Don't believe the Brexit Brollocks on immigration, sovereignty and trade 5 years ago

Don't believe the Brexit Brollocks on immigration, sovereignty and trade

In the run-up to the EU Referendum vote on June 23rd, JOE will be running a number of pieces examining both sides of the debate. Here, Nooruddean Choudry warns of the perils of voting Leave.

In many ways you've got to hand it to the Brexit campaign - they've played a blinder. The tactics have been simple - play on the nation's deepest hopes and fears. Of course the Remain campaign have also dabbled in fear-mongering, but they're amateurs compared to the Leave gang, whose promises are built on three main pillars - improved trade agreements, controls on immigration, and national sovereignty.

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But let's example each of those in detail and see how well they hold up to a bit of scrutiny...

Trade agreements

If the global recession has taught us anything it's that the markets of the world are all inextricably linked.

If the Chinese economy nose-dives, that is terrible news for us. If the New York Stock Exchange takes a tumble, that doesn't put London in some pole position as if it were a Premier League table. We are all interdependent and the harmony is brittle.

There's a reason why Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau, Japan's Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the rest of Europe are desperate for us to remain in the EU.

It's not some sort of international conspiracy to keep the lion economy of Britain from flourishing; they know that Brexit would be bad news for the UK economy, the European Union, and ultimately the stability of the world's markets.

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Leaving the EU would mean we'd lose the right to trade freely within the EU. The counter-argument is that we'd be able for negotiate our own cushy deals with non-EU countries, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

Our bargaining position would be hugely compromised. We'd go from leveraging 500 million consumers in the EU to 60 million in the UK.

As part of the European Union, we've already got 54 trade deals agreed with non-EU countries and trading blocs around the world. Leave the EU and not only would we have to renegotiate our trade agreements with Europe, but we'd also have to start from scratch in negotiating deals with the rest of the world.

The UK hasn't negotiated a trade deal by itself since the 1970s, and even in those 'good old days', it took a whole decade to agree upon trading links with the likes of Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries - and they all had strong existing links to the United Kingdom.

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Leave advocates point to Switzerland and say we can be like them - they call it the 'Britzerland' scenario. Such talk is at best ridiculously optimistic and at worse disingenuous.

The Swiss have more than 150 bilateral agreements in place with the EU, and those have taken over two decades to negotiate.

They never had to worry about the ticking clock of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives us two years to agree upon terms before existing treaties expire. The clause purposely disadvantages departing member states, and in negotiating terms, the EU would have us over a barrel.

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The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Bank of England, the IMF, the OECD and the overwhelming number of economists and experts warn that leaving the EU would be highly detrimental to the UK economy. That's not good news for jobs, taxes, income, or pensions.

Either they're all making it up, or we're facing dark times ahead.

Immigration

Immigration is the single most powerful argument in the Leave campaign arsenal. They know how emotive a subject it is, and history shows that it pays to blame 'outsiders'.

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But what both the Brexit and Remain camps know but don't like to admit (because it's an unpopular truth) is that immigration is necessary for the growth of our economy and we'd be seriously fucked without it.

Now of course we can't have a situation where so many immigrants pile into the country every week that our services and infrastructure cannot cope, but is that really the case? There is free movement of labour within the EU, but that's not the case for non-EU labour.

And yet EU immigration into the UK has never exceeded non-EU immigration. That's not a flood, that's the EU acting as a supply and demand labour market.

There's lots of talk of controlling immigration using a Australian style points system, but that's hardly a magic wand solution.

Migration Watch, an organisation dedicated to reducing net migration into the country, believe that such a points-based system would actually increase overall immigration into the UK. Such a system sets a bar in terms of qualification for entry - it doesn't control how many people qualify.

A lot has been said about Eastern European migrants in particular. Somehow they have been characterised as both living off our welfare system, whilst at the same time taking all our jobs. The truth is that they contribute far more to the economy than they take out.

They fill a skill shortage and the taxes that they pay as young labour balances out our ageing population.

The Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at UCL found that European immigrants to the UK effectively subsidise public services through their taxes, whilst fears that the Eastern European migration brings with it increased crime are also misguided.

A 2013 report from the London School of Economics found that crime fell significantly in areas that experienced mass immigration from Eastern Europe, with marked reductions since 2004.

Oxford University Professor Brian Bell backs up this evidence by explaining: "The view that foreigners commit more crime is not true. The truth is that immigrants are just like natives: if they have a good job and a good income they don't commit crime."

And yet immigrants, as always, are portrayed as the enemy within.

Sovereignty

What does sovereignty mean? The word is bandied about everywhere as a vital principal of the Leave campaign.

It alludes to self-governance and the autonomy to decide how we live our lives. The suggestion is that deciding things collectively with our neighbours for the common good is a bad thing, as we're not making decisions by ourselves.

It's important to note that the EU in itself is not a sovereign entity - it only has the powers and influence that its member states collectively provide it. People talk about 'Brussels' making all the decisions, whereas in fact heads of state work in unison to labour over every detail, sometimes infuriatingly so. The bureaucracy of Brussels may be a pain, but leaving the EU with just dump all that bureaucracy at our table.

If sovereignty is about how we live our lives and our democratic right to decide that, then we're talking about laws and legislation. But as Professor Michael Dougan, Professor of EU Constitutional Law and a respected government adviser, explains in the video below, post-Brexit changes to our legal system will be unprecedented and almost definitely undemocratic.

He explains that the membership of any international organisation, be it the EU or NATO or the UN, involves "agreeing to certain obligations in return for the opportunity to exercise greater influence".

It could be argued that 'sovereignty' is compromised by any agreement - even a bilateral trade deal - because that stops you doing things outside of that deal.

Dougan warns of the legislative nightmare that would result from leaving the EU. He explains that for the last 40 years, UK law has evolved in combination with EU law and the two are "virtually impossible to disentangle".

So much so that our entire legal system will need to be comprehensively reviewed with such urgent haste that it will "not be done through parliament" - as that would simply not be possible in the timeframe.

This means that our entire system of living - how we exercise our sovereignty for generations to come - would be decided outside of our democratic chamber. However much you like or dislike the current Conservative government, that's a hell of a lot of trust to place in them to do the right thing by all of us without our specific mandate or parliamentary scrutiny.

The likelihood that David Cameron would be forced to resign were the Leave campaign to prevail would leave an ominous power vacuum for someone to come in unelected and make far-reaching decisions on our behalf. Is that what 'sovereignty' is all about?