6 July, 2022

The EU question

09 June, 2016

Ahead of the EU Referendum on 23 June, a number of insightful points on the topic were discussed during a lively panel discussion at the recently held BFPA AGM. With this in mind, I felt it timely to leave some of these views with you as you make up your minds as to which way you will vote on the day. The Association’s CEO, Chris Buxton, opened the debate by reminding the assembled of David Cameron’s speech to Chatham House in November last year during which the PM said “this is perhaps the most important decision the British people will have to take at the ballot box in our lifetimes”.

Alan Halsall, a successful businessman and board member of the ‘Vote Leave campaign’, then presented his arguments for a Brexit. “I see massive youth unemployment; in many countries more than 50 per cent. I see economic growth in the EU from 2008 to 2015 stuck at 3 per cent, while the US over the same period has grown 25 per cent and the Chinese economy has doubled. I see Finland wanting a referendum on the Euro, and Poland recently warning Germany and the wider EU not to intervene in their affairs. I see Portugal in a constitutional crisis, Spain with no government and Holland voting against the EU-Ukraine trade deal. I see the more extreme right-wing parties all over Europe becoming more and more powerful because I think they feel that their voice has been forgotten amongst the unelected European ‘oligarchs’ and the centralisation of power into Brussels. I look at worrying political moves in Hungary, and we haven’t seen the end of the euro crisis for Greece with its continuing weak economy and increasing unemployment. We now have the only opportunity to leave the EU that we will have in our lifetimes. We haven’t had such an opportunity since 1975 and I think that we should take it.”

Richard Butler, director at the CBI responsible for the West Midlands and Oxfordshire, then made the point that many business organisations, including the CBI, have conducted polls of their membership and the vast majority are in favour of staying in the EU. In terms of the perceived benefits of staying in the EU, Butler said we have unfettered access to a trading bloc of over 500 million people. “No other external country other than those within the EU has the same unfettered access,” he remarked, adding that the UK has access to trade deals via the EU with 50 other countries and explained that if we were to leave the Union, these deals would have to be renegotiated. “Our net cost of EU membership is between £9 and £10 billion a year – various studies show that the net benefit to the UK is between £2,500 to £3,500 pounds per household, which equates to between £70 and £90 billion,” continued Butler.

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