EU membership misconceptions

There are a lot of misconceptions being circulated regarding membership (or not) of the EU…

Many falsehoods are often supported and propagated by well-meaning and even many well-educated people. But I’m getting disillusioned by how misguided many of these arguments are. What puts me off is that those who are the most ignorant are shouting the loudest and propagating the most nonsense, whilst those offering the most nuanced and balanced arguments are drowned out, barely heard at all. This might be because the mass media-consuming public are unable parse out coherent arguments from emotional rhetoric and irrelevant statistics. But that’s a different debate.

I wish to examine and discuss as many of the arguments and ideas being put forward as I can…

A leap into the unknown

This is the single biggest lie ever spun by the politicians out to protect their jobs. They argue that leaving the EU will leave the UK left out in the cold.

The actual truth is, if the UK votes to leave the EU, nothing will change in the short to medium term. The country will actually retain the status quo. The biggest and only difference will be that the UK stops being subject to FURTHER European Union directives. The only changes that will occur are the changes that your country CHOOSES to implement. All the existing laws already implemented will stay in the law books, they will not be removed unless parliament votes to do so. This means you will no longer will you be subject to ever-increasing and ever-incompetent EU legislation.

If you are afraid of change, you should vote to leave. Because then you will know exactly what you are dealing with, as you are already currently living with it! And not only that, you as a democratic country will also have full control of your laws and your own politicians.

Once you vote to leave, Europe won’t abandon the UK or vice versa. Existing relationships will remain in place, existing laws and trading arrangements will remain in place. All EU directives have already been translated into UK law anyway. For arrangements specific to membership with the EU, the UK government will have two years to negotiate a replacement arrangement.

But if you vote to remain, you won’t know what direction the EU will go in. What are the next directives the EU will issue, and what are the driving forces behind these directives? What will TTIP, cloaked in secrecy, going to entail? What’s the expansion of the EU into former Soviet states going to do to Western Europe’s relationship with Russia? The EU doesn’t seem to care, it just wants to fulfill its ambition of being the next global superpower.

On the EU train, the UK is being taken to an unknown destination. Leave the train now, and find your own bearings. Stop being led into the unknown by politicians and bureaucrats you don’t know and have no influence over. If you want to retain the status quo, Leave is the answer.

Stopping immigration

Sorry, little-Englanders: Immigration will not stop. Leaving the EU will not support the little-England mentality. So let’s put this argument to rest. The only difference leaving the EU would make is that the UK immigration office would be able to control immigration, so that the government has a say on the quality of entrants. I say quality rather than quantity, as any numerical cap on immigration would be arbitrarily decided, so it makes no sense to have a quantitative cap on immigration. It would also be draconian to bar immigration candidates who fulfil all the entrance criteria simply because of some arbitrary quota. Britain has always welcomed immigration, and it will continue to do so whether or not it leaves the EU.

The key significance would be that immigration from the EU would vastly reduce. With membership of the EU, immigration is unqualified, meaning that there are no other entrance criteria to fulfil apart from EU citizenship. If you are from the EU, you can simply move here to find a job and somewhere to stay. When things are free and easy, lots of people will choose it. That’s the basic law of supply and demand. The problem is, when immigration happens too fast, people don’t have time to integrate. Due to the cultural differences, people start getting alienated and upset. So, to appease the British public’s cry to reduce immigration, successive British governments have actually put in place harsher and harsher immigration laws. But these laws only apply to immigrants from outside the EU! As the increase in immigration is largely due to new memberships of the EU, the effect of implementing these laws have an insignificant effect in reducing immigration.

The net effect of combining the EU’s free movement of people with harsh immigration laws is this: there is institutional discrimination against non-EU immigrants. This is where we currently stand.

Thus leaving the EU (and its free movement of people policy) will not only reduce immigration, it will also allow the UK government to relax its immigration laws, making it equally fair for ALL immigrants, regardless of which country or continent you come from.

