George Gearty – Year 13 Student & Chief Editor, Politics in Review
Editor’s Note: Politics in Review would like to remind its readers that this is an independent journal, published entirely by politics students. Therefore, the opinions expressed in this journal are the opinions of the contributors and not the opinions of the school. GG
An inherently absurd mentality has plagued the Union that Brexit will plunge our nations into a pool of uncertainty and that the 31st [January] is the Armageddon of our economy.
There is a world outside the shelter of the EU’s protectionist wall. The most esteemed democracy in history can stand on its own.
A plethora of experts have advocated the disputably harsh economic impacts of leaving but the true benefits of exiting have been very much understated. The veracity of the issue is that there is a host of reasons why the UK will prosper without the obtrusive scaffolding from its European cousins. The motivational aspiration of 19th and 20th Century Britain, where we once aspired to assert an Empire that would rule the world, has dispersed; we now cower at the concept of ruling our own Union without the EU’s assistance. There is a world outside the shelter of the EU’s protectionist wall. The most esteemed democracy in history can stand on its own. For the sake of sovereignty, control and the economy, the UK must leave and leave with haste.
Quintessentially, leaving the EU will rescue our system of democracy and re-instate our sovereignty. Though we pride ourselves on being one of the most famous democracies in the world, we are actually functioning under a broken and corrupt system. The EU commission (responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the Union) is entirely appointed and therefore fundamentally undemocratic. Their proposals are amended by legislative branches (EU council of ministers and EU parliament) which are elected. However, the EU council of ministers is flawed through its gerrymandered voting system. For instance, the UK is represented by 29 ministers and Malta by 3, making the Maltese 15 times more represented per head of the population. Similarly, the EU parliament also contains a representative imbalance with the Maltese 10 times more represented per head of the population than the UK. Finally, the EU court of justice has broken and continues to break the concept that no man must be judged in his
own cause, thus failing to uphold the rule of law, one of the fundamental principles of justice and to an extension, democracy. By this I refer to the court allowing themselves to rule on issues which they have an invested interest in, for example, the ruling that EU bureaucrat’s salaries should continue to rise with the original formula, despite the 2008 financial crash, was in essence the court ensuring their own salaries were not cut. To allow ourselves to operate under such an unscrupulous system is eroding our democracy.
Sovereignty & Control
Adjacent to this, our formal sovereignty will also be strengthened. Many fail to appreciate that the EU enforces regulations on 100% of our laws and that an act of parliament can be superseded by European legislation, effectively transferring sovereignty to EU institutions and courts from our parliament. This is of howling importance as it undermines a chief principle of the UK’s constitution; Parliament must be the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislation and no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. This topic, during a speech at the Oxford Union, prompted chairman of the European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, to state “the UK parliament, the most ancient democratic parliament in the world has been made powerless.”
With this recouped sovereignty, we will undoubtedly be able to wield more control over the country. This is not simply a dogmatic issue because as a consequence, reforms can be implemented to improve the burning issues in our society. Notoriously, immigration has been at the forefront of the leave campaign. By no means do Eurosceptics want to “take back control” to prevent immigration, it is a formidable part of our economic engine as it can provide both skilled and unskilled work, filling our employment demands. However, under our EU membership, we must adhere to 4 rules of freedom; free movement of goods, services, capital and people. This is of course a two-way street and brings many benefits. Moreover, the issue of migrant employment is not centred on stealing it from British citizens as the fact that a migrant has taken a job does not mean that a British worker cannot find another one. Figures from the Inland Revenue also show that the average EU migrant contributes £78,000 more (over their lifetime) than they take out in public services and are helping to grow the economy (average UK citizen’s net contribution is £0).
