Some points from a UK perspective.
The UK now accounts for less than 1 per cent of the world's population and less than 3 per cent of global income (GDP). Each year that goes by, these numbers shrink a little. It will find it increasingly hard to get its voice heard on topics that affect the uks prosperity and well-being.
The single market, which gives British business access to the entire EU with its 500 million consumers. Free trade is one of the most powerful ways of boosting wealth. We would be foolish to compromise our access to this market.
When the Confederation of British Industry surveyed its members in 2013, it found overwhelming support for Britain to stay in the EU among both big and small businesses: 78 per cent wanted to stay versus only 10 per cent wanting to quit. Three-quarters thought leaving would have a negative impact on foreign investment in the UK.
At the moment, when we negotiate with America, China or Japan, we are doing so as part of the world's largest trade bloc, which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of world GDP. Washington, Beijing and Tokyo have to take Brussels seriously as a trade partner. If we were on our own, the balance of power would be quite different. The US economy is seven times as big as ours, the Chinese is five times as big, and Japan's is twice our size.
It is telling what a Chinese government-controlled newspaper, the Global Times, said about Britain when David Cameron visited the country in 2013: "The Cameron administration should acknowledge that the UK is not a big power in the eyes of the Chinese. It is just an old European country apt for travel and study."
If we left the EU, we'd often find ourselves opening up our markets more to the world's big economies than they would open theirs to us. We'd typically have to play by their rules – whereas, at the moment, we influence the EU's product regulations, which then have a chance of becoming global standards. We'd also have to negotiate with the EU, whose economy would be six times our size after we quit. Far better to stay in the EU and use its influence to open up markets elsewhere.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that in 2011, 4.2 million jobs in the UK were associated with exports to the EU.
This is a massive 13.3% of the UK workforce,
The EU is our biggest trading partner, accounting for 52% of our trade. This rakes us in about £400bn per year, which far outstrips the estimated £12bn we spend (net) on the EU each year.
As part of the single market, the EU has free trade between all its member states. This is great for UK businesses, who don’t have to worry about quotas or import taxes. As such, almost 50% of our exports go to the EU. (The EU also has an iron tariff wall against non-members, which we don’t want to be on the wrong side of.)
The EU has attracted millions of pounds in foreign investment. Large manufacturers and commercial service providers invest in the UK because it is a bridge to the single market. If the UK walked away, it would become a bridge to nowhere. If you’re a multinational company, with a choice between building a factory in cast-adrift Britain or single-market France, the right business decision is obvious.
How did we get the Spanish police to capture Andrew Moran, the escaped armed robber? Through the European Arrest Warrant. Thanks to the EU, the Costa del Crime is no longer a hiding place for UK criminals, and nor is anywhere else in the EU.
Structural Funds are the large pot of money that gets distributed among the most deprived areas in the EU. For many years they have contributed to investment and infrastructure across the UK: especially in Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and Cornwall. Over the next five years, England alone will receive over £6 billion in Structural Funds, Wales £2 billion, Scotland £795 million, and Northern Ireland £457 million.
If we want the EU to work in Britain’s interests, then we need to be involved in EU decision-making. France and Germany will have no incentive to listen to Britain if we’re not playing on the same team. If Britain leaves the EU, there will be no one to stand up for British interests when decisions are made that affect us, such as changes to trade or investment laws.
Strength in numbers is more than just a saying. At the global negotiating table, the UK could be an insignificant little country with an insignificant loner economy. Or, it could be the leading partner in the biggest combined economy in the world (with a GDP of just under €13 trillion). Which is the more influential position to be in? If the UK is competing in the ‘global race’, as David Cameron claims, then we’re better off on the relay team.
This might just be the most important reason to stay in the EU. Four 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 exist because of the EU. If we took away the steel shield of EU employment law, workers’ rights would be at the mercy of a Tory government. Anyone who thinks they would in safe hands is, quite frankly, having a laugh.
These are just a few reasons why we must remain in the EU from a UK perspective. My next post will be what it would mean for wales if she was forced out of the EU.