Jobs rely on membership of the EU

There are many statistics used to support the claim that a significant proportion of jobs rely on membership with the EU. However, this statistic is being deceptively applied. The number of jobs listed is not actually the number of jobs that DEPEND on the EU. It describes the number of jobs that is merely LINKED to EU countries.

What’s the difference? The difference is important: Leaving the EU probably won’t threaten these jobs. How can this be? There several reasons for this: The first is the obvious point that a job being linked to the EU does not mean that it is dependant on membership of the EU. Sure, some jobs, such as being an MEP, is entirely dependant on the UK’s membership of the EU, but that statistic will be far smaller than the number of jobs that are being claimed to be reliant on EU membership.

The next issue is the idea that trade with the EU will stop. Unless you live in a communist/totalitarian state, the overwhelming majority of trade is decided by consumers and businesses, not by politicians or governments. Therefore, trade will occur as long as both customer and provider desire it. The only way trade will cease is if politicians put in place economic policies that discourage or even prevent such trade from happening.

Yes, there is the further argument that the EU might get vindictive over the departure of the UK, thus giving the UK a harsher economic deal than it otherwise would receive. My view on this is that they wouldn’t do this. This would be childish ego-centric posturing. I have faith that most of EU politicians and bureaucrats would be mature and pragmatic enough to not do this. And even if they did, let me ask you this question: What is the best way to handle a bully, by giving in to their demands? Or by having nothing to do with them?

In conclusion: This sounds like scare-mongering to me.

EU gives us our human rights

It is certainly true that many of the most recent human rights bills being passed in the UK have their origins in the EU. The implication is that the UK will lose its human rights laws or that UK citizens will not benefit from these human rights laws.

That is all nonsense of course. Existing laws will remain in place unless parliament votes to repeal it. This will not happen in any reasonable democracy, such as the UK. We do not live in a totalitarian state. Furthermore, the UK has the added benefit of being protected by the established church as well as the monarchy who tends to act in the interests of the population (even if it’s only to maintain their own popularity).

Well, what about future improvements in human rights law? Some argue that leaving the EU will mean that the UK stop benefiting from future human rights laws that come from the EU. Well, I don’t see how that’s true… if a neighbouring state or even continent puts into action laws that are clearly beneficial for everyone, it is also in the UK’s best interests to adopt these laws. So why would the UK not adopt these laws?

Furthermore, reliance on the EU to pass progressive improvements in law means that UK politicians become lazy and incompetent. Why does the UK need the EU to determine these laws? Citizens of the UK should demand higher standards from their politicians, so that the UK can take the lead in making legislation that benefits the people. In other words, politicians should be required to do their jobs, rather than rely on someone else to do it for them.

Thus, not only will the UK not lose out on the benefits of human rights afforded by EU, it would also require politicians in the UK to be more proactive in working to earn their position.

Pulling up the drawbridge, cutting off Europe

The EU is not Europe and Europe is not the EU!

Europe is a continent comprising many different individual nations, of which the UK is simply one of them, each full of a myriad of individuals and organisations, including businesses, charities, universities, etc. Each of these organisations will have their own motivations for working with each other across international borders. International collaboration in science, trade, and politics have been happening long before the EU or its precursors were even conceived. It will continue to happen. Scientists will continue to collaborate, businesses will continue to trade, politicians will continue to negotiate, form trading deals, and strike alliances/coalitions for a greater cause. Leaving the EU will not stop these organisations from collaborating.

On the other hand, the EU (European Union) is a specific collection of political organisations that attempts to be the umbrella entity that oversees all individual European governments. Although it attempts to portray itself as representative of the European continent, the EU is just a power-hungry entity that thinks itself the only solution to all of Europe’s problems. Leaving the EU will mean cutting off affiliation with only these specific organisations, leaving other organisations free to choose to engage or disengage, as they are already doing so currently.

Being subject to EU laws

It is often said, as another scare-mongering tactic, that if the UK leaves the EU, it would still have to apply all the laws of the EU, but without being able to contribute to it. This is one of the biggest lies being sold. Yet the examples are made of Norway and Switzerland, who are two countries which do a lot of trade with the EU, which both have to apply EU laws.

