In the swirl of debate over the EU referendum, statistics are thrown around by both sides without careful thought. But, after much consideration, I have stepped into the BrexIn (Brinit) camp.
I too wanted Prime Minister David Cameron to come back with more than a piffling piece of paper like his predecessor Neville Chamberlain in 1938. But, with nearly 20 years as a financial journalist, I believe the economic argument is too big to ignore.
I have known little else than the UK being in the European Union. I remember well the decision not to adopt the euro, which served us well during the current crisis.
But I value being part of a community that can be a foil against the strivings of the communist east — Russia, China and North Korea — and the tub-thumping rhetoric of the other nuclear giant, the USA.
The UK is the leading European centre for funds. It is the second largest global centre for legal services. Large US and Chinese firms have set up bases in the UK as a platform for expansion into Europe.
Foreign companies have invested £100bn into the UK financial services sector since 2007, and this sector contributed £126.9bn to the UK economy in cash terms in 2014. It accounts for more than 7 per cent of the nation’s employment (sources: TheCityUK, HMTreasury, PWC).
A departure would have an immediate effect on employment, financial services growth, tax revenues and the attraction of the UK as a place to do business. Large multi-nationals will favour Dublin and Luxembourg. Companies seeking secondary listings in the UK are already holding off.
In 2014, the UK imported 53.2 per cent of all goods and services from Europe, and exported 44.6 per cent to Europe, more than to any other country (Office for National Statistics). Moreover, many imports to the UK came with subsidies attached to being in the EU.
In Consequences of a UK exit, Barclays wrote that a decision to leave the EU would ‘have significant implications for the economic outlook. For the UK, it would open a long period of negotiation and would create elevated uncertainty about the country’s future. We estimate UK growth would stall by the second half of this year’.
Veteran fund manager Leigh Harrison says, ‘The UK outside of the EU would find trade with Europe hard, with the consequence being reduced economic growth’.
Many of these effects may admittedly be short-term. As Capital Economics points out, ‘Although the impact of Brexit is uncertain, we doubt its long-term economic outlook hinges on it’. But the Chancellor acknowledges the UK’s deficit is stubbornly high — above £70bn. He has predicted weaker economic growth and cut public spending. The UK’s economy is precarious.
After the referendum was announced, the pound sank to a seven-year low and the stock market has fallen. Someone has said, ‘Who cares if a few billion are wiped off large corporates?’ You care! This is your pension fund; this is money that you’ve put in the bank. Banks invest your money back into the stock market.
Whether or not we leave the EU, Britain still has to take in refugees. It is one of 19 countries that signed an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner to do so.
Furthermore, remaining in Europe has not made us take more immigrants than our government wants us to. While there is free movement among European nationals, we do not have to accept any more non-EU nationals than our government dictates.
The UK is not in Schengen. Last year’s EU-wide settlement plans for migrants do not apply to the UK. Moreover, The Guardian explains, ‘The UK has opted out of EU asylum policy’.
I’ve heard repeatedly about immigrants, ‘We want the wrong ones out and the right ones in’. But who are the right ones?
Christians, beware! Just as Jesus upset societal norms by making a hated Samaritan the hero of his story, so we must question whether some, at least, of our underlying motives stem from racial prejudice. We need skilled workers in the UK, of any colour, race or religion.
As for terrorism, as someone whose family members barely survived two IRA bombings in the 1980s and 1990s, terrorists do not have to be Syrian and wear a hijab!
In terms of sovereignty, I agree on many counts with the Brexiteers. A 2010 House of Commons library study said 50 per cent of UK legislation with ‘significant economic impact’ originates from EU legislation. This is too much.
The Telegraph highlighted Britain’s fishing industry as suffering from restrictive EU laws that would be freed up if the UK left Europe. I agree. However, UK farmers would lose their valued EU subsidies.
Some Brexiteers argue this shortfall will be met by the UK recouping its EU contributions, but, with George Osborne’s budget gloom, where will that revenue really go?
It seems reasonable to have British laws for British people. Nobody wants to have the shape of their vegetables assessed by a grey-suited Euro-apparatchik. But Britain already has wriggle room. For example, in March, the Bank of England pushed back on EU banking reform over bonuses for City firms.
Also, those who complain UK sovereignty has been abused by Europe may be forgetting the abuse the UK government wants to inflict on evangelical Christians, including three-parent embryos, Ofsted regulation of Sunday schools and anti-biblical stances on marriage.
In 2013, Christians were glad Shirley Chaplin, Gary McFarlane and Lillian Ladele could take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after they had been discriminated against by the British judicial system. They lost, but such a supranational body still gives some hope that UK laws will not infringe on our human rights.
While the ECHR is separate from the EU, Britain’s recourse to this court could be lessened post-Brexit. We might not like the EU laws, but they can also protect us from our own government.
I have heard Christians refer to the EU as a modern-day Babel tower. Yet, from a reading of Genesis 11:1-9, it is not clear God was against nations forming accords under all circumstances.
According to Matthew Henry, God was concerned the people building the tower did it to disobey his command to ‘populate the whole earth’ and strive against him. It is a huge stretch to say this principle now applies to the architecture of the European parliament!
Henry says, ‘The first builders of cities were not men of the best character and reputation. Cities were first built by those that were rebels against him and revolters from him’. But surely this does not mean God automatically disapproves of cities?
God even stirred heathen kings’ hearts to rebuild Jerusalem. Babel was a specific case of defiance. One must beware of using inaccurate parallels to turn what we disagree with into spiritual warfare!
One Brexit adviser has claimed a ‘leave’ vote might kick-start the EU into ‘coming back to the table, as it definitely does not want us to leave’. This may well be the case. I would like less red tape; I would like a better agreement on the table.
But I would like to see the UK remain in the EU, because the prospect of the UK trying to punch above its weight, alone, on this new world stage is economically untenable. Moreover, caring about the economy is to care about the people supported by that economy — our neighbours.
Simoney Kyriakou is an online editor with The Financial Times and news editor of Evangelical Times, but writes here in a personal capacity.