PCP Against: Should the UK Leave the European Union?

Donovan Maudsley - 3A Mechanical
Posted on: May 19, 2016

There are some in Britain who aren’t at all happy with their commitment to the European Union. So much so, in fact, that the British government is holding a referendum next month, known as Brexit, where the population will vote to decide whether or not they will stay in the Bloc. I’m going to outline a few of the many reasons why the UK should stay with the Union.

Mainland Europe has always been a primary trading partner for the UK. Today the EU makes up just over 50% of all of Britain’s imports and exports. Companies dealing with partners in the Union today benefit from the EU Single Market, meaning that no tariffs are placed on products moving between Britain and other member states. This is one of the greatest benefits of being part of the Bloc. The Single Market encourages growth at home by allowing for cheaper access to parts and materials made elsewhere, and allowing easier competition with mainland companies. There are even rumblings that the United States may enter into the Single Market, which would open up even more trade opportunities for British exporters.

One of the other major aspects of EU membership is the open borders policy between member states. As it stands now, any citizen of any member state can live and work in any other state they choose. There are many mainland citizens working in Britain, especially from eastern and southern Europe. The ability to draw from this immigrant work force is terrific for companies desiring excess labour. It is not affecting the unemployment rate in Britain, which has been standing at around 5.1% since the start of 2016. This is the lowest it’s been in over a decade. The open border of course works both ways and also allows Britons to work anywhere they want in the EU. There are fears that by closing this border that talented mainlanders will choose not to work in Britain.

Stalling EU based investment in Britain is also an area of concern. Foreign investment is already slowing in the UK simply because companies can’t know what will happen at the referendum. By withdrawing from the Bloc, Britain could also be forcing multinational corporations to move their headquarters back to the EU, where the majority of their business is based. This is even true of US banks, which have opened for business in the UK. Auto manufacturers like Rolls-Royce and BMW have also reminded Britain of the benefits that EU membership plays in their business.

An important aspect to remember is that even if Britain leaves the Bloc, they still have to deal with EU regulations. Being on the other side of the fence means that if they don’t pay the EU membership fees, they will lose money on trade tariffs. By gaining power over their fisheries again Britain would also have to monitor their seas. This would mean naval patrols and additional bureaucracy. British fishing companies would also be restricted from fishing in EU waters, which could result in further monetary loss to Britain.

Bloc regulations allow for member states to establish their own free trade agreements with outside countries, but the likeliness of this happening for Britain would be low. If they leave, Bloc countries will see the UK as an unappreciative outsider. The powers within the Union will likely try to make an example of Britain to try to dissuade other member states from leaving. A large part of this could be discouraging member states from signing trade deals with Britain. The French government in particular has made it clear that if Britain withdraws, they will not make life easy for them. A combined cold-shoulder like effect from the Union could have a disastrous effect on the British economy. What do you do when all your enemies are friends?

Supporters of Brexit have noted that there is a possibility to establish a relationship with the EU similar to what Norway has. While not a part of the Bloc, Norway is a part of the Single Market and has good relations with the European Union councils and courts. Norway never had any interest in joining the Union though, which is why they were able to come to this kind of deal. By agreeing to this instead of joining the Bloc the Norwegian government were essentially able to have their cake and eat it too. Britain, on the other hand, wants to essentially divorce the EU. By committing to be part of the Bloc, they established norms, which would be shattered if Brexit passes. The governing councils of the Union will take this into account while dealing with the Brits in the future.

Brexit has implications outside of Europe as well. Britain has many allies around the world, including many of its former colonies like Australia, Canada and even the United States. An exit by Britain from the European Union will have residual effects on its allies. As long as Britain remains a member, it will have a strong influence on the decisions of Europe as a whole, which means that its allies will have a voice fighting for their interests. As Canadians, it would be in our national best interests for Britain to remain with the EU. The UK also holds a seat in the United Nations and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. These organizations may give less heed to the UK’s interests and strengths if they withdraw from the Bloc.

We live in a time of international turmoil, and recently, this has been widespread in Europe. Further divides will only cause more damage. If Europe stands as a united front against terrorism and conflict, it will give people hope. As it stands, national police forces are able to readily pass information through the EU, but if borders are closed again, red tape will be put up against this. There is also the chance that Brexit, if successful, would sway other nations to leave the Bloc. If this happens, there is a chance the the entire Union might collapse. This could create a period of complete disarray on the continent. Russia is also acting more aggressively recently, and showing signs of weakness like Brexit might invite more action by the Kremlin. All in all, a free and sovereign Britain sounds great but could have far reaching consequences.