On the other hand, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), strongly argues the opposite point. He believes that Britain would be best served following the lead of Norway or Switzerland, countries that have their own deals and settlements with the EU which allow them to maintain the type of trading relationship they want without being member states. Trade is, in fact, one of the major factors in this debate. Arguably one of Britain’s biggest and best advantages to belonging in the EU is the free trade agreement between member nations. As part of the EU, British companies are able to export freely to fellow members, as well as import from them. If Britain leaves, its trade agreements, along with everything else, will have to be completely renegotiated, and the risk lies in the uncertainty about the EU’s willingness to enter into a satisfactory trade agreement with the UK once it has left. Leaving the EU trading bloc is not a decision to be taken lightly: An “In” vote would arguably maintain the UK’s weight as a large international negotiator, which however remains tied to the strength of the Euro; an “Out” vote, would leave it standing alone, the effects of which are unclear, though pro-Brexiters argue this would benefit trade agreements with countries outside of the EU.
Nigel Farage has also strongly stated that Britain ‘would not only survive but thrive’ outside the EU, arguing that the EU is ‘harming the democracy’ of the country and that exit would save the UK from what he labels extortionate EU membership fees. This argument is not completely nonsensical – Britain does currently pay fees which would stop if it left. There is also a word of caution to be said about certain laws that could be passed by the EU which would apply to member states and about which the public are not consulted, which is hardly democratic, although perhaps this is something to be reformed rather than be a cause for exit. One thing that is very important to factor, is the economic and social benefit of EU membership.
Freedom of movement is an aspect of the EU that has many untold benefits that will only be missed when they are gone. The job sector is in crisis worldwide, but by sharing resources, the UK is able to accelerate job opportunities for UK workers who are willing to travel. Its universities are stronger within the EU, thanks to the funding received from EU pots of money, and consequently, so is Britain’s workforce and talent pool. Freedom of movement is mostly associated with arguments in favour of Brexit, as people blame it for the amount of migrant workers entering the UK. Leaving the EU will only limit the number of migrants from EU member states, and will have no impact whatsoever on the number of migrants coming from other countries, which combined make up the majority of the migrant population.
National security is another important factor in this decision, especially at times of global crisis like this. Lord Bramall and Jock Stirrup, two senior military figures, are arguing that the EU is an ‘increasingly important pillar of our security.’ They argue that in times such as these Britain is stronger as a united front and a combined force against terrorism and international security threats. Those in favour of Brexit argue the opposite, of course, stating that exit would protect Britain from terrorist attacks. Frankly, we do not know what will happen in the future of terror attacks, as all Western countries are vulnerable. The question here is about whether Britain is willing to sacrifice a piece of its autonomy in order to be part of a combined military force, or whether it is ready to stand alone with confidence that there can be sufficient protection with no external input.
International relations also factor here in terms of Britain’s relationship with the US. If Britain leaves the EU, one of the US’s closest allies will no longer be a deciding force in the bloc. There are those that argue that independence from the EU would be seen as a positive thing, however it could go the other way and Britain could be left in the cold and be seen as of little value as an international ally. Once again, there is no real way of knowing just now, and were Britain to vote in favour of leaving the EU it would likely take up to three years to negotiate the terms of its exit. Much of the consequences will be dependent upon those negotiations. For now, it is enough to keep Britons informed about what it means to be part of the EU and to seriously consider whether leaving is a risk they are willing to take.
*The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not represent those of The Political Analysis.