The 23rd June is D-Day for Britain in Europe, with the country set to take to the polls to answer 2016’s most important question: should we stay or should we go?
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If the EU referendum does see Britain voting to leave a bloc that it has been part of for over 40 years, it’s likely that the map of Europe will be rewritten — economically, at least.
With seven of his 29 cabinet ministers campaigning to leave — including Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Commons Leader Chris Grayling and London Mayor Boris Johnson — David Cameron has got a fight on his hands to stay part of the European Union.
Here are a few things that could happen if that fight doesn’t pay off…
The EU will decide on the terms of our exit
If Britain decides that leaving is the way to go, an application to withdraw will need to be made under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The article states that a new agreement between Britain and the EU will be negotiated over two years — the crux, though, is that Britain wouldn’t actually have a say in these negotiations.
Leaving in itself is a fairly hostile move, and certainly isn’t one that the EU wants to see repeated by other powerful members — so it is likely that terms imposed wouldn’t be all that favourable to Britain. Making leaving look like the easy choice is hardly something they’ll want to encourage.
We’ll probably get a new Prime Minister
After pouring everything into staying in Europe, as he is now expected to do, it’s unlikely that David Cameron will stick around for an ego-kicking should the country vote to leave. With it recently revealed that he’ll be campaigning for a Brexit, is it time we started saying — hello, Boris?
…And possibly a new Chancellor
George Osborne is sticking by his PM in the “in” camp, warning that an exit from the EU would be a dangerous move for Britain. With the shift in economic stance that would inevitably come about in the case of a Brexit, it seems likely that he will also jump ship.
Scotland will go to the polls again
Scotland wants to stay in Europe, so if Britain decides to leave it’s likely that a referendum on Scottish independence will follow. A potential redrawing of the United Kingdom would be on the cards if the result of this was positive. According to the Economist Northern Ireland, too, has been vocal about wanting Britain to stay in Europe, so the long, long conversation about Home Rule could threaten to rise again.
EU citizens living elsewhere wouldn’t be forced to relocate
MigrationWatch UK has suggested that any alteration of visa rules and/or immigration laws would not adversely affect either the two million British expats living abroad, or EU citizens currently living in Britain. MigrationWatch UK has cited the Vienna Convention, under which “withdrawal from a treaty releases the parties from any future obligation to each other but does not affect any rights or obligations acquired under it before withdrawal” as its basis.
Migration into Britain would fall
A big part of the “out” campaign focuses on control of Britain’s borders and the imposing of strict limits on migration. Lower migration into Britain may do damage to the economy, though, because overall immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
A study carried out by MigrationWatch UK predicts that if Britain was to leave to EU migration into the country could be cut by 100,000 per year, with limits imposed through the introduction of visas and the ability to only receive skilled workers. It is low-skilled workers from Eastern Europe that are most likely to be blocked from entering Britain, in this case.
There would be a changed position for Europe on the world stage
Britain is the most significant country in Europe in terms of foreign policy and is the continent’s biggest military power, so an exit would be a huge blow for the EU both on the world stage and with regards to defence. Europe would lose the big tie that it currently has with America (Obama is very much pro an “in” vote) and its overall position, shadowed by Russia (pro Brexit), the Middle East and Africa, would be weakened in terms of defence.
The effect on the economy (the big one)
Studies from the Bank of England, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have predicted the economy to suffer if Britain chooses to leave, with suggestions that the value of the pound would fall and that being part of the EU has been beneficial for the British economy overall. A poll of more than 100 economists, carried out by the Financial Times in January, found that three quarters thought leaving would harm Britain’s economic prospects.
The vital issue of trade has been at the heart of much of the in/out discussion. The EU is the world’s biggest single market, and with half of Britain’s exports going into it — the fastest growing is financial services — it’s one that it’s essential Britain can continue to access.
As detailed on The Economist Britain could still do this through membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), a la Norway and Iceland — but as these countries have demonstrated this would come with terms: payments into the EU budget and free movement of EU migrants are still required of the former. Switzerland, not part of the EEA, has similar terms; asking for limits on migration could halt their trade agreements.
Meanwhile, the EU has or is negotiating 53 trade deals with non-EU countries — from which Britain would be excluded. Countries such as China, the US, India and South Korea are likely to stick with the EU, rather than negotiating deals with Britain alone.
The G20’s finance ministers, including George Osborne, have unanimously agreed that leaving the EU would “shock” the world’s economy. Speaking in Shanghai last week, Osborne laid out what the effect on the global economy could mean for people’s lives in Britain: “This isn’t some amusing adventure into the unknown. A British exit would hurt people’s jobs, livelihoods and living standards — it’s deadly serious.”
He continued: “It’s my responsibility as Chancellor to make it clear to people what the economic risks are — and that we are stronger, safer and better off remaining in a reformed EU.”
Will you vote in or out in the EU referendum? Let us know…
Originally published at https://www.thenationalstudent.com.