Me and Bob shake. No hard feelings, mate. You're still wrong, mate.
The Business Breakfast team brought me on to wrangle about Brexit with a nice chap called Bob, which we did in a good natured sort of way. Here's my argument about why we should stay in the EU, in the hope it might be helpful to someone, somewhere today as the UK casts its votes on staying in the Union. It must be said, there has been all too little coverage from our mainstream media that has championed the causes of context and analysis that so often are pushed as an argument for why MSM is still relevant in our social world. Here are some of the bullet points I used to back up my 'remain' point.
Let's start with the big stuff. Our membership of the EU has made us more wealthy, more healthy, fairer, more free and more secure than if we had been outside the 28-nation bloc. Here's why:
- 1 in 10 British jobs are linked to the EU's single market. That's 3.5 million jobs.
- The UK's exports to the EU comprise some 54% of our total export of goods, some 40% of services. In other words, over half of our nation's trade depends on the EU.
- 300,000 British companies, some 74% of our nation's exporters, operate in EU markets.
- The EU's trade agreements are good for us. There are 46 in place, 70 under negotiation. If you take the example of South Korea alone, our trade doubled between H1 2011 and H1 2012 when our EU trade deal was in place.
- If you're worried about the mad US trade deal, TTIP, so's the EU. That's why it's not being steamrollered through, which is what the US would dearly like to see.
- EU environmental legislation has been key to the development of better healthcare practices and keeping GMOs at bay.
- EU regulations on dangerous chemicals in foodstuffs, the workplace and agriculture have kept us protected against the interests of big business that would have dominated our polity otherwise.
- We have equal pay and anti-discrimination legislation and protections in place.
- The EU's anti-trust, tax evasion and competition laws have protected our businesses from unfair competitive practices. A company like Google has to listen to a 28-nation bloc - would they listen to a lone government in the same way?
- The European Court for Human Rights exists to ensure justice to a standard agreed between our 28 nations to be the highest in the world.
- We are free to travel, live and work anywhere in the EU. Over 1.4 million Britons do so. To deal with the great canard of immigration, incidentally, 942,000 people of Eastern European nationality and 791,000 people of Western European nationality currently reside in the UK. And 2.9 million people of Indian and Chinese nationality.
- At the same time, we're not part of the Schengen agreement - so our control over our borders remains tighter than that of other EU members.
- Put aside the fact the EEC, to become the EU, was formed in the aftermath of two bloody world wars and centuries of warring and economic conflict between the nations of Europe.
- The European Arrest Warrant alone makes us more secure and more able to ensure justice is done rapidly and effectively.
And yet it underpins over half our export trade into a zero-tariff hinterland giving us access to over 500 million consumers.
We keep getting shown the 'Norway model' and yet Norway pays more per capita in contribution to the EU than Britain does, is still subject to EU regulation AND legislation and yet can play no part in the democratic process that evolves, agrees and sets those regulations and legislation. It's hardly a win-win.
If we left, we'd see a 'hard border' between the Republic of Ireland and the North. We'd see 10% duty on all car exports from the UK to the EU, which to me just sounds like the death knell for an industry that today has no British ownership whatsoever. And you could say goodbye to those Airbus manufacturing facilities, too.
What about our sovereignty? Our democracy? The European Union IS democratic. If we'd spent 10% of the time and effort we've invested in Brexit understanding our MEPs, voting for them and engaging in dialogue with them, we'd be in a lot better shape when it comes to our participation in Europe. The EU commission proposes legislation, our MEPs vote for it, modify it or reject it in a totally democractic process.
As for our sovereignty, you'd really have to be a Little Englander to put that at the head of your worries. In today's world, we are no longer an Empire or a global power. And we've already given up more sovereignty to our regional assemblies than we've ever given up to Europe.
I've heard 'leave' campaigners talking about how 60% of our laws are made by the EU, but that's never substantiated. The British Chamber of Commerce estimates between 10 and 20% of British legislation is impacted by EU legislation. And as far as I can see, the vast majority of that has been positive for us rather than in any way negative. And by positive, I mean that if the rights of the individual are protected against the interests of big business, I'm for it.
Who would argue in today's globalised, hyper-networked world that isolationism is an option? It's simply not.
Have a nice vote.