Later this week the UK will be voting in a national referendum to see whether it will remain in the European Union, or exit the EU (after a 2 year cool-down period). I left the UK in 2002 and so am not eligible to vote in this referendum, but I'm still very much British at heart and believe it or not I do treat this blog as a bit of a diary (of a sort) of my time here in Oman. So I'm writing about Brexit today.
Most of my friends here are voting to exit the EU. They have very compelling reasons, but I do not agree with them, or, I do agree with them I just think that the United Kingdom would be better retaining it's membership to the European Union.
Most people that want to leave the EU in the referendum do so out of the belief that they would be better off, or a frustration over European policies that they think inadvertently impacts them, or the UK. One only has to look at the horrendous state of affairs that is the... Spanish, Italian and Greek economies to just say, "no thanks, you can have that mess and keep it to yourself". I certainly am concerned about their solvency and the effect that this would have on the euro.
Given recent migratory trends from the Middle East, but also the less-talked about, but probably more significant migratory trend of people leaving Africa to come to Europe, some people want out of the EU because they want to ensure stronger border control policies, and stronger policies over social welfare costs incurred by migrants in the UK.
Others want out of the EU because they want to have the power to conduct their businesses without interference from the EU and it's numerous legislative and regulatory requirements.
A deal was negotiated with the European Council President Donald Tusk by David Cameron back at the start of February. That deal grants the UK "Special status" within the 28 nations bloc of the EU the very moment that the UK referendum results are in, and a "Remain" vote is victorious.
The cliff notes of that deal are:
- UK gets veto rights on any legislation proposal that it doesn't like, although it stands to be seen how this "red card" would actually be used,
- The UK will now be able to phase in over a period of 4 years in-work and social benefits to migrant workers living in the UK. Child support payments will still have to be paid - but will be calculated from the cost of living in the countries where the children live. It's not a perfect outcome, because the Conservatives wanted to ban the payment of Child support altogether (because people were just sending it home) - but this is a more fairly negotiated deal, and saves the UK money.
- The UK won guarantees from the EU that it will not be required to fund euro bailouts and will be reimbursed for central EU funds used to prop up the Euro.
- The UK won a commitment from the EU to cut "red tape" for its businesses competing in Europe - so there would be a faster approvals process for new businesses, or products brought to market.
Now, the above 4 points are exactly as I stated, cliff notes. There's a lot more in the deal that was negotiated, but those are the big 4 key areas. For those people who are voting to leave the EU because they want more control for the UK over their fiscal, immigration and business policies, then to vote to remain would also grant, instantly (not in 2 years time) more powers to the UK. "Vote remain for change" I guess is the message I'd send if I were campaigning.
For me, that is the reason why I would ultimately vote to remain in the EU. I have watched the Remain and Leave campaigns with some bemusement and some horror over the factually inaccurate and basically scaremongering on both sides. From a purely selfish point of view, this referendum has been great - my gold holdings are at a 3 year high, and I'm hanging on for $1,350 an ounce!
From an expat point of view, and dis-regarding all of what I've written above. Why on earth would you vote to exit from the EU? Existing the European Union isn't going to remove the UK from Europe, it's just going to "free" the UK of an awful lot of EU legislation - which believe me I don't think anyone actually likes.
But, that's not going to change where the UK is. The UK would then, I guess, theoretically become like Norway (and Iceland?) and be a European country, but not a member of the European Union. Which means the UK would go from being a big wheel and power-player in the EU's policy making apparatus, to having no say whatsoever in the EU policies (albeit with the caveat that the UK could do what it wanted in its own borders). For businesses to sell their products in the EU, they're still going to have to abide by and satisfy the regulatory standards required by the EU market, so voting to leave to free themselves from those requirements seems a little short sighted. I'm not forgetting the rest of the worlds marketplaces, but I'm sure the UK sells more stuff to the EU than anywhere else. Perhaps I'm wrong.
So, in a bit of a skewed, and horrendously over-simplified summing up of the referendum, I'd say: Vote to remain to effect immediate change for the UK, and allow greater influence of the UK in the EU. Vote to exit to effect much greater control over a number of policies for the UK, at the cost of a seat at the table of the EU.
I'm sure that there are very compelling arguments for those voting to leave - I'm certainly not going to argue with anyone that puts those forward, I totally get it and understand it. It's just that for me, I think the best business decision for the UK is to stay in, and get more power while its up for grabs too. You don't have to like those that you do business with, but when you're talking about your neighbours, it makes sense to have as much power in any business deal as possible, no?
I've put a little poll below, it's really simple, and really only to gauge the opinions of those who are reading this blog - I'd be surprised if I got 50 responses. Even if you are not British, what would you vote for? (If for some reason you can't see the poll below, click here)
To remain or to go?
Create your own user feedback survey