If there was a referendum on Europe....

(190 Posts)
CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 15-Jan-13 08:31:42

... which seems to be the hot topic... how do you think it would go?

It would depend on the question. However, I think turnout would be so low that no government could legitimately claim a mandate for significant change.

SilverOldie Tue 15-Jan-13 15:32:04

I think the vote would go in favour of withdrawal, if that was the question. I would like to see the money currently sent to Brussels used in our country rather than support bloated, unaudited overspending in Brussels.

niceguy2 Tue 15-Jan-13 18:01:37

It actually scares me to think that we could blindly withdraw from Europe.

And whilst I agree that Europe is wasting a lot of money, I think leaving the EU will do more harm than good.

It is the biggest single market in the world. So many companies set up in the UK because we can freely trade with all 27 EU countries and since English is the business language of the world, we are the obvious choice.

If we left Europe, a lot of large companies would simply move their European HQ to another EU state. A lot of jobs would also be at risk.

I know there's talk of us staying in the EU like Norway but honestly that's speculation. And an assumption that the EU needs us more than we need them. And frankly a very dangerous game. The other EU nations are already exasperated at Britain and the perception is that we've joined the club but want to cherry pick the rules we want.

I think a lot of the problems are due to the common perception that Europe is a waste of money. Something peddled by the tabloid press along with all benefit claimants are scroungers.

The economy nowadays is based upon one single thing. Confidence. The money we have in our pockets is not backed up by anything anymore. It's value is merely down to our confidence that we can spend it. Companies manufacture and invest based on confidence in the economy. A withdrawal will have a massive short to medium term impact on the confidence of the UK government and in turn the UK economy.

In short if we leave the EU or investors seriously think it's a possibility, the result will be another recession and more austerity measures which will make the current lot look easy.

DeepRedBetty Tue 15-Jan-13 18:12:19

I'd like to have much looser arrangements with Europe. It annoys me that the referendum on joining it was held when I was only a little girl, and since then the organisation has changed immensely but my generation and younger has never been allowed an opportunity to comment, as all the main parties are committed to staying in.

Niceguy I hear what you're saying, but don't they all want to cherry pick? I'm thinking of, for example, the rules on improving conditions for intensively farmed chickens that we've enforced but a number of others have wriggled out of. This has lead to a situation whereby EU regulations forbid forcing a product to have country of origin, so eggs can be imported into the UK with nothing more than 'Produce of the EU' on the packaging, and we have no way of telling at point of sale if they've been farmed in conditions that we as a country have deemed unacceptable. Bear in mind the vast numbers of 'invisible' eggs, used to produce processed food (quiches, frozen things in batter, cakes, that sort of thing).

niceguy2 Tue 15-Jan-13 19:01:37

Hi Betty

And I think your example is a very good example. The EU or as it's old name used to be 'the common market' is as it's name suggests. And the best way for that to work is if we had same (or incredibly similar) rules.

So using your example we as members of the EU single market should accept the same rules as every other EU member. By introducing our own 'better' standards and then using those conditions to try and limit free trade goes against the principles of the EU. And in effect we're again trying to cherry pick the rules we prefer.

The EU is a club. And as club members we agree to the rules of membership. If we want to change the rules as members then we do so from within. But in the meantime we stick to the rules.

The problem is that at the moment we keep threatening to quit and take our ball home with us. And the other members are getting pissed off now and sooner or later we'll get our bluff called.

And that's all I think it is at the moment, a bluff. I don't think we have any serious alternative plan. The Tory approach to this seems to be all over the place. Frankly it's a shambles.

Lastly it scares me even more that with the combination of the Scottish Independence referendum and talk of an EU one that in a few years time the 7th largest economy in the world, the UK will be broken up and end up as just England. The equivalent of getting divorced and getting the sack all at the same time.