Actually this is very inaccurate. Norway only has to apply EU laws to the trade it performs with the EU. As another example, Japan has to comply with USA regulations when it sells products there. Likewise, China has to comply with EU regulations when it sells products here. It is perfectly normal and not at all the scary prospect the doom-sayers like to sell us. As for the other laws, Norway is completely exempt from them. They are not part of the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy. When trading with the rest of the world, they are not subject to the protectionist EU tariffs.

What about Switzerland? Some argue that the Swiss have basically replicated every one of the EU laws on finance into their own law books. Nevermind how inaccurate this claim is. Please take note that if this is true, this would have been a voluntary decision. Unlike EU member states, neither Norway or Switzerland are legally obliged to implement all EU directives. They can choose to implement those which they think are appropriate. Switzerland’s economy is primarily based on financial services. And they sell these all over the world, including the USA. When they sell financial products to the USA, they have to meet US regulations, but these products would not have to meet EU regulations.

More importantly, you should ask yourself: Why have Switzerland and Norway, two very successful European nations, chosen to remain outside the EU? Are they just incredibly stupid to neglect all these disadvantages, and yet simultaneously incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy their economic prosperity?

Benefits of EU trade far outweigh its costs

There are many misleading statistics used to support this argument. The claim is made that half of UK exports go to EU countries, so if the UK leaves EU membership, we will lose all this trade.

Actually, no you won’t. Trading occurs between businesses and customers. The government has no part to play in deciding who trades with whom. The British will carry on buying French wine and German cars regardless of whether or not the UK is in the EU. And the EU will carry on buying British technology because it is among the best in the world. Did you know the engines powering the Airbus A380, the largest passenger jet in the world, are manufactured by Rolls-Royce in Derby? The same company also produces engines for Boeing, as well as for 2 of the most advanced jet fighters in the world: the Eurofighter, and the Joint Strike Fighter. The EU cannot and will not stop trading with the UK.

The EU is necessary to keep the UK government in check

Believe it or not, I have actually heard this argument. Some people are so fearful of the Tory government abusing human rights, that they never stop to ask: Who is going to keep the EU in check?

The truth is, the UK government is accountable to the voting citizens of the UK. In other words, YOU are responsible for keeping the government in check, not the EU. If you don’t like what they are doing, vote them out. Stage a protest. Coordinate a nationwide strike. If your cause is just, you are likely to get support from the people. Why would anyone think that the EU is more interested in supporting you than the people and politicians around you?

I suspect that, contrary to this claim, the EU actually gives the UK government and politicians a scapegoat, a get-out clause, so that they can never be held accountable for their decisions. If anything goes wrong, they’ll just blame it on the EU. Come to think of it, career politicians won’t even have any incentive to propose laws and fight on your behalf. They can literally let the EU decide on legislation for them. This makes them comfortable in knowing that they can do no wrong, because all the decisions are out of their hands.

Tell you what, if you want a functioning government, hold them accountable to their actions, and don’t allow them to use the EU as an excuse. You have control over your government – a minister is one who serves you, not one who rules over you.

Departure of the EU may lead to a breakup of the Union, spelling the end of the UK…

1) …for Scotland will secede

Apparently, if the UK leaves the EU, Scotland will in turn leave the UK to rejoin Europe, and Edinburgh will become the financial capital of Europe.
The Scottish National Party seems to want independence from the UK, which includes all the closest cultural brothers to the Scots, yet they want to be subject to laws passed by the EU. This inconsistency is so blindingly astounding, it’ll be really ironic if their wishes come true. And frankly, I can’t see that anybody will care.
But, some argue, if Scotland leaves and joins the EU, Edinburgh will steal all the financial business away from London! Apart from a small section of Londoners, I can’t see that many people in the country will care. Many are already tired of the treasury having to bail out failed financial institutions, so they won’t be sorry to see the country’s economy becoming less reliant on this sector.
If Scotland can strike out on their own, great for them. But as I understand it, the Scottish voted to remain in the UK not because they cannot handle independence, but because they identify as being British. Furthermore, they already had their chance at a referendum. Asking for a second referendum means they haven’t accepted the result. Being part of a country means accepting the majority rule of that country, whether they like it or not. If the UK votes for Brexit, it will be a national decision, including the votes of those of Scotland.

