As voting day draws near on the EU Referendum (June 23) the lobbying for support by the two sides grows more intense. Should we remain in the EU or should we leave?
Many people are still undecided and have questions still unanswered about the EU vote. That’s why we invited readers to send us their questions to be put direct to two local Conservative MPs who find themselves on opposite sides of the debate. Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) favours staying in Europe. Nus Ghani (Wealden) wants out. Our thanks to all the readers who responded with questions. Many covered similar ground. In the end we chose ten that we believe reflect the views and concerns of the majority.
This week they are answered by Nus Ghani. Greg Clark’s answers, which he has already submitted, will be published next week.
We keep hearing conflicting versions of the implications a Brexit will have on national security, with some saying it will make us safer as we can better control our borders while others say we will be more vulnerable as we will no longer share intelligence with the EU. Who is correct?
A former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, has said that there could be “important security gains” if we leave. As a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, I hear evidence showing that the EU prevents us from removing convicted killers and makes it harder for us to strip citizenship from British nationals who have gone abroad to engage in terrorism, meaning that they retain the right to return and live in the UK. I visited Europol recently and, worryingly, only a fraction of EU member states share information. Our security does not depend on the EU.
Will Britain still be required to abide by rulings from the European Court of Human Rights if we leave Europe? Isn’t it separate from the European Union?
It is impossible to reform the UK’s relationship with the ECHR while the UK remains in the EU. In October 2006, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, admitted that “it is not possible to be a member of the European Union and to have left or denounced the European Convention on Human Rights”. Today, all of the ECHR and more is contained in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which unelected EU judges are using to take more control over the UK each year, for example taking control of the powers of the intelligence services.
What impact will Britain leaving the EU have on the City of London?
London is recognised globally as the world’s financial centre. While it is supported by our strong tradition of rules-based business, the English language and an ideal time zone, it is hampered by the EU currently setting further rules to regulate banks to the standard of the least developed EU financial services sector, like Greece. If we free ourselves from the EU, the City can do what it does best and trade unfettered with the rest of the world.
We like the idea of Brexit but are worried about the prospect of a second Scottish referendum leading to the breakup of the UK if we vote to leave the EU. What are the chances this could actually happen?
If we vote to leave, the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1800 will continue in force. What’s more, leaving the EU will mean a substantial increase in the powers of the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies. For example, EU power over agriculture and fisheries would mostly be vested in the devolved legislatures automatically after the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972. This will meet, in part, the demand throughout the UK for further devolution of powers. It is also questionable that any part of the UK would vote to leave it in order to join the EU. In principle, such a country would be obliged to join the euro currency and the Schengen Area, and would forfeit what is left of the UK’s rebate.
This would require substantial cuts in public expenditure and acceptance of the Eurozone’s austerity programme.
If Britain votes to leave the EU, how long will the exit process take?
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which Gordon Brown promised and failed to give us a referendum on, sets out the process for a member state which wishes to leave the EU. Article 50 sets a two-year maximum period for negotiations. If we follow that process, we will only do so after we have discussed the process of formal negotiations and legal implementation. The day after we vote, nothing changes legally, so the British Government will ﬁ nally be able to take control, managing the process in the way that serves our interests best.
Will the UK be better insulated from the Eurozone crisis if we vote to leave the EU?
If we vote to remain, the UK will still pay the EU £350million each week, and we have no legal guarantees that we would not have to contribute to any future Eurozone bailouts. EU politicians will not think twice about getting Britain to pay for the euro’s crisis if we stay in, and the European Court will allow them to do this, as it always does. The only way to end our potentially limitless liability for the euro’s crisis is to exit the EU.
Is it actually realistic to think fast-growing nations are going to want to sign free trade deals with Britain if it is no longer part of the EU?
The UK is an open, global trading nation. Political leaders around the world, including Mexico and New Zealand, have made clear that they want to strike a free trade deal with the UK after we leave. We are the world’s fifth largest economy and our world-class products and services are demanded the world over. Leaving the EU doesn’t change the quality of those exports, or the demand for them from European customers, so it will remain in the interests of other countries to retain access to our economy through free trade deals.
What is the likelihood that if we vote to leave, other EU members will act in a vindictive manner towards the UK in order to set an example to other nations who may be considering an exit?
Remember that the EU itself is subject to World Trade Organisation rules, so it is limited in the hostile action it could take against Britain if it wanted to. Furthermore, the EU’s own treaties oblige the EU to develop good relations with its neighbours, of which we are very much one. The idea that other EU states hate Britain so much that they will try to screw us, so we should therefore let them control everything we do forever, just doesn’t make sense. We are net importers from the EU, and if the British people decide to leave it’s in everybody’s interests to reach a friendly deal.
We are worried that if Britain now votes to stay it will be seen as an effective endorsement of all things EU and we will no longer have any leverage to secure opt-outs from further integration. Is this going to be the case?
Yes, and this referendum isn’t just about the status quo – if we vote to remain, the European Court of Justice will continue to transfer power (and money) to Brussels every year, and they will feel more complacent than ever about doing so. That’s the real threat to jobs and security. It will mean bailing out the euro the next time it goes wrong, because they will see our vote to remain as confirmation that we’re willing to be involved in everything. It may even embolden them to move forward with EU expansion plans, which would see countries like Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia joining the ranks.
We have read that many in the higher education sector say that UK research will suffer and our universities will no longer remain top in the global league tables if we leave the EU. Is this true?
No. The UK is a European leader in the provision of university education, with our universities signiﬁ cantly outperforming those of other regional countries. The only other European country featuring in the world’s top eight is Switzerland, which is not an EU member. Some argue we would miss the benefits of the ERASMUS+ programme – but, given that the UK is a net contributor to the EU budget, after withdrawal we ourselves could replace the funding currently provided to British students supported by ERASMUS+. Alternatively, it is possible to participate in the programme from outside the EU, as countries such as Iceland and Norway already do.
Next week (May 18) we will publish answers to the same questions from MP Greg Clark, who favours remaining in the EU. Those answers have already been submitted.