Instead, the issue lies with its impact on our ability to accept immigrants from the rest of the world. Free movement of people requires the UK to accept an arbitrary number of immigrants, with no set standard for them to meet; for example, all EU citizens can migrate to the UK without a work permit or a family permit, meaning them and their entire family can move without secured employment. After 5 years, they can then apply for residency status. This limits the level of immigration we can physically accept from non-EU countries. Surely, the introduction of an Australian-like points-based system establishes a meritocracy and enables us to accept immigrants on merit rather than quotas based on their nationality. This also allows us to select migrants who possess the skills our economy requires at that time. Furthermore, in the case we wish to lower the total level of immigration we accept, as current levels are worsening the severe housing shortage, it will not have a disproportionate effect on hopeful migrants from non-EU countries. The abolishment of free movement of people will also serve to make the UK a more secure nation. Unfortunately, many have been able to abuse the well-intentioned EU immigration policy to carry out terrorist attacks across Europe, such as the Paris attack in 2015, where some involved entered Europe posing as EU nationals. This and several other devastating events could easily have occurred in London or Leeds. Joining a longer queue at the airport is a worthy sacrifice for the protection of our people. In reality, the impact on UK holiday makers will be of limited impact anyway as EU legislation has been passed granting us the right to travel in the EU for 90 days without a visa.
Additionally, there is a common misconception that Brexit will result in the quality of goods and services we import becoming lower, as other countries do not have to adhere to EU regulations. However, leaving simply gives us the control to set our own rules and regulations. Similarly, the impact on certain laws we have accepted from the EU, mostly liberty protecting laws such as the Human Rights Act 1998, will not be detrimentally impacted as we will have the power to create our own legislation to protect people’s rights. Specifically, with the issue of Human Rights, Brexit does not mean parliament has to change our current laws, we simply have the ability to amend them if we believe they are not adequate. As we live in a representative democracy, this effectively presents the electorate with increased autonomy over our laws such as rights and liberties-
In conjunction to the compelling case that we will reinstate our sovereignty and expand our control, leaving the European Union has many economic impacts, the extent of which are extensively contentious. It is important to remember that predictions must be taken with a pinch of salt; economic forecasts are estimations and in truth, no one really knows what will happen. Therefore, it is essential to judge the economic impact of Brexit on the facts. For too long Europhiles have managed to hoodwink the world into believing that our economy will shrivel into a shadow of its former self once we exit those EU walls. Frankly, scaremongering is a wave many find easier to join than stand up and question. Similar unfounded estimations spread concerning the pound when ‘experts’ under the Blair regime dealt us the ultimatum that the UK must join the Euro to prevent the impending financial doom. We have since prospered and many will be grateful that the UK held strong and preserved the oldest currency still in use.
The same can be applied to modern day pessimists concerning Brexit. The chancellor, Phillip Hammond, has stated there is no economic benefit to Brexit whatsoever. Whereas there is a multitude of economic reasons for exiting once you analyse the facts. The supposed risk to foreign investment was predicted to occur directly after the Referendum in 2016, and yet, even with all the negotiating uncertainty, overseas investment into the UK was at its highest ever at the start of 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics, and the UK is currently ranked the 4th largest foreign direct investment country in the world. Moreover, once we leave, the UK can create a more business-friendly environment by establishing our own regulations, such as lower corporation tax. The government will also have a surge in the available capital with the removal of the membership fee. Overall, the UK pays a net figure of £11 billion per annum; the UK has no more of a responsibility to financially support subordinate countries in the EU than it does for the rest of the world. Though only 15% of our GDP is engaged in the manufacture and sale of good and services to the EU, they are allowed to regulate 100% of our manufacturing sector.
Most importantly, exiting the EU enables tariff-free trade. Admittedly, the UK already operates under a European customs union, where European trade is free, but Brexit provides the opportunity to establish worldwide tariff-free trade. As a cost of accessing the customs union, the EU applies external tariffs to any good or service imported from outside of Europe.
The UK is however a largely import focused economy whilst its exports are concentrated in legal or financial services. A decision not to impose tariffs on any imports should benefit UK consumers by reducing the costs of imported products. Hopefully, this tariff-free approach would be reciprocated by other countries not applying tariffs on UK goods being exported to them. Of course this will not be universal and some will always apply tariffs, at least on specific goods.
