the fault of increased immigration; however this is again speculation. I believe those who are still undecided concerning whether to remain or leave in the EU are waiting for one ‘mouth watering’ argument to sway them either way; however, the truth is no one argument can provide this role. This question is more complicated than just the effects of uncontrolled immigration, or free trade or perhaps even the ability to make our own laws. I believe such a question should not be poses to the British people and hence should not be a referendum for most of the British people are not economic forecasters. They are not able to effectively predict what will happen either way. I believe such a complicated issue should be left to the experts and the economists, those who have access to in-depth analyse, rather those who have read an article in the Finance Times and now think they can be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, we are where we are, and hence I believe individual members of the public shouldn’t come about this debate by trying to predict future economic growth, for this is simply impossible without accurate figures and access to in-depth information, both of which politicians have failed to provide the public with. Therefore, one should look at how these issues immediately effect YOU, the constituent, the member of public. I urge you to engage with your local MP and understand the effects of such issues on yourself as an individual constituent.