Imagine its 24 June and the world wakes up to the news that the British people have voted to leave the European Union. I don’t think this will happen but it could. For the most part, life would go on as normal but there would be some changes that would make things a bit more bothersome. The United Kingdom may lose some influence on the world stage but would retain other levers of soft and hard power. The City of London may lose some business to Frankfurt but could probably gain other business through regulatory arbitrage. We would go through two years of negotiation of what “out” looks like without knowing the final outcome but I doubt the average Brit’s life would be impacted that much one way or another in the short term.
So if the world is not going to end with Brexit, why should the United Kingdom remain? The answers are not those of fear but of hope.
I am hopeful of what the EU can do for the UK and what the UK can do for the EU.
Britain should be leading in Europe, not alone, but with France and Germany and with the consent of friends and allies. Britain although an actor on the world stage, is still very much a European power. America debated the merits of engaging with the world or closeted isolation between the two world wars and Brits are having a similar debate now with this referendum. The rest of the world could see that America was a global power and it was needed on the world stage. The rest of the world can see that the UK is a European power and is needed in the EU.
A fresh mandate from the British people for remaining within the EU will enhance the UK’s position with her fellow member states. A fresh mandate will help build bridges where relationships have been strained in the past and give Britain greater diplomatic power than before. A remain vote would also reinvigorate the EU.
The European Union is facing crisis and the possibility of historic success at the same time. On the crisis front, we have the management of the Euro and the pressures on the Schengen Area. On the potential for great success front, we have the recent trade treaties both signed and being negotiated, such as CETA, TiSA and TTIP.
When it comes to crisis, in an ever more connected world, the truth is your problems are our problems and we need to address them.
We may not be in the Schengen Area, but the UK can help to strengthen security and borders. The Royal Navy is already involved in operations in the Mediterranean Sea surrounding security. We need to lead more and contribute more in these areas to help out. We are also already playing a very active role in Europol and contributing to the investigation into the 10,000 missing refugee children.
There is debate in the UK, as to whether the Euro should ever have been created. Some still consider it foolish to have created a currency without a country. Perhaps, if it is not considered misconceived, it at least could be considered badly implemented. What we can say without a doubt is that it exists and it probably isn’t going to just disappear quietly. The Euro may go through more teething problems and come out stronger the other side or it may need some members to carry out an orderly exit. The UK will stay outside of the Eurozone and maintain the independence of the Pound, but it can also be there to help when needed.
The opportunities for success could bring the most reward for the UK, the EU and in turn the rest of the world.
Comprehensive Trade and Economic Partnership (CETA) between Canada and the EU is set to benefit the UK by £1.3 Billion according to House of Commons Library research. The same sources quote that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA could be worth an extra £10 Billion a year to the UK. TTIP’s effect on the EU could be to add €119 Billion per annum and would subsequently not just benefit EU citizens but would also boost the global economy. These trade treaties are breaking new grounds and the foundations of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is another case in point. The founding sub-group of the World Trade Organisation is made up of 23 parties, including the EU and the US who are leading it, called Really Good Friends (RGF). With these trade treaties we are not just growing are economies, we are also cementing alliances, friendships and peace. It would be great if the UK could continue to be part of that process and that we all can benefit in the long run.
It was President Obama on his visit to London, who made it explicit that it could take a while for the UK to negotiate its own trade treaties if it was outside of the EU. He said we would be “at the back of the queue” and a lot of the electorate seem to have taken note.
The opportunity cost of not being within the EU to the British Economy may only be as much a fear as the retirement plan you forget to save in to and seen as very much a problem for tomorrow, but HM Treasury have estimated that it could amount to another 8% on top of taxes in the long term depending on what out looks like. This argument does also seem to be winning through.
It is a long campaign however and it will not really start until 6 May when elections in Scotland, Wales, London and local authorities in England are out of the way. The British electorate usually get general elections and referenda right and I hope they do again this time but we cannot take them for granted.
If this exercise can be presented in terms of hope and seeking a fresh mandate, I think the verdict will be to remain and the world will wake up a better and a more ambitious place for humanity on 24 June.