Sunday 30 October 2016

Is Britain sure about Brexit?

So, it now looks increasingly certain that Britain is heading for a ‘hard Brexit’. That’s because our new unelected Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, insists that’s what British people want.

Of course, Mrs May isn’t correct in assuming what British people want. By a tiny margin the Referendum returned a vote in favour of ‘Leaving’ the EU. But nobody was asked what type of Brexit we should have – and there are many possible options.
Mrs May has categorically stated that there will be an end to ‘free movement of people’ – which of course will end choices for Britons as much as for citizens from the rest of Europe.
By ending ‘free movement’, Mrs May will also be ending Britain’s free and full access to the EU Single Market.
We can be sure of that, because the message from all the other 27 EU nations couldn’t be clearer: Britain cannot be part of the EU Single Market without accepting the fundamental ‘four freedoms’ of the EU, including ‘free movement of people’.
No ifs or buts, Mrs May has now told the British people that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and she’s also telling us what type of Brexit Britain wants, without even asking us (or Parliament).
The benefits of Britain’s EU membership are extensive – but those benefits will end when we Brexit. Below is a summary of some of the EU benefits we’ll lose.
If, after reading about these benefits, you feel that Britain shouldn’t Brexit after all, please widely share this article.
Britain hasn’t yet left the EU. We haven’t even submitted our ‘Notice to Quit’ which gives us two-years to pack our bags.
So, whilst we’re still in the EU, there’s a chance – however small – that we could stay, if enough people across the country demand that Brexit should be reconsidered.
But once we’re out, the chances are we won’t be returning. The clock is now ticking..
Top of the list is that Britain currently enjoys full free trading status with all the other EU member states – representing the world’s most lucrative market place, and by far our most important trading partner.
As such, almost half of our exports go to the EU, and over half of our imports come from the EU.
The EU has an iron tariff wall against non-members; so would we really want to be on the wrong side of that wall as an ex-member or by leaving the EU Single Market?
Even non-European countries that have negotiated ‘free trade’ agreements with the EU don’t enjoy full free trade access to Europe’s internal market, as Britain does now.
Next on the list is that as a leading member of the EU, Britain has a say – and a veto – on the rules, laws and future direction of our continent, Europe. As an ex-EU member, we won’t
The right to live, work, study or retire across our continent is a precious membership benefit that around two million Britons already enjoy, and many people, especially the young, don't want to lose.
When we live and work in any other EU county, we can enjoy many of the same rights as citizens of that country – such as access to the state healthcare and education of that country, and the same rights as workers of that country.
Similarly, free or low-cost healthcare when travelling on business or holiday across our continent is another cherished benefit of Britain’s EU membership.
Once ‘free movement’ ends, so will our automatic residency rights across all of the EU, plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
And citizens from the rest of the EU will also not have the same freedom to come and live and work in the UK, making it much more difficult to fill key vacancies, both skilled and unskilled, for which we have a chronic shortage of workers.
EU laws protecting the rights of workers, consumers and travellers across the continent are probably among the most important EU membership benefits.
For example, 4-weeks paid holiday a year; the 48-hour working week; anti-discrimination law; guaranteed rights for agency workers; guaranteed worker consultation – all of these protections largely exist because of the EU.
When we lose the strong armour of EU employment law, workers’ rights will be at the mercy of a Conservative government. Anyone who believes they would then be in safe hands may be in for a rude shock after Brexit…
Consumer and traveller protection laws are also much stronger as a result of EU laws than can be offered by national legislation alone. How can a single national government assure safety and protection across a continent?
The simple fact is that it can’t – it needs the reach of a pan-European intergovernmental organisation to achieve that (albeit with the democratic consensus of member states).
For example, comprehensive passenger compensation when, say, an Icelandic volcano seriously disrupts air travel – such compensation is only possible because of EU law, not national law.
Abolishing exorbitant mobile-roaming charges across Europe was also only possible because of EU law – no nation state alone could have achieved that.
Europe-wide consumer protections, such as when buying products online or by phone, came about because of EU law rather than national law.
Britain enjoys cleaner beaches as a direct result of EU directives on protecting the environment.
Tens of thousands are killed every year in the UK because our air isn’t clean enough.
Last year the Supreme Court in London unanimously ruled that the British government must make plans to clean our air, in accordance with the EU air quality directive which came into force in 2010.
Would our government bother without the protection offered to us by the EU?
In addition, the EU is leading the world in tackling climate change - something that individual countries alone simply couldn't undertake.
When Britain leaves the EU, we will lose the benefit of EU-wide legislation to protect the very air we breathe.
Because the EU is the world’s richest, biggest market-place, and the world’s biggest exporter and the world's biggest importer, it can negotiate the best trade agreements with other countries.
It’s often said that when negotiating, you get better deals if you’re the same size or bigger than your opposite number.
As one of the world’s biggest economies, the EU has the muscle to negotiate extremely favourable trading terms with the world’s countries, and has done so with over 50 countries (including one this week with Canada).
Could Britain, being much smaller than the EU, achieve similarly good trade agreements with the world’s countries?
It’s unlikely, but in any event, it will take many years to find out after we have left the EU.
Is Britain sure that we should abandon our 43-year membership of the EU in exchange for the years of pain and uncertainty that Brexit will bring us?
It’s true that 17 million people voted for Brexit. But that’s 17 million out of a population of 64 million. And two countries out of the four that make up the Union of the United Kingdom – Scotland and Northern Ireland – don’t want Brexit.
If you believe that Brexit is a mistake, it’s time to speak up, before we leave the EU and take a one-way ticket into the unknown.
If you're one of the 17 million who voted for Brexit but have now changed your mind; if you’re one of the 16 million who voted against Brexit; if you're one of more than 30 million who didn’t or couldn't vote and are against Brexit: it’s time we let Mrs May really know what Britain really wants.

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