YDdraigGoch Tue 15-Jan-13 19:07:36

I vote for out. I think the EU costs Britain a lot more than what we get out if it.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 16-Jan-13 08:18:41

I'm interested in the political strategy of it. Offering a referendum appears to be a good way of silencing both the Euro-phobes and the Euro-philes in all parties. I'd assume that the Coalition would only offer a referendum if they were fairly sure of the response.

flatpackhamster Wed 16-Jan-13 08:42:32

niceguy2

Hi Betty

And I think your example is a very good example. The EU or as it's old name used to be 'the common market' is as it's name suggests. And the best way for that to work is if we had same (or incredibly similar) rules.

The Common Market is not (repeat NOT) the old name for the EU. The Common Market was, at the time, an agreed set of trading rules. The EU is a political entity, a supranational government.

So using your example we as members of the EU single market should accept the same rules as every other EU member. By introducing our own 'better' standards and then using those conditions to try and limit free trade goes against the principles of the EU. And in effect we're again trying to cherry pick the rules we prefer.

That's exactly what every country does. Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago France decided that it wanted to change the rules on ground beef (beef mince). In France, they eat steak tartare, which is raw ground beef served with a raw egg. The beef has to be very fresh - no more than three days between slaughter and grinding. So they wanted a rule to specify that all ground beef sold in France had to be no more than 3 days old.

Because food and agriculture are run by the EU, France couldn't simply impose that rule. It had to get a ruling from the Commission, which it tried to do. Because the laws can't apply to a single country, if France had succeeded that would have meant that all ground beef, sold everywhere within the EU, could have been no more than 3 days old.

Naturally, to those of us with functioning tastebuds, that's a travesty. Beef has to be hung in order to get the best flavour from it. The darker the beef (or mince) the better the flavour. The sad-looking pink stuff you see in the supermarket should be kept in the fridge for at least a week before you eat it.

Culinary advice aside, the point is that France was trying to 'cherry pick' the rules to suit itself. And every country does this. If you didn't, you'd be an idiot.

The EU is a club. And as club members we agree to the rules of membership.

No, it's a supranational government, which keeps changing the rules, and which disregards the views of the members on those rules. See the ignored referenda on the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty.

If we want to change the rules as members then we do so from within. But in the meantime we stick to the rules.

Why? Everyone else tries to change the rules as they go along, as in the example I quoted above. Even today there's a Spanish socialist MEP who's tabled a motion in Parliament which would require companies who laid off staff to find them alternative work. Because the parliament is just a rubber-stamping tool for the Commission that motion has no power, but it's another example of how every nation tries to change the rules to suit themselves.

What a ridiculous idea that we should just do what we're told and if we don't like it then that's just tough.

The problem is that at the moment we keep threatening to quit and take our ball home with us. And the other members are getting pissed off now and sooner or later we'll get our bluff called.

What are they going to do? They can't force the UK out of the EU. The only way that the UK can leave the EU is by invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The UK can't be forced out. Frankly, the northern members need us far more than we need the EU, because we help to counterbalance the handout countries to the south when it comes to votes.

And that's all I think it is at the moment, a bluff. I don't think we have any serious alternative plan. The Tory approach to this seems to be all over the place. Frankly it's a shambles.

Yes, and that's because Cameron is a a Europhile leading a party which is around 2/3 opposed to EU membership. The man's a fool and it'll come back and bite him.

Lastly it scares me even more that with the combination of the Scottish Independence referendum and talk of an EU one that in a few years time the 7th largest economy in the world, the UK will be broken up and end up as just England. The equivalent of getting divorced and getting the sack all at the same time.

Scotland won't leave (sadly) and what if it did? With that massive drag off the English economy, and us free of the high costs of EU regulation, we'd be freer and richer than we have been for decades.

