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EU Referendum Truths
Separating fact from fiction!
Throughout the whole campaign I have heard a lot of leave and stay campaigners try and say that everything the other side is saying is just scaremongering. This is partially true but also some people use that word just to disagree with something that has been said if they don't want to believe it. However, I agree that both sides have been telling quite a lot of porkies, depending who you listen to. I will be honest, I have been a stay voter from day one but I am also open minded and so I decided to do my own research that did not include newspaper "sources" or TV "facts". All of the information I am going to use is from the full fact charity, equality human rights site and the citizens advice pages. I just want to cut the facts from the BS and decided to write my own broken down piece of information. I know that some of the leave or stay campaigners may think that I am being biased etc. but I am only writing what the facts actually are.
Human Rights & Equality
Firstly, lets start with the Human Rights Law that has been branded about by both sides. Even I got to a stage where I believed that the human rights we have would be taken away by voting to leave but there are both lies and truths to this matter.
"The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic British law." Even though the ECHR originates from the Council of Europe it is a completely different organization to the EU so there would be absolutely no effect on the UK's commitments to this Act if we was to leave as this Act is actually a part of UK Legislation. This does not mean that the Government cannot change said legislation but this depends on what they decide to do if a leave vote was to happen.
Now I have cleared that part up, with help from equalityhumanrights.com, I would like to move on to the second part on the same website which is how equality and human rights relate to the European Union. According to the very useful information on this site "Respect for human dignity, equality and human rights are founding values of the EU." The principles themselves are part of EU Laws. Going back to the website wording, there are three sources of these rights within the EU:
"the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (“the Charter”),
the European Convention on Human Rights (“the ECHR”), and
the constitutional traditions which are common to EU Member States."
"The Charter has the same legal status as other EU Treaty law. The Treaty on European Union also plays an important role in ensuring respect for equality, as it also says that the EU must “combat social exclusion and discrimination,” promote gender equality and protect children’s rights. EU law applies in the UK either directly in some instances, or when it is ‘transposed’ into UK law, such as when an Act of Parliament is passed to implement an EU Directive. As well as safeguarding these rights in the Treaties and the Charter, the EU also promotes other rights in secondary legislation (such as Regulations and Directives)." As we have already established, the EU and the ECHR are totally independent sources for the Human Rights Act but when it comes to the other EU proposed laws, regulations and directives any number of these could be affected with a leave vote. Currently EU regulations and unimplemented directives can be used in the UK courtroom, this would of course change if the UK left the EU as an example: the proposed Data Protection Regulation.
"However, many of the protections under EU law have been implemented into UK domestic law by legislation (for example, the Data Protection Act 1998 and various provisions in the Equality Act 2010). In the case of primary legislation, usually an Act of Parliament, until it is repealed, it remains part of domestic law (regardless of its origin)."
When it comes to a UK exit in the referendum, there is the possibility that any future human rights and equality protections may not be binding into UK law, like they currently are, but this will all depend on any agreements that are made with the EU in regards to trade. A lot of suggestions have been that if the UK leaves then we will have to negotiate a separate trade agreement. From what I have been reading through these sites this could be part good and part bad. The current terms for trade agreements require an EU trading partner that complies with EU law (at least in certain areas in the agreement). Which means that a new agreement would, possibly, not result in lower Human Rights and Equality protections, which is good. However, there is also talk that agreeing this deal would take a lot of time and negotiation which means the current agreement would be invalid and prices could fluctuate incredibly. There is another question I ask myself but have no way of knowing the actual answer at the moment. How much would this new Trade Agreement cost us? Would we really "save" money in the long run or would be have to pay the EU but this time have absolutely no voice around the table?
The exit from the EU sounds very complicated but I think it is all about being able to decipher through the tall tales to the point of the matter. Due to the fact most of us are not psychics it is tough to predict what will happen exactly and whether any certain groups of people are going to be affected and if so, how badly. People seem to be judging their decisions on things that have angered them or even pleased them over the last number of years rather than the facts. I have heard people actually say that they plan on voting us out as they do not like David Cameron, which is fair enough in some ways but at the same time how can anyone make such a big decision on a dislike for a certain individual. I do not like him and I do not like any of the Government at this current moment in time but I have not made the decision on whether or not I like them (I don't like some of the stay campaigners either), I have made the decision based on the facts that I have found out on fact check websites rather than the media.
