Counter-arguments against leaving the EU

I recently came across an article on my social media feed, purporting to refute the arguments in favour of leaving the EU. Interested in the arguments in favour of EU membership, I decided to critically examine these arguments. Line by line.

The conclusion I arrived at was that the article mainly served to only defend criticisms of the EU membership, without offering any substantial benefits. Thus it reads like a piece of propaganda written by someone who’s already made up their mind. I wish the author had done better, as I would have liked a convincing article to help me believe in the EU as I once did several short years ago, but sadly this offering is found wanting.

The article in question:
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21674698-there-growing-risk-britain-will-leave-european-union-it-needs-be-countered

My full line-by-line critique below…

1) Market regulation
“The Paris-based OECD club of mostly rich countries says that Britain has the least-regulated labour market and second-least-regulated product market in Europe.”
The argument against EU membership isn’t over-regulation, but of being unable to control any regulation that comes out of the EU. Being least-regulated does not mean that the regulations which still apply are not in themselves damaging.

“The most damaging measures, such as planning restrictions and the new living wage, are home-grown. ”
The damage done by home-grown regulations is irrelevant – this argument has no impact on the point that, due to the nature of EU membership, EU-imposed regulations cannot be rejected even if they are damaging to all parties involved. If home-grown regulations are found to be damaging, at least they can be rescinded at home.

“Post-Brexit Britain would almost certainly choose not to scrap much red tape, since the call for workplace, financial and environmental regulation is often domestic and would remain as strong as ever.”
So what? Given the option of sovereignty, why would a nation willingly give it up? If UK chooses to retain the red tape, at least that would be UK’s choice. With choice, the UK can choose to retain the regulations which are beneficial, and reject the regulations which are damaging. Whilst the UK is part of the EU, positive and negative regulations have to all be accepted without choice.

“… if Britain wanted full access to the European single market, it would have to observe almost all the EU’s rules.”
Incorrect. It would only have to observe only the EU’s rules on TRADE, and even then only specifically for exports to the EU. Goods and services exported outside the EU would not be subjected to such restrictions. Furthermore, EU rules are far more encompassing than just rules on trade. Their imposition includes infringements on civil liberties as well as industry regulations which are damaging (such as policies on fisheries and agriculture). How much contact and collaboration do UK MEPs have with UK industries? Next to none. Eurocrats are professional politicians and bureaucrats. They have next to no industrial experience or expertise.

“Eurosceptics who dream of reclaiming lost sovereignty need to explain how they advance their aims by advocating an alternative that would require Britain to apply rules it has no say in making—and to pay for the privilege.”
UK has hardly any say in making those rules anyway. And like I pointed out before, not every rule will need to be adhered to. If that were true, the TTIP would be pointless and even impossible.

“If, instead, Britain wishes to escape the EU’s rules, it will lose full access to the single market.”
Losing full access does not mean fully losing access. It will still have access, just not access as a member of the EU. Bear in mind that UK has unprecedented international links by virtue of its colonial heritage, as well as close political and economic ties to the world’s largest market – the USA. UK has to forsake this heritage in order to have full access to the EU.

“The argument that, because Britain imports more from the EU than the other way round, it is in a strong bargaining position is unconvincing: the EU takes almost half of British exports, whereas Britain takes less than 10% of the EU’s. ”
That is comparing apples and oranges. The EU is not a single nation or market, it is a bloc of nations. It would be as nonsensical as saying “the USA takes up almost half of Florida’s exports, whereas Florida takes less than 10% of the USA’s”

“A free-trade deal in goods might be negotiable, but it would not cover services (including financial services), which make up a rising share of British exports.”
Why wouldn’t a trade agreement in financial services be negotiable? Isn’t there a nationwide drive to reduce the economy’s reliance on financial services anyway?

“And one thing is sure: if Britain establishes a precedent by leaving, the rest of the EU will not rush to reward it.”
Just like the EU rewarded Greece for its loyal membership? If the EU was really going to be that vindictive to a former member, all the more reason to exit the corrupt and power-hungry bureaucracy. Aside from Belgium, which country has the EU rewarded for loyalty?

2) Trade negotiation clout
“…German exports to China are three times as big as Britain’s.”
This is cherry-picking the evidence. What about the rest of the EU member states?

