Fringe Box



Opinion: The Perceived Problems of EU Membership

Published on: 20 May, 2016
Updated on: 26 May, 2016
Nils Christiansen

Cllr Nils Christiansen

By Nils Christiansen

Conservative ward councillor for Holy Trinity

This article is the second of a series of five setting out my personal views on a very important voting decision. I have written them in the hope of stimulating some reasoned debate, and I hope that others, from all sides, will do the same.

A commonly mentioned problem about the EU is the lack of democratic accountability.

Of course we share some sovereignty with the EU, but this is true of every international agreement we make, such as NATO, the WTO, and even the recent Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Every time we share sovereignty we are simply saying that we will allow another body to make rules that we will agree to abide by. For example, one of the rules in NATO is that we will go to war if another NATO member is attacked.

EU&UK FlagsNothing about the EU comes close. We still have parliamentary sovereignty, because parliament decides whether we wish to participate in these organisations, and decides which rules we will allow them to set. The EU cannot decide anything unless we have not previously given them permission to do so.

Similarly we can decide if to take back our shared sovereignty – for example by the referendum in June.

Another perceived issue is that the economic “sclerosis” of Europe somehow holds back the UK economy. This is a strangely sweeping statement which does not bear close scrutiny.

In reality, the EU contains some countries which are doing very well, and others which are in economic difficulty. Ireland, for example, grew by 9.2 per cent in 2015. This is faster growth than China or India. Germany is the world’s third largest exporter, exporting only 20 per cent less than the USA whose population is four times the size.

The majority of the German exports go outside of the EU, despite being ‘hobbled’ by the same trade rules as the UK. Sweden has become a hotbed of technology, as the home of global tech companies such as Skype and Spotify. And Poland is one of the few countries in the world which continued to grow strongly even through the last global recession.

Clearly a large number of EU countries, particularly in Southern Europe, have deep economic problems, but this is as a result of a lethal combination of domestic economic mismanagement and membership of the Euro.

Opinion Logo 2As to the UK, we are not a member of the Euro and there is no reason for us ever to become a member. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates we have ever had, combined with one of the highest growth rates amongst large developed countries.

We also regularly top the tables as amongst the least regulated large economies in the world. In what way is the EU causing us – or the other successful EU economies – economic harm?

The other principal concern is the right of free movement of people within the EU. This has of course led to a huge influx of people, particularly from Eastern Europe, and indeed there are many such immigrants living right here in our borough.

The strange thing about this “concern” is the lack of evidence of harm. Everyone knows a Polish plumber, a Latvian nurse or a Rumanian builder, and they comment without exception on how hard working, polite and good at English they are.

Where, then, are all the immigrant benefit scroungers? We currently have near record low unemployment – it is less than one per cent in our borough – and large numbers of job vacancies, most acutely felt in areas like health and social care, but also in other sectors at which we excel locally such as professional services and advanced engineering.

If we don’t find a way to fill these jobs, hospital patients will go uncared for, the frail will not receive care in the community, and some of our most innovative companies will take their growth plans, along with our educated young people, elsewhere.

We are fortunate that an unusually high percentage of the EU immigrants to the UK arrive with a higher education, and yet they are prepared to take the jobs we are struggling to fill. Better still, the evidence from the last recession was that when jobs in the UK did become scarce, enough of the immigrants went home (easy to do because of EU free movement) that our unemployment rate did not rise as much as expected.

In my opinion, the recent cohort of immigrants is simply proving what so many immigrants have done before them: that they are prepared to ‘get on their bike’ (in Norman Tebbit’s words) and go to where the work is.

Remember that many of the greatest Brits have had strong immigrant links: Churchill was half American, Benjamin Disraeli was Italian, George Handel was German, and Mr Marks of M&S was Polish.

So long as they pay their taxes and obey our laws – and the evidence is that they do – surely these are exactly the kind of people we need?

Lastly, some commentators state that 80 million Turks will soon be arriving when Turkey joins the EU. To this I can only point out that the previous expansion of the EU to the East, which has led to so much immigration, was actually championed by Britain. No further expansion is likely any time soon as this would require unanimity.

Other countries such as France were generally opposed to the original expansion precisely because of the fear of immigration. It is rather ironic that we are now the ones who are considering leaving the EU because of the consequences of our own policy.

See also:

Why I Will Be Voting ‘Remain’ in the EU Referendum

Why I Will Be Voting To Leave The EU

The Real Problems of EU Membership

Nils Christiansen’s next article will be on, ‘The benefits of EU Membership’.

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