On 23 June 2016, the UK will hold a referendum on membership of the European Union. The starting pistol has been fired (though, in truth, both teams have been jogging along for some time already).
Over the course of the referendum campaign, Debating Europe will be launching a series of debates with politicians and experts from across the United Kingdom. We will be putting your questions and comments to them on “Brexit”, and publishing the responses online. If you want to take part in the debate, then fill out the form below with your comment!
Supporters of British membership of the EU argue that the economic costs of leaving could be high. In response to fears of Brexit, the pound recently suffered its biggest one-day loss since 2009, and a group of major business leaders have signed a letter arguing that jobs could be lost and the economy put at risk.
Campaigners to leave point out that two-thirds of FTSE 100 firms did not sign the letter, and that stock markets have been relatively unmoved so far.
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:
The economy and trade will be among the top issues during the referendum campaign. We had a comment sent in from Julia, who believes that leaving the EU would be enormously beneficial to the UK’s trade, both with Europe and the rest of the world. She believes that a Britain outside the EU would be able to negotiate free trade agreements with other countries, such as those in the Commonwealth.
To get a reaction, we put Julia’s comment to John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham. How did he think “Brexit” would affect the UK’s trade relations?
Leaving the European Union would probably help the UK’s trade with the EU, and it would certainly help the UK’s trade with the rest of the world. One of the problems of our membership of the European Union, Julia, is that we’ve been a member for 43 years and the Union has still not managed to negotiate a free trade agreement for us with China, India, the United States of America, or Brazil, all very important markets that we wish to deal more with. And nor will they let the United Kingdom negotiate our own free trade agreement, whereas we think we would be able to do that quite quickly and to our benefit.
As for trade with the rest of the EU, we don’t see any reason why it should be damaged. I have spoken to senior representatives of the German government and they have rightly made it clear to me that if the United Kingdom leaves they wouldn’t wish to see new tariffs or barriers imposed on their trade with us, and that’s not surprising because Germany sells us twice as much as we sell Germany. Indeed, we have a trade deficit with the whole of the rest of the European Union. Outside the EU, I would be very happy for us to continue to allow in all the current imports we take from the rest of the EU with no additional barriers, and in return I’m quite sure that the rest of the European Union would want to continue to accept United Kingdom exports…
For another perspective, we also spoke to Anthony Zacharzewski, Director of the Democratic Society (speaking here in a personal capacity). What would he say to Julia?
I think the hardest question to answer is what is going to happen to trade and the economic relations between the UK and the rest of the EU. The simple reason is that nobody knows exactly what the arrangement that would come afterwards would look like. If you look at the treaties, you have two years, and maybe more, to negotiate a new trading relationship with Europe after you leave. But the problem with that is that it’s difficult to predict what it could look like.
There’s something called the European Economic Area (EEA). We might be part of that, and in that case we’d still be in the Single Market, but we’d probably still have free movement and all of the other arrangements that look quite similar to what we have today. If you wanted to get farther away from Europe and maybe put up barriers to immigration and things like that, you’d need to negotiate a special deal. And no-one knows what it could look like. But it seems unlikely that any of the European countries that we’d be turning our backs on would want to give us a really sweet free trade deal without having free movement and other parts of the European Union rules as well.
Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? How would Brexit affect the British economy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!