It’s been hard to avoid comments surroundings the EU referendum over the past few weeks. The Vote Leave and Vote Remain campaigns have dominated the papers, news channels and social media and everyone seems keen to throw their thoughts into the mix.
As a trained journalist, I’ve been surprised about the lack of fact that has been reported, with the media instead focussing on the opinions of politicians and members of the public plucked off the street. Although I understand each media outlet has their own agenda they’re keen to push, this isn’t educational to voters still unsure which box to put their cross in.
I’ve decided to write this blog post because I believe this is the most important vote in recent times and people should base their decision on fact, not scaremongering and lies. It’s a little different to content I usually write but it’s something I’m very passionate about.
- 44% of the UK’s exports go to the EU, including 73% of UK farming. Jobs linked to exports are likely to be put at risk without this connection. Huge companies such as BMW has reminded their staff of the benefits EU membership offer
- Over the last decade, foreign companies have invested £540 billion into the UK
- EU reforms in the 1990s resulted in a price drop of up to 40% on lower cost flights. Linked with travel, EU membership means British citizens visiting other European countries have access to free or cheaper healthcare and mobile roaming charges will be abolished from 2017
- The UK is not part of the border-free zone so we control our own borders, giving us the right to check everyone passing through
- EU migrants will not have full access to some benefits until they have worked in the UK for up to four years. Also, they actually pay more in taxes than they take out. Immigration is good for the economy
- Membership means UK police can use law enforcement intelligence from the 27 EU countries, so we have access to fingerprint and DNA information. This helps keep criminals out of the UK
- Membership also means UK citizens have the right to live, work or study abroad in other EU countries. The EU also pays millions of pounds of research funding to UK universities
- The UK, not the EU, holds the right to decide what we spend on our public services, such as the NHS and education. This is a key (and false) argument from Vote Leave campaigners
- There is considerable uncertainty about what would happen to the UK’s economy if we left the EU, but the Bank of England and economists predict an economic shock
- While it is true that 44% of UK exports go to the EU, this has decreased from 55% in 2002
- Although we control our own borders and have the right to check everyone, this doesn’t mean we can always turn individuals away. This is a key Leave argument, given the current migrant crisis in Europe
- Leading on from this, more than half of the UK’s net migration comes from the EU. This equated to just under 200,000 for the period of September 2014-September 2015. 191,000 migrants came from outside the EU (and in case you aren’t sure – net migration is the number who have come to the UK minus the number who have left)
- It costs the UK around £18 billion a year to be part of the EU (2015 figure. See below for more information on this)
- Five more countries are being considered for EU membership: Albania, Macedonia, Turkey, Montenegro and Serbia
- The UK is not allowed to negotiate its own trade deals involving abolishing tariffs or reducing barriers to trade (although this doesn’t stop us signing some trade deals, such as billions of pounds worth with China)
- The EU has too much power as demonstrated through the recent ‘tampon tax’ row. Britain should be able to set its own VAT rates
The Fiction that needs to be addressed
- The Leave campaign claim EU membership costs us ‘£350 million a week’ and say that’s enough to ‘build a new NHS hospital every week’ but they have omitted to tell voters the percentage of which we get back. Of the sum, we get £85 million straight back as a rebate. Then there is money that comes back to the UK in the form of support for public and private sector schemes. In the end, we actually pay around £188 million a week and receive the equivalent of £66 million of EU investment every day
- Leave has also claimed the UK is ‘powerless’ to stop itself becoming part of an EU army. This is absolute rubbish. Britain has a secure veto vote on EU foreign and defence policy and I can’t help but think this is a scaremongering tactic
- I’ve also seen a lot of people argue that our money shouldn’t be used to bail out other countries, assumedly about Greece. The UK contributes to a fund that can be used to provide emergency funding to Eurozone countries, but an EU law passed in 2015 ensures that the UK would be ‘immediately and fully compensated’ for any losses caused by a Eurozone member
It’s important to remember…
- Lots of UK citizens have migrated to other countries in the EU too. Just under 1.2 million live in other EU countries (2015 figures), with the largest group living in Spain at over 300,000. There’s a huge misconception that migrants = big trouble for the UK, encouraged by scaremongering surrounding the Syrian migrant crisis and recent terrorist attacks. Many forget that a huge sum are talented individuals who offer the UK a wealth of knowledge and help make our industries some of the best in the world
Although it may seem obvious to you which way I am voting, I hope I have demonstrated a fair argument for both sides. Votes should be decided on facts and lots more information can be found online if you are still unsure. Also think to yourself, if you wake up on Friday and see we have left the EU, how will you feel? This reaction could help you decide how to vote. The most important thing is to have your say tomorrow – it will undoubtedly affect your future.
Disclaimer: This post has taken me several days to write due to the importance of getting the facts correct. I’ve read numerous research papers to collate the above information but I am still expecting to be challenged by some with varying political beliefs. The information I have shared is true to my knowledge.