Following the referendum on independence for Scotland and the clear view that the Scottish people want to remain in the British union – the United Kingdom (UK) – we can get down to improving the position of people by creating employment and reducing poverty. We must come to a similar position on the UK’s commitment to remaining in the European Union (EU) so that we can get down to boosting trade and creating jobs. In the ongoing debate on the UK’s place in the European Union, it’s important to keep the facts in mind. On economic, political and social measures, Britain gains from being part of the EU. At the same time, reforming how the EU works to make it function better is essential if it is to achieve a sustainable future. The UK can and should take the lead in shaping the European Union’s course ahead.
Ever since joining the European Union (then called the European Communities) in 1973, Britain has seemed to have had a constant debate about whether to stay or go. The UK Government held a referendum on remaining in the Common Market in 1975, in which two thirds of voters opted to stay in. That was a clear commitment which has stood us in good stead.
The economic benefits of EU membership are substantial, both in their breadth and depth. Britain sends around 50% of its produce to the rest of the EU, all without tariffs, quotas, duties or other non-tariff barriers. UK companies have full access to a European market of over 505 million people with a combined GDP of 6.2 billion, allowing for EU-wide economies of scale. The internal market provides free trade in goods, but also free trade in services and movement of capital, allowing the UK to maximize its competitive advantage in services, such as finance, across the European Union.
On the world’s stage the UK can hold its own, but it also benefits from being in the more sizeable EU bloc. In trade deals with the rest of the world, a market of 505 million people has more weight than one of 64 million. This allows Britain to benefit from more advantageous trading terms with large and growing economies. Where EU countries agree on foreign policy, which happens much more often than one might think, the UK is part of a united European voice that stands up for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The UK needs strong and close allies in today’s world. Working together ensures that Britain’s support for universal values continues to be effective, as Europe’s relative importance in the world readjusts in favour of developing countries. Today the EU accounts for 30% of global GDP –if is predicted that will fall to 15%. Geopolitical reality makes EU membership essential to Britain’s future.
The social benefits make the EU even more worthwhile. Britain’s already strong cultural and artistic links with the rest of Europe have flourished under the serendipity which the European Union provides. Both European and national initiatives promote greater transnational cooperation in academia, the arts and beyond. EU programmes such as Erasmus offer fantastic opportunities for young people to live, work and study in another country. Britain has always been open to the world, and being in the EU allows it to deepen its friendship with its neighbors while retaining its national identity.
Across this range of measures, Britain gains from its membership of the European Union. Its economy is stronger, its people are freer and its place in the world is enhanced. The EU is not about becoming one single superstate – it’s about countries working together in areas of common interest.
Britain is richer with a European future and it’s better off in the EU.