2) Northern Ireland may also secede…

…if the UK leaves the EU, and reunite with the rest of Ireland. Or so some may argue. If they do, it won’t be because of the EU. It will be because of how the Protestant Irish and the Catholic Irish feel about each other. And I’m not one to argue against unity or independence.

3) Wales will secede

Give it a rest, who cares if Wales secedes? Heck, it may even be good for the Welsh economy. I for one would commend Wales for having the courage to strike out on their own. But as it stands, Wales and other constituent regions of the United Kingdom are so integral with each other that there is no precedent for such separation.

The EU is necessary in preventing global conflict

It is sometimes argued that international political union will prevent the type of international warfare that led to the two world wars of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, this is an empty claim, as the role for that has already long been fulfilled, and far more effectively at that. Diplomatically, the United Nations (UN) fulfils the role of facilitating international cooperation and arbitration. And militarily, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation provides the peace-keeping forces in the event of global war. Membership of the UN already has global coverage. Membership of NATO already covers most of Western Europe and all of North America. Neither has the political ambitions of achieving a super-state. The last great global conflict, the Cold War, ended many decades ago. The formation of NATO and the UN was a critical part of that process. Though of limited competence, the UN has been effective in facilitating international relations. And NATO has always been ready as a backup in the case of global security threats.

In comparison, the EU is geographically limited to only European nations, with no scope for global cooperation. Additionally, even has expansionist ambitions that is aggravating foreign relations with the Russia super-state. Furthermore, it can even be argued that the political wranglings of EU bureacratic mechanisms are actually aggravating intra-European relationships, but that’s a whole other subject.

As existing intercontinental arrangements already exist, the necessity of the EU in preventing global conflict is clearly dispelled. Furthermore, there is evidence that the EU mechanism doesn’t actually facilitate friendly inter-governmental relationships, but instead causes diplomatic friction, so even its effectiveness at performing this job is very questionable indeed. I would consider this misconception the birthchild of further scare-mongering.

The EU provides the necessary clout in international relations

Clout. I hear this word used often. Apparently participation in the EU gives the UK ‘clout’ in international relations and trade negotiations. And apparently clout is necessary because people like Guy Verhoefstadt, one of the most vocal drivers of EU expansionism, describes the UK as a ‘dwarf’, like Belgium, apparently.

In truth, any sovereign country has the ability to negotiating its own trade pacts, whether they be a ‘dwarf’ like Singapore, or a ‘giant’ like China. This is because trade deals are negotiated for the benefit of both nations. Businesses in countries like France, Germany, Romania, and Poland want to sell to customers in UK as much as the UK wants to sell to countries in the EU. Trade will happen regardless of membership of the EU, and it is in the interests of all economies for countries to form trade deals, regardless of political union. In comparison, the large bureaucratic machine that is the EU takes such a long time to negotiate trade deals, that by the time something is put forward, the world economy has already moved on.

As for international relations… Clout is not a necessary factor in diplomatic relations, unless one of your neighbours is being an aggressor. For example, Brunei is a small country mostly surrounded by the much larger Malaysia. Yet Brunei does not need to be politically united to any supra-national entity to thrive. In fact, Brunei has a much higher GDP-per-capita than Malaysia. Or even take into account the tiny economy of Lesotho – it is a small country completely surrounded by its vastly larger neighbour, South Africa. Yet that does not diminish Lesotho’s economy or international standing. In fact, its economy is closely integrated with South Africa’s, so they maintain good diplomatic relations, without needing to resort to political union. If the EU is threatening the UK with ‘clout’, that would imply that the EU is actually the aggressor. No sovereign country, much less a proud nation like the United Kingdom would stand up to such bullying.

