Should I stay or should I go?
21/06/2016 Leave a comment
In recent weeks I’ve had quite a few people asking me my opinion about the upcoming EU referendum.
My opinion is quite simple – it is a massive waste of time and money. As I wrote when the referendum was first announced, the advent of a referendum would simply result in politicians and the media spamming the public with misinformation, making informed decisions impossible.
And that has of course happened, exactly as I said it would. Not that I want to take much credit for that prediction – we have been here before recently with referenda:
- Changing the voting system to AV (2011)
- Scottish independence (2014)
Politicians didn’t exactly come out of those looking like their mission was to responsibly inform the public.
But, I guess, “massive waste of time”, wasn’t exactly the answer that the people asking me were looking for. After all, like it or not, the vote is going ahead, so I’m sure they were asking my opinion on voting in or out.
It’s a fairly clear case for me – I will vote to stay in the EU.
What, you want more? Dammit.
It’s a complicated decision, so I shan’t try to cover every possible aspect of EU membership, but I will try to cover a few that seem to be getting the most airtime and seem to be most important to people.
So let’s start with the economy. Would the UK be better off or worse off if we left the EU? You wouldn’t think so by listening to politicians and the media but this one is actually fairly clear cut. Leaving the EU would make the UK significantly worse off compared with staying in the EU and that is in the short-term, the medium-term and the long-term.
If you want to read about the analysis then have a look here:
As Chris Giles wrote in the FT, there is a huge consensus among economists that leaving the EU would be significantly worse for the UK economy than staying in and if you don’t fancy following the maths in all of those papers, you probably don’t need to anyway. We know that trade makes us all richer. Making trade harder makes us all relatively poorer. Leaving the single market makes trade harder. It shouldn’t surprise us that the maths check out, when the basic logic is so straight forward.
According to the Cameron and Osborne analysis the UK is in for a recession if we leave. That is certainly not certain, as you can see from the papers. What is certain is that we would be worse off when compared with staying, both in the short-term and the long-term.
Yes, the leave campaign can always find an ‘economist’ to tell people the opposite but this is right in the leagues of Sarah Palin finding a ‘scientist’ who says global warming is fiction, or the Earth is only a few thousand years old.
On this issue the evidence is overwhelming.
Ok, so let’s have a look at immigration, which I guess is the next most discussed topic. Does immigration make us poorer? Are we at breaking point? Again, the good news is that we don’t need to listen to politicians or tabloids because we have some good analysis on this.
What we know is that EU immigrants, on average, contribute more to the UK economy than their native born colleagues. We also know that, on average, they take out less in benefits that their native born colleagues. In short, immigration from the EU makes the UK better off and the numbers here are, again, not in dispute.
There are poor people in the UK and there are some significant factors that cause their poverty. As much as the leave folks would have you think it, immigration isn’t one of them.
Of course, there are also the nonsense stories that lots of people believe – 70% of our laws were made in the EU, we pay the EU £350m a week etc. I could spend five minutes linking to why those are nonsense but if you still believe them, then you are probably beyond help and you probably didn’t get this far into my blogpost.
The EU is far from perfect – the Common Agricultural Policy, for example, is a big pile of cow poo. It doesn’t mean that we should turn our backs on the EU, make trading with our closest neighbours harder, lose the benefits of free movement and free trade etc.
Those who tell you that we will be economically better off outside the EU, or that the UK is at breaking point due to immigration fall into two categories:
- People wilfully misleading you for their own reasons (politicians, tabloids)
- People who have listened to politicians and tabloids
The people in the first camp are no better than climate change deniers or the flat Earth society.
Do yourself a favour and don’t be in the second camp.