By Piya Mayenin :
The In out referendum is looming on our minds ,as we think which way to go, here are some things we can consider.
1. Immigration 2. Economic prosperity 3. Sovereignty 4. Security
In a largely capitalist world , one needs to look after his own interest and that is why, after all there is the the call for a referendum. Having followed arguments very closely the writer writes upon the above 4 points although maybe not in the same order.
Post war Europe was divided by the cold war. In the aftermath of conflicts and wars, Europe decided to come together for progress to stop hatred and wars, for economic prosperity and the halt of needless destruction with liberty equality and social progress being the backdrop, the creation of the single market and the EEC was this first movement to to an ever closer Europe in order to achieve this and much more.
It was to provide membership to countries in Europe who would work together and in return the four fundamental benefits would be the free movement of people to countries across the EU, freedom of establishment which means that any European citizen can set up a business anywhere in Europe in addition to the free movement of capital and of goods. Rules within the single market renders a unified code of conduct, same rules standards and tests to be passed and same labelling for the consumers knowledge across the EU (then EEC) Today, half of all UK trade is from Europe. The single market has made this possible.
It is useful to differentiate between the single market and the free trade area (FTA) . An FTA reduces tariffs and import quotas between countries. FTAs do not cover the free movement of goods, people and services that a common market consists of.
Members in an FTA can have different tariffs with with third countries. This means that some goods might try to get into the free trade area via FTA country A (which has lower external tariffs) before moving on to country B (which has high external tariffs). This has proved good for countries such as Bangladesh where textiles, once imported into the UK can then be sold elsewhere in the EU without the high external tariffs.
In order for this to work effectively some restrictions on the law-making of member states are needed so as not to block free trade by different technical standards. This means then that there would need to be a common court and law-making institutions in any case. That’s why the EU needs to have institutions, but NAFTA doesn’t.
Another characteristic of the common market is the need for a common trade policy with third countries.
Over four decades EC law has given UK employment rights, maternity& paternity rights, 4 weeks paid holiday, health and safety, protection for agency for workers and has raised environmental standards in beaches,air quality and protected consumer rights that were never known previously. Human rights, disability discrimination laws,Trade and millions of pounds of Investment is linked to our progress.
Of course the free movement of persons creates pressure and thus there need to be common rules on cross-border crime. This concern over security is a development of EC law saw EURODAC, the European fingerprint database for identifying asylum seekers and irregular border-crossers was installed in 2003. Asylum applicants and irregular border-crossers over the age of 14 have their fingerprints taken. These are then sent digitally to a central unit at the European Commission and automatically checked against other prints on the database. This enables authorities to determine whether asylum seekers have already applied for asylum in another EU member state or have illegally transited through another EU member state (“principle of first contact”).
Although the UK has not signed the Schengen Agreement Application Convention, which means it still retains its’ own border control, it takes part in Schengen co-operation under the terms of the Treaty of Amsterdam. The UK uses the Schengen Information System for law enforcement.
The critics or the Brexiters point out the loss of bilateral trade deals elsewhere, influx of immigration, centralisation and running by bureaucrats in Brussels and heavy taxes paying for Europe.
There is however another far socialist argument that argues for anti racism throughout the world and not just within blocs and fortresses. Firstly we have to remember if we decide to leave the EU, we will still be living in the predominantly Capitalist world and thus creating anarchy will not spread anti racism internationally. Put bluntly one could pose the question where a nation is unable to get on with 29 nations how is it expected to eliminate racism from the entire world?
Secondly to the rest of the Brexiters, one can hold opinions but it must be based on facts not hypothesis. For instance, we know that Einstein’s mathematical fact is that E+MC2.
In a similar way it is a fact that we have enjoyed relative peace in Europe for over 70 years. It is another fact that the UK and its citizens would have to loose the four fundamental freedoms of the single market if it were to leave the EU. While it’s true that there is and will be bilateral trade deals between the EU and ex-members (the EU has FTA agreements with Chile, Mexico, South Africa, and non members, Switzerland), tariff and non-tariff trade barriers would effectively block trade.
Sovereignty, one of the loudest points of Brexiters, baffles me. The mere fact that UK is having a referendum over whether to remain in EU or not means that it is exercising its’ sovereignty.
The European Parliament is a directly elected EU body. Elections have been held every 5 years since 1979. There are 73 UK MEP’s in the European parliament. It is through the MEP’s to represent Britain’s interest in the EU.
