Posts Tagged ‘foreign direct investment’

Britain needs to be at the heart of a reformed European Union

07/11/2013, 05:10:55 PM

by Callum Anderson

“Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.”

That was president Kennedy addressing the Canadian parliament in 1961. However, to me, those words also hold particular resonance with Britain’s relationship with the European Union. As is well known, the prime minister has already made a commitment to giving the British people a referendum on British membership of the EU in 2017. The argument is set to be intense: I’d like to set out why Britain must retain its EU membership.

If Britain wants to be prosperous in the 21st century, it must engage not only with countries such as China, India and Brazil, but also with EU members. But what has the EU achieved during Britain’s membership? It has continued to maintain the peace, helped to bring down the Berlin wall and the iron curtain, and welcomed new states from across Central and Eastern Europe into the EU family. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of Britain’s take advantage of our EU membership every year.

According to Eurostat, the EU’s independent statistics office, 711,151 UK citizens lived in other EU countries in 2011, whilst the British Council has stated that 9,095 UK students participated in the ERASMUS programme, the exchange programme allowing young Britons to study in other EU countries not only free of tuition, but with the help of a grant from the EU. Moreover, without the EU, British workers wouldn’t have a range of protections that they take for granted including, but not limited to: a maximum number of working hours, guaranteed breaks and protection against being forced to work long hours.

Britain and the EU are, like it or not, bound together economically. Now, there are many who say: “If only Britain left the EU, it could simply join the European Free Trade Area, thus maintaining the current economic ties, whilst freeing itself to seek free trade deals with other countries – most notably the Commonwealth countries, the United States and China.” Sounds good, right? Well, if anything ever sounded too good to be true, then this is it.

First, it is important to note that a little over half of the UK’s trade is done with the EU; it just makes no sense to leave an economic trading bloc which we are so dependent on. Were we to just leave (almost certainly in controversial circumstances), than whilst it is unlikely that we would be economically cut off, it would be too dangerous to assume that countries such as France and Germany would allow British businesses to enjoy the same advantages of market access, as it does now.


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