There are just 9 days until the polls open and the nation decides our fate. In or Out, that is the question.
Last week saw both sides battle it out in a number of debates; Nigel Farage and David Cameron got a grilling, Boris Johnson suffered some very personal attacks in a live TV debate and Eddie Izzard took aim at Nigel Farage on Question Time.
While each side claiming victory, I believe it did little to help the undecided electorate, and with each side seemingly contradicting each other at every turn, it really is proving extremely difficult to choose a side to believe.
It is a monumental decision for our great nation, one which I fear, we will never be fully informed enough to decided, especially as the politicians seem more concerned with who can score more points and prove ones power.
The campaigns are showing no signs of let up and the battle for our votes will only increase in intensity until the June 23rd.
The past few days have seen the tides turn as the leave camp appear to have taken a slight lead in opinion polls. The remain camp have in-turn rebooted their campaign and have brought out the big guns; Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to try and sway it back in their favour.
While the leave campaign may be currently leading the way, a large proportion of the electorate still remain undecided.
I’ve been asked countless times how are you voting?, what are the facts?, people simply do not know what to think or who to believe.
The reality is, whichever way the vote goes no one knows what will happen, we face an unprecedented situation, a country has, as yet never left the EU and there are no concrete facts or predictions either way.
So what do we know that may help us decided which box to tick:
Reasons to stay:
EU Membership allows us to be part of one of the worlds largest trading blocks, giving us more trading clout in the global market.
44% of our overseas trade is with the EU with membership allowing us tariff free trading.
If we left, we would no longer be part of this block and may be punished for leaving by our former partners through future trade deals with anything from; trade tariffs, restrictions or certain conditions to any proposed agreements.
Leave campaigners are hoping to negotiate trade deals similar to that of Norway. However, some believe that it may prove difficult, if we leave we will effectively be deciding to 'divorce' the EU, and how many of those end up amicable!
In The Economist it was claimed that "If Britain were to join the Norwegian club, it would remain bound by virtually all EU regulations, including the working-time directive and almost everything dreamed up in Brussels in future" And would be outside of the inner circle of the EU so would have no say on what those regulations would be.
We may also be viewed as outsiders, lose negotiating power and seen as ‘small’ fish in a big pond, this has already been highlighted by American President Barrack Obama, who declared that we may end up at the back of the queue when it comes to trade deals with other countries.
The EU single market allows free movement of good, services, capital and people.
It allows EU member states citizens to move freely around Europe, giving us the option to live and work anywhere in the EU, and those in other EU countries free movement here, which adds to our unique multicultural society, boosts the workforce, wealth and talent in our great nation.
Over a million Britons live in EU countries and at least 30,000 British nationals claim unemployment benefits in other EU countries, much more than their counter parts do here, which makes for a compounding counter argument to the leave campaigns insistence that immigration from the EU is a drain on our resources.
Allows cheaper mobile roaming costs in EU countries.
Makes travelling EU destinations, cheaper and easier.
While they may see disproportionate, especially with the leave campaigns claim that the UK pays £350million a week, as seen emblazoned across their campaign bus, it isn’t that clear cut.
The annual fee paid to the EU is £18bn, but after a rebate and the money the EU then spends in the UK through farm subsidies and other programmes, the actual annual cost to the UK is £8.5bn, roughly £163million a week, which most will agree is still a huge figure, but no where near the £350 million.
However according to Martin Lewis the money saving expert, the membership fees shouldn’t be viewed as a stand alone issue but considered in relation to our economy.
According to him “Just a 1% economic change is £18bn a year. The IN campaign’s worst case scenario is that Brexit will cost 7.5%, so £135bn. Some OUT economists say the gain could be 4%, so £72bn.”
In a nutshell, regardless of which side is right, how the nations finances as a whole will change should outweigh views on the EU membership fees, as the fees we pay are dwarfed by changes in our economy.
A vote to leave will have an effect on the economy no one is disputing that it won’t, the amount it will be effected is however disputed by both sides.
It is thought that an exit from the EU will cause an economic shock and would result in slower growth and have a detrimental effect on our economy in short to medium term, but no one can say with any certainty by how much until it happens.
A United Europe
German Chancellor Angela Merkel highlighted that while we are a member of the EU we have a seat at the table, if we stay we will continue to have a seat at the table thus influencing what happens in the EU.
Gordon Brown outlined in his speech yesterday how we should remain in the EU and "Lead, not leave", seeking to create reform from our place within rather than leaving and trying to go it alone.
But just because we will still have our seat at the table, doesn't mean it will be easy, it will still difficult to get the reforms and conditions that we want. But the fundamental point that for remaining; we will still be in the room to have our say.