What use is clout if it is not utilised to represent the best interests of its members? The EU has consistently demonstrated incompetence in representing its EU member states, even going so far as to bully member states into accepting its conditions. The flailing economy of Greece is a prime example – with the EU imposing economic regimes so tight that Greece will be further steeped in its debt, without the chance to decouple, devalue its currency, and kindle a natural economic recovery. In comparison, the UK economy managed to recover successfully, because it was not subject to Eurozone monetary policies, nor was it subject to EU economic bailout conditions.

What’s more, all these point don’t take into account the current status of the UK. The UK is a global leader in trade, technology, culture, and politics. It has global influence through the English language, and through the legacy of the Commonwealth. The UK parliamentary monarchy is one of the most stable and mature political systems in the world, copied and emulated by great nations across the globe. The UK is one of the few permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is one of the top global economies, surpassing the likes of India, Russia, Australia, and South Korea. It is able to project its military to the far side of the southern hemisphere to protect the Falkland Islands, while maintaining an active presence in on-going middle-east conflicts. Thus, contrary to the Eurocrat’s claims, the islands of the UK may be a ‘dwarf’, but it is punching well above its weight.

Cooperation is necessary to tackle global issues such as…

1) Criminal activity – since criminals and terrorists don’t respect borders.

What, terrorists don’t respect borders, so neither should we?
To be fair, the actual argument is that terrorists don’t respect borders, so we should have international cooperation in combating terrorism. I whole-heartedly agree with that. But international cooperation does not require political union. The UK and the USA have very good relations, and generally coordinate their efforts in combating terrorism. Yet nobody’s arguing for politican union between the USA and the UK. It would be ludicrous. You may as well argue for a globally united world government.
I’m afraid this is one of the most misconceived arguments being put forward

2) Refugee crises – for people who clearly need help

Apparently we need the EU because war refugees need help. Well yes, of course they do need help. Yes. We should give them help in the form of protection, food, and shelter. And if no other recourse is available, intervene to tackle the root cause of the problem. Ultimately, we want refugees to be in a position where they no longer need refuge. But we don’t need political union to do this. Yes, some form of international collaboration may be necessary, but the idea that the supranational entity of the EU is necessary to deal with the refugee crisis is completely unfounded. What do the EU directives, the single market, the free movement of people, have to do with it?

3) Climate change – which requires international cooperation

I would agree, global issues such as the environment require international cooperation. But this is the exactly the same argument as the previous ones on global security and the refugee crisis. Indeed, the Kyoto protocol, a UN framework convention that was ratified in Japan, well outside the EU. Even Russia signed up to it.

International cooperation may be called for in some situations, but political union is certainly not necessary for any these situations described.

Free movement of people fills skills shortages, facilitating a growing economy, and enriches society

Indeed it does. A growing economy also further attracts immigration, and the cycle repeats itself. But, have we considered, what are the secondary effects of this process?

On housing:

1) population density increases
2) demand for housing increases
3) cost of housing increases
4) quality of housing reduces
This is great news for housing developers, but it certainly isn’t good for the general population.

On wages:

1) supply of unskilled labour increases
2) cost of unskilled labour decreases
3) unskilled workers get lower wages
4) the earning power of the poor get depressed
Again, great news for businesses requiring large amounts of low-skilled and low-paid workers, but it’s not helping the overworked improve their livelihoods.

On society:

1) individual migrants will introduce elements of their culture to society
2) migration en masse brings rapid cultural change
3) cultural change that’s too fast causes social friction
4) social friction reduces social cohesion
So whilst limited migration may introduce limited variety into culture that is welcomed by society, unchecked migration will have the opposite effect, where different cultures naturally segregate into their own communities, causing social divide rather than cohesion.