“The broader objection is that a Britain in search of free-trade deals with these giants would lose the negotiating clout of belonging to the world’s biggest single market.”
The vapid hand-waving concept of ‘clout’ again. What good is clout if the negotiated deals are biased unfavourably against the UK (whether or not it was intentional)?

“A prime example is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated by America and the EU (see article). A post-Brexit Britain would be excluded from TTIP.”
The nationally-maligned TTIP? That’s not a good argument for EU participation.

3) Immigration
“Switzerland’s and Norway’s experience suggests that if post-Brexit Britain wants full access to the European single market, it will have to accept the free movement of people from the EU.”
That’s because Switzerland and Norway are both part of the Schengen Area, an agreement the UK is not part of. Please do some research.

“Leaving the EU would not stop refugees from crowding into Calais…”
No, but it would give the UK the right to reject refugees which have gained EU asylum.

“…but they would be harder to manage, because co-operating with France would become more problematic.”
Really, what does EU membership have to do with co-operating with France? This is more hand-waving.

“Liberal Eurosceptics favour more immigration and a more global Britain. ”
This doesn’t describe ‘Eurosceptics’ at all! The only group who even vaguely fits this description are UKIP and those who support their ideas wholesale. And UKIP want to be more global, but not necessarily more immigration. This position is what’s called a straw-man. A dummy argument set up so that it’s easy to knock down.

“If Britain leaves the EU it will be precisely because a lot of voters mistrust foreigners and globalisation. After Brexit, they will expect a more inward-looking Britain that imposes tougher immigration controls.”
Ah, that old chestnut: the conflation of border control with racism. Wanting to control immigration is not the same as distrusting foreigners, and globalisation has nothing to do with it.

4) British influence
“The final contradiction is over British influence. Eurosceptics say that Britain must leave because it counts for nothing in Brussels and is constantly outvoted on policy. Yet at the same time they argue that, with the world’s fifth- or sixth-biggest economy, a post-Brexit Britain would punch well above its weight internationally and be able to strike favourable commercial deals around the world, including with the EU it had just voted to leave.”
Another conflation of ideas. The two concepts are not contradictory because you’re comparing apples and oranges, again. The UK is frequently outvoted on EU policy because the EU is a political bureaucracy, where (votes and influence) are counted by number of MEPs. However, in terms of economic leverage and political influence, UK is much more respected on the international scene than the rest of the EU, thus punching well above its weight compared to the level of influence it has on the EU.

“In fact Britain has influenced the EU for the better. The European project it joined in 1973 had obvious flaws: ludicrously expensive farm and fisheries policies, a budget designed to cost Britain more than any other country, no single market and only nine members. Thanks partly to British political clout, the EU now has less wasteful agricultural and fisheries policies, a budget to which Britain is a middling net contributor, a liberal single market, a commitment to freer trade and 28 members.
Finally some ideas I can agree with. This sounds like the only good argument I have seen so far for UK’s participation in EU membership, but this is an argument of altruism. It has a negative net effect for the UK, demanding that the UK sacrifice its sovereignty in order to minimally benefit the greater association of EU member states. This line of logic appeals to British magnanimity, which I only fear is misplaced. If Brits, especially British politicians really were that charitable, we wouldn’t have the sort of muck-flinging we see in public life. Brits like to boast about being generous and charitable, but the reality is that the nation’s national pastime is to indulge in gossip and scandal.

“Like any club, it needs reform. But the worst way to effect change is to loiter by the exit.”
Ever heard of the Protestant Reformation? The revolt against the Roman Catholic Church by Protestant reformers kicked off not only one of the greatest religious movements in history, but also triggered the reformation of the corrupt Vatican establishment. When earlier attempts at internal reformation failed, the only course of action was to depart from the establishment, and the results that came about were revolutionary – it not only benefited those who departed, it also provided the wake-up call that the establishment required, the driving factor for internal reform.

The ‘special report’ it mentions:
http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21673505-though-britain-has-always-been-rather-half-hearted-about-european-union-its

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Author: Hoong-Wai

I'm a sinner. I have an interest in economics, philosophy, politics, science, sociology, technology, theology (in alphabetical order). I care about truth and justice. I can be a contrarian.

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