A united Europe has meant a relatively peaceful co-existence. After two world wars, which started in Europe, we have had peace among the EU nations who are bound by common goals, although some do attribute this to NATO.
Jobs & Workers Rights
Being part of the free movement of people and workers creates jobs, and according to the remain campaign three million jobs are linked to trade with the EU.
Workers rights including; maternity and paid annual leave are also protected under the EU, although even if we did vote to leave these would only change if the UK government decided too, which is very unlikely.
Reasons to Leave:
Leaving the EU would allow us to establish our own individual trade agreements and would enable us to trade freely with other countries, such as the emerging markets of China and India.
The leave campaign believes that we would still have access to the single market of the EU through a trade agreement and would not be bound by the EU laws that we are currently and could agree a similar trade deal to that of Norway, who still enjoys trade with the EU but is not bound by all its rules and regulations.
The EU is not our only potential alley when it comes to trade, if we were to vote to leave it would open up trade opportunities with Commonwealth nations such as Australia.
According to City Am it could also open free movement between commonwealth nations with "An ambitious plan for Commonwealth free movement of people, starting with Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, only likely to make meaningful progress if the UK leaves the EU. Britain’s membership of the EU denies it access to the most culturally compatible, highly-educated workforce in the world."
Sovereignty & Laws
Regulations handed down by Brussels are binding across all member states and as a EU member the UK has to abide by and apply them, and these do not always necessarily align with the wishes of the UK.
As Nigel Farage likes to highlight, a proportion of our laws are now made in Brussels by unelected ‘bureaucrats’ and other member states can force through decisions that the UK doesn’t agree with, in essence we have lost the ability to some extent to control and govern our own nation.
A deal that David Cameron has tried to negotiate includes a ‘commitment’ to give back some powers to Britain and allows national parliaments to block legislations.
However this is not the full regain of sovereignty that people are hoping for and those that do hold this view believe the only way to regain full sovereignty will be to leave the EU.
Our economy is the 5th largest in the world.
A vote to leave will have an effect on the economy in some way that's a given, but a vote to stay does not mean we are guaranteed economic stability. The EU is far from stable, Greece is in economic meltdown and the Euro currency is severely struggling.
Leaving will have a detrimental effect in the short term, some believe that things will need to get worse to enable them to get better and that a break away from the failing Euro now, while we have a stronger economy rather then wait for the situation in the EU to worsen, and if we don't leave may see more countries become reliant on us and Germany through the EU to bail them out.
Immigration & Security
Immigration is a huge, contentious issue in this referendum.
While some view freedom of movement as a positive aspect of the EU, others worry that it allows EU citizens to enter the UK with too much ease, increases immigration to unsustainable levels, while also posing a security risk if terrorists travel with an EU passport. Figures show net immigration rising, which is causing some to attribute inevitable increase in pressures on our already stretched public services and infrastructure such as the NHS, benefits, housing and schools.
There is also a large amount of concern surrounding incoming countries joining the EU and the weight they may add to an already volatile situation regarding immigration in the EU. Turkey and other countries are set to join in coming years and will allow over 80 million more people to move freely around the EU member states.
Nigel Farage is adamant that the only way to "gain back control of our borders" is to leave the EU.
A vote to leave, despite what Mr Farage & Mr Johnson say, may not guarantee the end free movement and give us back full control of our borders. We could end up in a similar situation to Norway who, as part of their trade agreement with the EU have certain conditions, which for them includes free movement.
Things to think about…..
• There is no right answer.
• Nothing is guaranteed.
• NO One has a crystal ball, NO ONE knows what will happen if we stay or leave, there will always be a level of uncertainty.
• Risk, there is risk on both sides. Staying in is still risky, there are no guarantees that a vote to remain will be beneficial, the EU is struggling with Greece awaiting another bailout and other economies on the brink. But a vote to leave does come with a greater element of uncertainty, a country has never never left the EU before, so will the remaining EU countries punish us and look to discourage others from following suit with trade tariffs and free movement conditions even if we do?, we just don’t know.
• You need to decided if the risks of leaving out-weighs the risks of staying.
If you think..
- Leaving the EU poses more risks than staying.
- Changes do need to be made but we need have a seat at the table to make reforms.
You should consider a …..Vote To Remain in the EU.
- The risks of leaving are worth it.
- It may get worse before it gets better but fundamental change outside of the EU is necessary.
You should consider a …...Vote To Leave the EU.
And ultimately, whatever you decided make sure you exercise your democratic right and have your say by voting on 23rd June 2016, because we all need to decided our future, as one nation with one vote.