On infrastructure:

1) more people requires greater infrastructure capacity (houses, roads, hospitals, schools, etc)
2) infrastructure takes time to develop (building takes time, money for building takes time to gather)
3) society takes time to integrate into infrastructure (takes time to train teachers, doctors, construction workers, etc)
Thus immigration that occurs too quickly stretches infrastructure past its limits, causing problems for everyone, both immigrants as well as indigenous populace.

On developing countries:

1) hard-working and talented people will go migrate to countries with successful economies
2) poor economies will lose their best people
3) the best will invest their talents in the already successful economies instead of developing economies
4) the hardest working will work where the pay is best instead of where they were born
The economic development of poorer countries will be severely hampered by these migration patterns, commonly known as the “brain drain”.

Clearly, limited migration is well-received. But we need to be aware that uncontrolled mass-migration also has many adverse effects.

Norway gets a rotten deal

I find this deception the funniest. Apparently Norway gets a rotten deal because they have to pay into the EU without having any say in it. If you want to take this argument seriously, the amount they pay surely matters.

A contributor on Hugo Dixon’s blog made the argument that, in order to access the single market, Norway has to contribute to the EU as much per capita as the UK. To arrive at his conclusion, he had to factor into his calculations voluntary contributions such as direct foreign aid to developing economies. These figures were so vastly overstated and misrepresented that I’m going to call it an outright lie. Here are the numbers…

UK’s mandatory contribution to the EU: £12.9 billion

Norway’s mandatory contribution to access the single market: £21 million

Those who are quick with figures will notice that the UK is required to contribute to the EU over 600 times as much as Norway, despite not having anywhere near that difference in terms of population or in GDP. But Norway is a prosperous and generous nation. In addition to the mandatory payment described above, they voluntarily contribute £294 million to EU projects and £308 million in foreign aid to developing European countries. But this is entirely voluntary, unlike the contributions made by the UK, and they get to determine exactly how much money goes where.

So not only is the idea that Norway has to pay as much as the UK completely blown out of the water, Norway also gets to choose where their money goes. So much for not having a say in the EU.

The UK needs EU trade to survive

Nick Clegg argues that 45% of UK exports go to the EU, and only 6% of EU exports go to the UK. So apparently the UK needs the EU more than the EU needs the UK. Not only does this demonstrate a profound ignorance of economics, it also sets up a mentality of “us vs them”. This kind of approach foments discord more than unity, it sows fear rather than seeding hope.

The EU is a bloc of over two dozen countries. Comparing proportional exports of one country to the entire bloc would be akin to comparing the exports of Singapore to the exports of Asia. Of course the exports of a continent is going to dwarf the exports of a nation! A more appropriate comparison would be to measure the trade surplus/deficit of a nation with the trading bloc. On this, the facts don’t lie: the UK has a trade deficit with the EU. Meaning it buys more from the EU than it sells to the EU. Granted, this deficit is marginal compared to the overall import/export figures, but it does dispel the idea that the UK needs the EU more than the EU needs the UK.

The truth is, the UK and the entire EU bloc would benefit from trade. Thus it is in everyone’s interests to continue trading, and to form trade agreements. It also means that there is no “us and them”, it is “everyone together”. The UK is a part of Europe, and it will trade with European countries and form good business relationships, regardless of the EU’s bullying tactics.

The UK’s departure will set a precedent, which may trigger the EU’s collapse

For once, an argument I can agree with. But I don’t see this as a negative. Only those who are already pro-EU would consider this to be a negative point. Setting a precedent for the dismantling of an institution that’s incompetent-at-best, corrupt-at-worst is not a bad thing. Yes, the first country to leave the EU will set a precedent for other countries to do so. And this is a good thing, because it means others will consider what has not been considered before, and it is good for countries to be sovereign and decide what’s best for themselves. It is good that politicians can be held to account for their actions and decisions. It is good that politicians and diplomats are required to do the hard work to foster good foreign relations and negotiate good trade pacts.

Well, I’ve tackled most of the arguments against leaving the EU, but I haven’t actually presented good reasons for leaving the EU, yet.

Coming up next: Are there any positive arguments in favour of leaving the EU?

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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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