I want to move on and take a look at another question answered well on the Equality Human Rights website: The equality and human rights protections that have/have not originated from the EU. To protect Equality and Human Rights, EU law has led to changes in UK law over the years. Some of the examples of those originated from the EU include:
Data protection, Human trafficking, Rights of victims of crime, Protection from discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age and Equal pay.
Those that did not originate from the EU:
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (As discussed earlier on), Non-discrimination in employment on grounds of sex, race and disability, The public sector equality duty and Non-discrimination in the provision of goods and services.
According to the Citizen's Advice website European laws are made up of three different things: Treaties, Regulations and Directives. Under UK law, acts of Parliament are not challengeable unless they conflict with European Law (To see how these points benefit people in the UK please go to https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/our-human-rights-work/impact-eu-membership-equality-and-human-rights).
Membership Fee & Economy
Having explained a little more on the actual Acts that COULD be affected by the voting out of the EU on June 23rd, I want to look into the much branded about Boris Johnson figures on EU membership fee or economic cost, for these points I plan on using all my information from fullfact.org. According to economists the money involved in our contribution to the EU is relatively small compared to the wider economic issues involved. In 2015 the Government paid £13 billion to the EU budget but each year the UK gets a discount (rebate) of around £5 billion a year, if we didn't have this our contribution could be around £18 billion per year. The rebate is taken straight away so this £18 billion figure has never been paid to Brussels. We do, however, get a portion of this money back. In the same year, the poorer regions in the UK and farmers were some of the main beneficiaries of £4.5 billion. These figures have varied considerably throughout the decades as at some points during the 90s we was paying in less than £2 billion per year.
We can be certain that we do put a lot of money into the EU when it comes to figures like that but the figures thrown around are something like £350 million per week, this does not include any rebate so factually the figures are actually under £250 million per week. Another figure that is being thrown around is £500 billion total spend since 1973, this is fictional as it has not included any of the rebate immediately taken so actual figures here are around £380 billion according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). "The Treasury has more up to date estimates than the ONS, and uses slightly different accounting methods. They show we paid in £13 billion in 2015. We previously said that 'It's reasonable to describe £55 million as our ‘membership fee’, but it ignores the fact that we get money back as well.' This was based on the understanding that the rebate is paid up front and then sent back, which we now know is wrong." Different sources will claim so many different figures but the rebate seems to have been left out of a lot of Boris Johnson's figures which make this, technically, inaccurate.
Staying on the same topic of spending, I want to have a look at the NHS and EU funding. Many things I have read recently seem to be contradictory. The Leave say they can spend all that money that they are saving from the EU on the NHS and the Stay campaign say why would they do that when they won't even spend money on it now. This is an open letter from a well known Leave campaigner sent on 14 June 2016:
"If the public votes to leave on 23 June, we will continue to fund EU programs in the UK until 2020, or up to the date when the EU is due to conclude individual programs if that is earlier than 2020. After protecting those now in receipt of EU funding, we will still have billions more to spend on our priorities. We propose that at least £5.5 billion of that be spent on the NHS by 2020, giving it a much-needed £100 million per week cash transfusion, and to use £1.7 billion to abolish VAT on household energy bills."
Breaking this down with a little factual help. Most economists say that it is highly unlikely we would have more money to spend on Public Services, they actually predict that leaving the EU will put more strain on our public finances overall.
"Vote Leave is suggesting that £5.5bn of the savings on the UK’s membership fee could be allocated to the NHS, and £1.7bn to repeal VAT on household fuel. This isn’t an unrealistic sum of money if savings on the membership fee are considered on their own. But focusing on the membership fee alone would be a red herring. Experts on both sides agree that the potential impact on economic growth would be much bigger than any savings on the membership fee— whether or not they think the effect on growth would be positive or negative."
The actual forecast by economists is that the UK will slow down on growth by 2020 (Leave Campaign time frame) if we should vote to leave the EU. If this is to be believed then the loss in possible Tax Revenue would far outweigh not having to pay a membership gain. Michael Gove is on record claiming that the IFS had stated leaving the EU would free up £8 billion to spend on the NHS, the reply from the IFS on June 6 2016
"The net UK contribution to the EU over the next few years is indeed likely to be about £8 billion a year, £8 billion which would become available for other things were we to leave. However... there is virtual unanimity among economic forecasters that the negative economic effect of leaving the EU would be greater than that."
