Brexit

On June 23rd the UK will vote whether or not to stay in the EU. This is projected to be one of the biggest votes of the generation which will incur major consequences on the younger and future generations to come.

Just like anything political nothing is set in stone and everything is shrouded in smoke and mirrors from both sides. Both sides will say and do anything to try and convince you to share their views and opinions – they will dress up their arguments adorning them in fancies enticing you to join them. Because of this it is incredibly hard to take a step back from the chaos to get as clear a view as possible and form an informative, unbiased, personal view and not get caught up in the waves of campaigning.

To judge upon the leading individuals of each side I felt myself feel pretty hopeless, in the ‘Bremain’ corner you have David Cameron and in the ‘Brexit’ corner you have Boris Johnstone. Both are members of the Conservatives, both are incredibly wealthy, affluent and both, in my opinion, are incompetent and joke worthy. To add to the Brexit party you’ve also got Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and Rupert Murdoch, right wing owner of national media outputs renowned for his prejudiced journalism to name a few. In the Bremain supporters you’ve got Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who leans more to the left than what Labour has been in the last while, Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister, the Green Party and so on. If I were ignorant enough to base my opinions solely on those backing each side I would be more likely to vote Remain.

Over the past few weeks with the vote creeping closer and closer I have been paying more attention to the media coverage and looking into what could potentially change if we did choose to leave. There are a few factors which have led me to support the Remain campaign:

Education

As an aspiring educator I feel leaving the EU would prove more detrimental than helpful. Through the EU I have the opportunity to spend time abroad attending a foreign university, gaining university credits whilst observing different teaching styles and experiencing a new culture and connecting with new people. Not only can I complete part of my degree abroad through the EU programme Erasmus I also get the chance to spend time working in schools abroad, improving my modern language skills (which is of great importance due to cuts stopping schools from bringing in external specialised educators and as a nation the UK’s modern language skills are extremely weak) whilst gaining essential experience in a classroom. Without the funding from the EU these programmes either won’t be able to run or it would result in me funding a vast proportion of it myself which can deprive low income students from having these enhancing opportunities. On a small scale I have already experienced this – last year with the Spanish module students were able to go to Spain for a week expense free to work in a primary school which was fully funded by the EU through Erasmus; however this year, there were issues with funding and for a week it would cost me £250 which prevented me from taking part due to lack of funds at the time. My university is incredibly keen in boosting the number of students partaking in placements abroad which is absolutely brilliant but I fear leaving the EU would prevent me and other students alike from taking part in programmes like this during the rest of my course. Personally, once I have gotten my degree and graduated I hope to emigrate and teach abroad for a period of time and being part of the EU can aid networking between institutions in Europe especially if I do take part in Erasmus making invaluable contacts.

Trade

Now, I’m not going to say I am well versed in the trade industry, however I do know that the EU does secure trade agreements within which lowers prices and ensures exports for us. Although I do believe if a Leave vote were to come through we would be able to maintain healthy trade with the rest of the EU as we have already built a relationship there; and access to global trade further afield is very much possible, I don’t think it would be as good as what we have just now. Higher import and export costs may be introduced, custom checks and charges will come into play and complications may occur; there are speculations of adopting a new trade model such as the likes of Norway, applying to be member of the European Economic Area (EEA) where we still have access to the Single Market without being a member of the EU. But within that are flaws where, I feel, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot: yes, we would still have access to the single market but we would still be making financial contributions to the EU budget (one of the main factors to the Leave campaign) and we wouldn’t have any voting rights in any of the EU Agencies and programmes. Surely we wouldn’t want to take away our voting rights and say in something we have a part in, albeit small? Alongside that we would still have the open borders and foreign policies of we already have, yet two more heavily debated subject areas in the Leave/Remain campaigns. As it stands the UK is in a strong position within the EU – our status gives us:

  • a leading role inside the EU;
  • a permanent annual rebate on our payments to the EU budget that reduces our net contribution;
  • access to the biggest Single Market in the world, with a leading voice in deciding the rules of that market, so that it reflects the best interests of UK businesses and consumers, creating jobs and making UK families more financially secure;
  • cooperation on issues of international security, helping tackle crime and terrorism across borders to keep our country safe, while keeping our legal right not to take part in EU measures that are not in our national interest; and
  • the ability of UK citizens to live, work and travel freely across the EU, but the power to take action where there is abuse of our welfare or immigration systems.

Taken from the government paper discussing the alternative methods the UK could adopt outside the EU published in March this year the UK’s current position within the EU is extremely favourable in comparison to other member countries. As well as the extra benefits the UK has being a strong voice within trade related decision making and having a permanent annual rebate we also have exemptions to certain EU policies and practices: Schengen areas, euro currency etc.

“The UK has also opted out of several key areas of EU cooperation. We have permanent opt-outs from the euro, including the Banking Union, and from the Schengen border-free area. We can opt in to individual measures on EU Justice and Home Affairs matters if we choose to. This means that the UK can choose to participate in EU-level actions on asylum, immigration from outside the EU, and police and judicial cooperation; but is under no obligation to do so.

