If you have not yet decided how you will vote in the EU Referendum on 23rd June, or if you still have an open-mind on the issue, I want to explain why I think that a vote to stay in the EU is the wisest choice for us all, at least for the time being.
We are all suffering from EU Referendum fatigue, so I will keep this brief. I have dedicated over twenty years to researching and teaching EU law. I have always encouraged my students to approach their studies in a balanced and open-minded way. This means accepting both the good (of which there is plenty) together with the bad things about the EU. However, I have found the nature of the debate surrounding this Referendum to be really quite alarming. So much misinformation is being presented. This is not the place to try and address all the untruths but suffice it to say that it is not legally possible for Turkey to join the EU unless everyone agrees (highly unlikely given its poor human rights record and its occupation of the Northern region of Cyprus) As for an EU Army? Really? That is a legal impossibility without the agreement of all Member States and, even if the UK wanted to sign-up to one, UK law requires a referendum before that power could be transferred to the EU.
That said, the thing that worries me most of all is that the majority of reputable economic experts, business leaders and World Leaders have all concluded that a vote to Leave the EU is likely to be harmful to the UK (at least in the short term). That worries me because we all know that the UK economy is not in the best shape at the moment. Why do we need to leave now? This Referendum is being pitched by some as our last opportunity to get out of the EU, but that is simply untrue. A Member State can leave at any point, this could even be done without a referendum.
The EU is the most successful regional trading block in the World, many other regions in the World actually want to emulate it (e.g. the new Russian led, Eurasian Economic Union and the African Union). The EU is not some dictatorship in Brussels, it is run by its Member States who have decided that in some areas it is better to act together rather than alone. The Big Three: Germany, France and, yes, the UK, are the driving forces behind the EU. If we vote to remain, I believe that our position within the EU will be strengthened further and we will be well-placed to use our influence to bring about much needed reforms. There is almost universal acceptance, at EU-level, that fundamental reforms are needed to key EU policies like free movement of persons. If the EU doesn’t change in the way that a majority of the British public wants, then in a few years time, after we have given our economy the time to recover, we will still have the option to leave.
At the moment, we are being asked to make a decision that could have a hugely detrimental impact on us all. Yet, the information we have been given on which to base our judgement, is often totally incorrect. We need accurate information about the pros and cons of EU membership, we also need to know exactly what is planned for the UK if we leave the EU. It simply isn’t good enough to expect us all to take such a giant leap in the dark. I fear that if we act in haste then we may have to repent at leisure.
Leaving the EU is likely to be an irreversible step, we need to be sure that we are doing the right thing. The World is becoming a very scary place, and there is safety in numbers. The UK should not risk becoming isolated, it has the power inside the EU to steer reform and become stronger as part of a reformed and better EU. In my view it is too soon to withdraw, we should give the EU and ourselves a better chance. Despite its many negative features it has very many positives ones too - after all, we are the European Union, and in it we can become stronger.
Shaun Mills - Senior Lecturer in EU & International Trade Law at UCLan
58 Derby Road, Longridge