People will ask why I am quoting the IFS as they are funded by the EU but it isn't just them that has forecast this kind of negative impact. There has been a huge outcry in the last day or two from Conservatives on the Leave campaign due to something that Osborne said about higher taxes and spending cuts. Anyone who thinks that any of these politicians are fully telling the truth is slightly deluded but with a few days to go before voting day it seems to me that both sides are just throwing stones at each other to try and knock the other party off a perch. From what I can gather the Leave campaign have received a number of warnings from financial bodies about finance implications and I haven't seen a single thing mentioned about this in their campaigning but have continued to call other scaremongers. However, the forecasts by numerous financial experts vary dramatically: 12 studies predict a negative long term economic growth which ranges with potential loss to growth of -0.1% and -7.9%* (fullfact*)
There is one study that predicts a positive growth of 4.0% in the long term and another that predicts both a good and bad outcome depending on the policies that are used in the case of an exit. Technically, each study has shown a good and a bad outcome for each scenario so neither are quite as true as each camp is claiming.
Finally, I want to concentrate on something that every one on both sides seem to have some concern over. Generally, EU citizens can have full access to live and work in any other EU country which is why we have little chance of controlling certain figures of Immigration whilst in the EU. This also means that you can find work and travel to another destination without worrying about all the strict rules and regulations so this is something that works both ways in most aspects. People complain about not having a strict rule stopping immigration and by leaving the EU we can put more of a target on our immigration but half of our immigration is from outside of the EU.
“It is unclear what impact a vote to Leave would have on migration. EU exit could mean significant new restrictions on EU migration, but it’s also possible that the impact would be very small if the UK remains part of the European single market.
“At the same time, staying in the EU does not mean that migration will remain at current levels forever. Migration can change dramatically even without a change in policy, as it has done over the past few years. EU migration could be either higher or lower in the future if the UK votes to remain.” The Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford commented recently.
Leaving the EU does not automatically mean that we will be able to close out any immigrants that wish to travel to the UK, there is two reasons for this:
1. Participation in the EU single market would probably put us in the same pot as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as members of the European Economic Area. Free movement applies to these members as well as Switzerland who are non EEA members but still access a single market, albeit more limited. In 2014, Switzerland wanted to offer a referendum vote to cap immigration from the EU which was heavily criticized by the EU and led to a break down of talks over cooperation for research funding. As of 2013, both Switzerland and Norway have higher immigration per head than the UK so if you wanted to stop immigration as a whole you would have to leave the single market not just the EU.
2. Due to such a huge amount of British born people in other EU countries a deal would need to be negotiated as either a withdraw deal (everyone to come back to the UK, which is roughly 1 million people) or for a two way, equal split agreement to be reached. The second option is more likely due to the fact you cannot just "get rid" of those EU citizens already living in the UK and the issue of UK expats all being told they have to return home would be politically controversial to say the least.
We currently have around three million EU citizens living in the UK, studies have suggested so far that the impact on jobs and wages has been small. All recently arrived EU citizens pay more in tax than they consume in Public Services or/and Benefits. Just because you see it on the TV and in Newspapers don't believe everything. Sure, you have people everywhere that try to gain extra from the system but that does not mean they are Immigrants.
An article caught my attention this week, this is just my opinion on something I read. A French Minister claimed that if the UK voted for "Brexit" then the 'Le Touquet' agreement that is currently in place that allows British Immigration checks at Calais and Dunkirk would be void ending border controls which could allow thousands of refugees to cross the channel. This could mean that rather than the border controls in France, people can travel into the UK before they are even checked and if I am not mistaken this then gives them the right to apply for asylum in the country they are in (i.e. the UK). There are no facts or information I have been able to find that can deny or prove that this will happen.
Finishing this article I have realized that I am more "clued up" than ever on actual EU policies and how anything could change. Obviously, I cannot predict what the future has in store for any of us but I do know that (stop reading now if you do not like to hear my personal opinion) I will be voting to remain as part of the EU. I do not like everything that they stand for but I prefer to have them in my court as someone the Government has to answer to than a Government that just answers to itself. If anyone truly believes that the EU will just trade with us under our terms then you seriously need to read up on facts about Switzerland (who are not even in the full Single Market as explained above). I have heard many people talk about how British people would have more say over what happens in the country than they currently do, which is why they plan on voting Leave but I am not fully convinced that would ever happen and have concluded that I prefer the thought of having another few years of being in the EU than the thought of a fully led Conservative Government.
Good luck on poll day, whatever you decide is right for you!