2.10 No other country has the same special status in the EU. Over its four decades of EU membership, the UK has secured this range of opt-outs, exemptions, a rebate and guarantees. We have full votes and veto rights. We are in those areas of EU activity that serve our national interest (the Single Market and foreign policy cooperation, for example), and outside those that do not (such as the euro and the Schengen border-free area). The new settlement confirmed and extended this special status. This hard-won set of agreements gives the UK a unique combination of access and influence with obligations that match our needs rather than the EU’s norms. No other country has achieved this. This unique set of arrangements underpin the UK’s remarkable economic performance in generating growth and creating jobs. Any alternative model for the UK would have to offer at least as good a balance if it is to support our continuing success.”

Financial Contributions/EU Budget

One of the main Leave factors is that the money we pay into the EU budget, based on GDP, is greater than the money we in turn receive. Many politicians are saying this money could be better spent on important internal institutions like public transport, the NHS, education. This is where I get a little cynical – the forerunners of the Leave campaign are members of the Conservatives who have wanted to privatise portions of the NHS, public transport and always target these areas first when it comes to implicating austerity. I highly doubt the first thing they will do with the ‘saved’ money would be to invest it in to welfare and public sectors. As mentioned earlier, we have a permanent annual rebate which reduces our overall contribution to the EU budget. Furthermore, around 80% of the budget is managed by the governments of the Member States so the money could already in fact be put back into welfare and public spending as it stands, regardless of being in or out the EU. There’s a misconception that most of the money goes into Brussels, especially since the headquarters are moving into a new building which is costing millions, however the budget for administration spending is only 6% of the overall income.

Immigration

Contrary to common belief the UK does have control of its borders – we opted out of Schengen which is the agreement seeing open borders within some of the EU Member states. We only have open borders with Ireland, who also opted out of the Schengen agreement, the UK still conducts border checks on anyone coming in to the country regardless of being in the EU or not; but with our status within the EU we also have the advantage of being part of the Schengen Information System (SIS). This allows the UK to exchange information with Schengen countries for the purposes of cooperating on law enforcement. The SIS enables personnel such as police and border guards, to enter and consult alerts on certain categories of wanted or missing persons and objects. An SIS alert not only contains information about a particular person or object but also clear instructions on what to do when the person or object has been found. There is a xenophobic feel within the UK that has been built up for years through all aspects of the media with the migrants being used as scapegoats for government failures and bad practice from employers. News stories headlining the rise of unemployment levels and increasing immigration numbers, housing shortages for millennials and war veterans and communities of migrants are all published hand in hand pushing the public to blame the migrants for the governments shortcomings. Instead of the public coming together and asking the government why they are building new houses, tackle unemployment and questioning the number of loop holes in the benefits system they are targeting and blaming the migrants and want to close the borders. Migrants in fact contribute more to the economy than take out of in benefits and are also less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens. The way I see it, migrants are more willing to do labour jobs that people here do not want to do, I live in a farming town and so many people I know would turn their nose up at working on the farms helping pick berries and would rather look elsewhere and stay unemployed whereas the migrants take the jobs and will work relentlessly. Not only this the migrant communities that form provide a gap in the market, two European and Polish food shops have opened in the last couple years here, providing business and further contribution to our economy. Leaving the EU isn’t the answer to our welfare issues, stopping migrants into the country isn’t the answer to our welfare issues, holding our government accountable is the answer to our welfare issues.

Democracy

I am a huge advocate of democracy. I despise the fact that we still have a ruling monarchy that all pieces of legislation have to go by after being voted on before coming into play; I despise that we still have the House of Lords who are unelected and misrepresentative of the country and can block any Bills or Acts that are being debated and voted on in parliament; I despise that in theory our voting system is democratic but in practice it misrepresents the public’s say due to the population imbalance of the four countries that make up the UK; I despise the fact that although nearly the whole of Scotland can vote for one party but England can vote for another and outweigh Scotland’s allowing a party that has no support at all in Scotland to come into power. In terms of democracy voting Remain goes against my pro-democratic views as all 27 European Commissioners, those who propose legislation, enforce Euro law and set objectives and priorities for action are not voted for, they are selected by the President of the Commission. This is a playground for bribery and under the table dealings. But, I still firmly stand behind in my choice to vote Remain as it provides a means of regulation for the current Conservative government. Following a Leave vote the whole of the UK would be under complete Tory rule which puts the fear in me, outweighing my anger towards unelected commissioners. With welfare and education being close topic to my heart I am completely against the Conservative party and their policies as they prioritise saving money and cutting these institutions for quick statistic results instead of investing to strengthen the future generations who can bring the country up off its knees. Furthermore, if we want to change the way commissioners are appointed I feel it’s far better to be part of the EU and campaign for change; it makes more sense trying to make a difference from the inside.

It’s no secret that the EU isn’t perfect, no political entity is, but to be part of this union which benefits us so greatly in global relations seems far more advantageous than breaking away and trying to make an impact as a small island. I could delve even further into more benefits brought around from being a member of the EU but in short standing together we can make more of a difference in advancing society further whilst preserving the Earth. Solidarity is the way forward and that is the reason why I will be voting to Remain in the EU on the 23rd.

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