We also could exercise control by manipulating tariffs to suit our economy. If we wish to make certain UK industries more competitive, we can simply apply tariffs to foreign goods and services from the same industry. Whether we want to create a more manufacturing domestically driven economy (following the Trump tariff plan) or simply aim to lower consumer prices, we will have the freedom to choose.
Outside of the EU’s control, the UK can agree our own trade deals with other countries. The EU currently has trade deals in place with other countries but these are not tailored to benefit the UK economy exclusively, unlike deals we can agree ourselves. Rumours that the UK is not sufficiently structured to negotiate a trade deal independently are fallacious. Iceland, with a population of a mere 117,000 people, managed to construct and negotiate a free trade deal with China, the second largest economy, back in 2013. The United Kingdom, with a population of 66 million people, one of the most distinguished diplomatic, legal and financial centres in the world can also manage.
Finally, the UK can abandon policies that are embraced by the failing economic model of the European Union. Specifically, policies such as the common agricultural and common fisheries policy force us to protect and financially support inefficient producers, again preventing lower prices for consumers and divide the supply pool. This opportunity to reduce prices will come about by allowing inefficient producers to fail, bringing more volume and thus lower unit costs to the existing efficient operators. This economic model around efficient operators further encourages capital investment and results in a low cost economy. In the long term, this should improve the UK’s export levels.
The question now is how we move forward. The purist solution is to leave the EU on the 31st [January] without a deal. As with any negotiation, the withdrawal agreement brings a range of benefits and disadvantages. The pre-eminent solution would be to pursue no deal to avoid some of the damaging consequences it entails. Initially, the Irish Backstop (an insurance policy which comes into effect at the end of 2020) is almost guaranteed to be implemented as the issue of a border does not appear to be resolvable without further negotiations once we leave (the EU demands a hard border as the two parts of Ireland will be in different customs and regulatory regimes, meaning products have to be checked. However, this is met with great hostility in the UK as it could possibly reignite issues from the troubles). The backstop would then keep the UK in the single market and a member of the customs union for an indefinite period. Government legal advice suggests the UK will not be able to exit the backstop if the EU-UK relationship breaks down after its initiation, placing us under their will in any negotiations.
We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.Winston Churchill
The withdrawal agreement acts as a façade to conceal the EU’s true intentions. It states that all arrangements in the deal are temporary and that any permanent deal must be built on a “single customs territory” keeping us in the single market. This prevents any of the aforementioned economic benefits such as agreeing our own independent free trade deals with the rest of the world. What is worse, it acts as an international treaty meaning that once it is signed, there is no exit clause. Therefore, by definition of the separate clauses of the agreement, agreeing to the deal establishes the terms are not permanent and we must in the long run, agree to their demands, with no option to refuse. Not only is this economical insanity, exiting with the withdrawal agreement is a global message that the UK can be instructed to and is no longer an independent force. Finally, the withdrawal agreement maintains the rule of the European Court of Justice, undermining the sovereign and democratic advantages of leaving.
Therefore, progressing with no deal is the unassailable solution. It avoids the EU’s clandestine attempts to prison us long term members of the single market and it will focus minds. Leading up to the 29th March, a substantial volume of emergency style legislation was passed in both the UK and the EU in preparation of a no deal scenario. This included provisions such as protection of UK citizen’s rights currently living within the EU. To declare our definitive leave date ensures people work as hard as they can to prepare.
Obviously, leaving without a deal evades the £39 billion demanded from Brussels, benefiting the UK tax payers. The concept that trading on WTO rules will be horrific is a complete fabrication. With or without a deal, the UK will be trading on WTO rules with the rest of the world anyway, and we currently use them to trade with anyone the EU has no trade deal with. Leaving without a deal simply allows a quick departure from which we will have more time to invest in domestic issues which have been forsaken over the last 3 lengthy years. Inequality, homelessness, social care, education and alarmingly high crime are all raging issues that require our attention. From then, we have a platform to agree a future trade deal with the EU without being hamstringed by the threat of the backstop.
Whether we leave with a deal or not, there is no greater sentiment to end on than that of Winston Churchill – “We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.”