We’ve already discussed the impact of ‘Brexit’ on immigration into the UK. One of the other chief issues during the referendum campaign will be the economy, with many voters wondering if Britain could do even better outside the restrictions of EU membership, or whether cutting ties with the UK’s largest trading partner would be economic suicide.
The EU Single Market is central to this debate. It’s the largest market on the planet, even larger than the United States. The UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that, in the 18 months leading to January 2016, the proportion of total British exports that have gone to the EU has ranged from 38 per cent to 49 per cent. Europe is obviously an important trade partner, but could the UK keep access to that market without having to sign up to EU rules that British voters don’t like?
Have you already made your mind up which way to vote? Do YOU think Britain should leave the European Union? Let us know what you think in the poll below:
We had a comment sent in by James, who argues it is “hopelessly naive” to believe that Britain could gain access to the EU Single Market without signing up to EU rules (such as freedom of movement).
To get a reaction, we spoke to Andy Bagnall, Director of Campaigns for the Chamber of British Industries (CBI). Does he believe that if Britain leaves, the EU would still grant it access to the Single Market without signing up to EU rules?
Well, the short answer is no, I don’t. Why would the other 27 Member States of the European Union give the UK all of the benefits and none of the costs? […] If the UK tried to be like Norway and join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) or the European Economic Area (EEA), it might still be able to get access to the Single Market, but in those circumstances it would still follow all of the relevant EU rules for selling goods and services, it would be subject to the rules on free movement of people, and the UK would have no formal influence over the legislative process – no MEPs, no Commissioner, no seats on the Council. The UK would also still have to pay into the EU budget…
The UK could be more like Switzerland and negotiate on a case-by-case basis, more of a “pick and choose” approach but, again, where the UK got access to the Single Market it would need to follow the rules the EU is setting without influencing them. It’s also worth mentioning it took nine years for Switzerland to negotiate the first set of agreements, and sixteen years to get to the position it’s currently in…
For another perspective, we also spoke to Kelvin Hopkins, a British Labour MP for Luton North and co-chair of the “Labour Leave” campaign in favour of Brexit. What would he say to James?
Well, I don’t think there’s a problem there, because if the EU started to be difficult and put trade restrictions on British exports it would obviously cause difficulty for them, because if we put the same constraints on EU exports to us it would be more damaging to them than us. We effectively export over a million jobs to the European Union because of our gigantic trade deficit. So, I don’t think there’s any likelihood of trade restrictions against Britain because the European Union would lose much more than we would.
How would leaving the EU affect the British economy? Would Britain be allowed to keep access to the Single Market without following EU rules? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!