The weak areas of the EU that have been highlighted more profoundly now due to the referendum. Namely the accountability of the EC Parliament. Immigrants from poorer European countries in UK have been testing UK’s capacity. This creates resentment to people who need to understand that there are ways around this. Firstly, the problem is the discrepancy in wages and job opportunities throughout EU and we need to see uniformity. This is an area that needs vigorous work. The solution is not to leave everything we have achieved.
If we look at Law, under the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Human Rights and European Courts of Justice, the UK has given EC law supremacy in certain areas of common interest within the EU. Parliamentary power is there to declare ‘not compatible with our law or recede any time. The areas are common criminal, asylum and human rights areas goals and concerns of all member countries. This is an exaggeration to use terms such as ‘overriding the will of the nation’ and having lost sovereignty.
Even within the UK the government of the day decides the policies and sometimes the will of some do not matter as they voted for the other party. In that respect a democracy always involves the losing of some and winning of some votes. So like in any democracy one needs to prepared to lose the vote in the EU.
Okay for someone who is still undecided what do we need to think about to make our minds up? Like in any organisation, we think about our aim, our goals and objectives. What do we gain by staying in or leaving?
Identity politics is a narrow and dangerous way to go as I thought has been established by 2016! I’m English, He’s French, etc. Language barriers, cultural differences. Intolerance of other cultures other languages and insecurity of human beings have to date been the main cause of every war in the world.. Regardless of how many bridges are built when insecurity kicks in the same human beings starts hacking at the bridge with a chain saw. Taking US and THEM approach blurs the aims and goals as prejudices means we stay in our little boxes and do not think beyond that. We started off where we were once isolated nations and we could go back to being isolated nations but simply put, why?
The shortcomings in the system are the reason for this demand for an in out referendum and as uncomfortable as it was it could serve to highlight those shortcomings but is it really going to benefit us by leaving the EU? We will not have much of a say in an organisation that we are no longer part of. We will still be part of other organisations and the UK is the fifth powerful nation in the world, a member of the P5 , UN security council etc. However, this is the very reason why Britain has to lead the way in the EU, lead in renegotiating what needs to be renegotiated, like austerity measures, immigration policy etc, not run away from it.
Multinationals are funding stay in campaign because they too have a stake. There are good and bad sides of multinationals for instance, multinationals are duty bound to pay out dividends to their shareholders and potential immorality needs to be regulated. The good side is volume buying in bulks giving the consumer discounts that would not be otherwise possible.
Coming out of the EU (or not) the other scare is the Conservative party’s concern with repealing of the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act is the only enforceable piece of legislation in the UK that protects the inalienable rights of the individual against an oppressive state, against mighty public bodies and this has been achieved through the blood and sweat of people over hundreds of years. Repealing the Act means that citizens will have no redress in the UK and only those that can afford to take the long expensive route to EU ( after all the European Convention of Human Rights which the UK had domesticated has not disappeared into thin air) can have some redress to the accidents and conflicts just waiting to happen . These rights are our prized achievements. The best thing that has happened to us. It permeates all other laws and gives individuals an extra layer of protection and rights. Can anyone imagine people saying this is ‘my rights’ a hundred years ago??
Research mathematical and scientific advancement has brought us here. Ipse dixit, dogmatic MPs blinded by party affiliations did not bring us here. The bitter experience of human hardship, struggles, conflicts and wars brought us here.
A very simple fact we have learned with thousands of years of evolution is that one person is not stronger than 11 members of a football team. Similarly, a successful workplace is better where there is teamwork. UK is one. EU is 29. Thus as a team we can be 29 times more effective and efficient.
It is absolutely crazy to jump off the EU ship that we have created for protection safety and progress only to attempt entering again at a later stage after swimming around with no luck. This will be the only way forward in the world we have created in order to progress. Remember how long it took us to create it in the first place to achieve this?
Working together, we need to protect social and human rights and renegotiate that which is necessary. There is no need to re negotiate the social chapter that is the basis for most of our social rights as mentioned and a pure free market economy is not our God especially where our social rights are compromised. Looking after ones own interest can be done collectively for the betterment of all and for all future generations and that’s what we have to bear in mind.
Piara Mayenin (Piya)
BA (Hons) Econ, PGD in Law