I believe passionately that we should remain a member of the EU, but am not a passionate “pro-European”. I agree with much of what (parts of) the Leave campaign have to say: that membership of the EU has disadvantages. They are vastly exaggerated, but they certainly exist. They are dwarfed, though, by the benefits.
This debate has become emotional but should be decided by sober self-interest: do we get more than we give? Yes, and it isn’t close.
The EU takes 44 percent of our exports, representing 14 percent of our GDP. If we exit the EU, we exit the single market. We will have at least five years of materially lower competitiveness as we await a trade agreement. Beyond that we will have a trade deal which leaves us with whatever remains after 27 other countries have cherry picked the parts of our economy they wish to internalise. We lose jobs, we lose investment, we lose GDP, tax income and services.
Could choosing that outcome make sense?
Only if we weight unilateral sovereignty above all else. But we should be cynical as we weigh that trade off, because the prize is nothing like we might imagine. The things we blame on the EU are in large part because it is (conveniently for successive generations of domestic politicians) the current referee on many things which touch parts of our lives we’d rather weren’t touched. Take away the EU and there will be another referee. That might be the World Trade Organisation, or the US via our own Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or the UN in other aspects.
Some of it will fall back to our own legislators who will make the same decisions faced by the same constraints that the current bogeyman of the EU has done. We can fantasise about a bonfire of rules and regulation, but that is all we will do.
Life in the EU isn’t easy, but the difficult bit is life, not the EU. We have challenges as a country – show me one that doesn’t – and we might imagine that some change, any change, is worth a punt. It isn’t. Leaving the EU won’t solve our problems, it will simply reduce the number of pieces we have on the board with which to do so. We should remain.
Nick Campsie is a co-treasurer of the Stronger In campaign and runs the illiquid equity portfolio for a global asset management company.