Author: Chris Dennett
Not since the 1975 European referendum, where 68% of the electorate supported Britain's inclusion in the EEC, has there been a demand by the public to assess our political relationship with our European neighbours. An integral promise of the 2015 Conservative Manifesto was the call for a referendum on British membership in the EU and since the May 8th, the countdown has started towards this historic decision for the British people. The recent electoral success for David Cameron and the Conservative Party has invariably led to increased pressure on the government to ensure a change is made in the way Britain works with its European partners. For some in Britain, including the Labour party who refused to support an in/out referendum on the EU due to the drastic negative implications of a 'Brexit', the argument is very simple: Britain should stay in the EU.
It would be unwise to ignore the grievances of those who are sceptical about Britain's continued EU membership lest we fail to truly understand the reservations that the populace may hold, which need to be clearly and openly addressed
Bureaucracy in Brussels
Those who advocate a British exit claim that EU bureaucracy stifles the possibility of a tailored legislation that takes into account the diverse economic and cultural landscape of countries which make up the EU. Brussel’s current system is inadequate to meet this need as EU bureaucrats tend to favour sweeping general directives aimed at addressing a problem from a one-size-fits-all perspective. Directives which are aimed at resolving a problem are undermined by their lack of consideration for the states for which they are applied. An example is the 'EU landfill directive' which sets targets for Europe to manage waste and recycling. The policy has been heavily criticised for setting impossible standards which if not met incur large fines. Moreover the bureaucratic costs of business compliance within EU legislation is around 5.5% of EU GDP, or to put it in perspective, the entire annual output of the Dutch Economy.
Due to Britain being an island, there is a belief in the UK that we should be given more power over who enters our country. An open border policy is largely accepted within mainland Europe where travelling between states can be done without visa permission. However as we reside on a relatively small island there is an idea in the UK that immigration from Europe is more impactful given the perceived limited amount of land. This fear is added to by a notion that the high amount of stress on our basic welfare services can’t tolerate a sustained growth in a populace demanding its services.
Advocates of a 'Brexit' are critical of the amount of immigrants who work in the UK whilst studying. An EU directive demands that the British government should provide tuition fee loans for all students who come from a European country. However, the crux of their argument is that only 11% of all European students are paying back their student loans, which invariably leads to a deficit in student funding.
The qualms with European workers is twofold. Firstly, the main source of labour from Europe comes from unskilled workers, these workers drive down wages because of their cheap labour costs and this is bad for Britons because businesses will pay them less. Secondly, with five million unemployed workers in Britain, the already weakened welfare state must bare additional stresses of others who reside here on a temporary basis.
Since Britain has become a part of the EU, Britain feels that it is losing its identity. Sweeping European directives, in addition to the diversity which is encouraged by the freedom of movement has led some Britons to question what it means to be British. Culturally Britain is a mess and for some Britain no longer has a distinctive identity. Britain leaving the European Union would hopefully help the British people establish a greater national identity, one which made Britain great throughout history.
British Sovereignty has also led to questions on conventions
which Britain is subscribed to. As a
result of the European Court of Human Rights, Britain's highest courts are no longer the supreme power in Britain. Instead, as we have seen when Strasbourg deems necessary, the ECHR has overruled Britain's courts, as was the case when Strasbourg banned life sentences. The challenges by the ECHR to what is regarded by some as the sovereignty of Britain's courts has led to calls for Europe to abandon the ECHR. Regardless of the political consequences British courts are the highest courts in the land.
Whilst I am against an exit from the European Union, we must not be naïve about some of their legitimate gripes. The key 'battleground' is bureaucracy in Europe, which is both inefficient and stands to cripple the desire for states to integrate further with the European-Union. If Europe fails to address this then they may serve to push not only Britain, but also other states such as France away from Europe. After all let’s not forget that Le Front Nationale gained 24% in the 2014 EU elections, we can’t let EU inefficiency drive up support of extremist politics even further.
*As with all of our content, all opinions within this article are the views of the writer and not OneEurope