A Britain free of the EU would be a glorious place to live. We'd be able to rebuild our fishing and farming industries, which would breathe new life in to coastal towns and country villages. We'd have cheaper electricity because we wouldn't be required to produce 20% of our power from bird-killing windmills, which would pull the poorest part of our population out of fuel poverty. We'd be able to block the million or so Romanians and Bulgarians who will turn up next year to claim benefits and housing and take the last few low-skilled jobs from the hands of our working classes. We wouldn't be tied to EU rules on corporate taxation which mean that multinationals pay their tax on the money they earn in the UK in Luxembourg instead.

The losers from our leaving the EU would be big business and big government. Frankly, they can go hang.

somebloke123 Wed 16-Jan-13 14:35:37

I think any such referendum is likely to be fudged. Or we are given 3 choices:

Do you think the UK should

1. Stay in the EU on current terms?
2. Stay and renegotiate?
3. Leave?

such that 1+2 votes would be likely to be greater than 3.

In the run up to the vote, all the usual suspects - big business (not SMEs who would not get a look in), big finance, unions, BBC and the old bruisers like Heseltine and Clark would be wheeled out to say what a catastrophe it would be if we left.

It would be little effort for them to do this. All they would have to do is to cut and paste from the articles they wrote several years ago detailing why it would be disastrous for the UK not to join the Euro (UK isolated, 3m jobs at risk, no seat at the top negotiating table, City sidelined by Frankfurst etc etc).

In fact we can't just renegotiate as we would need agreement from the 27 states to hold an intergovernmental conference and hammer out a new treaty for our benefit.

The only way we could get a new settlement is by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty signalling our intention to leave. We would then be involved in real negotiations.

But Cameron will never do this.

niceguy2 Thu 17-Jan-13 14:15:09

@flatpack. I hear what you are saying and I totally get that other EU members want to change the rules which favour them the most. But the difference is that you don't hear France threatening to quit if they don't get their way.

And that's basically what the UK is pretty much saying right now. And as much as the EU wants us to stay (since we have a large economy), I doubt they will allow us to hold them to ransom. Otherwise another country will do exactly the same after us.

I don't have any issues with fighting our corner within Europe but it's just ridiculous to keep threatening to leave if we don't get our way. It's the equivalent of a petulant teenager having a strop and threatening to move out unless the parents do x,y,z. Sooner or later you have to call their bluff.

flatpackhamster Thu 17-Jan-13 14:31:22

Well you do hear of political parties in other countries talking about leaving the EU. But our media is so ghastly that access to European news is practically nil. It's like people saying "Oh, why is it only the UK that struggles with a bit of snow". It isn't, it's just that 'Trains don't run on time in Denmark due to dusting of snow' doesn't reach our media.

What I tend to do is read the English-language versions of European newspapers, which gives a much better insight in to the back-and-forth of European politics.

There are anti-EU parties, both large and small, in countries across the EU, but if you think about, say, how little airtime UKIP got until recently, you're not going to hear about a minor party in the Slovakian elections opposing EU membership.

niceguy2 Thu 17-Jan-13 14:36:38

I'm sure there are some parties in other countries who would like to leave. But we're talking about the ruling party in the UK. Not some small fringe party or even the opposition.

I get that some of this rhetoric is very possibly brinkmanship but it seems to me we're quickly boxing ourselves into a corner.

flatpackhamster Thu 17-Jan-13 14:45:23

You should be pleased that anti-EU sentiment is more mainstream here, because that does at least reflect in some form the dominant sentiment amongst the electorate.

The EU can't boot the UK out, even if it wanted to. The only way that the UK can leave is by invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

It would be nice, I agree, if the discussion was more grown up.

ironman Fri 18-Jan-13 00:20:01

I think what will happen is the following; Cameron will try to cherry pick(claw back what he can from the EU) this will fail as Merkel will not allow it and probably other EU countries also. Cameron wants to allay fears of some of his MPs regarding Ukip, as 900.000 voted for them at the last election. The electorate who will vote Ukip has increased, this will put (and has) the willies up Cameron.
Cameron will then if he is in power (with a majority, which is highly unlikely)
have to call a referendum. The outcome of course is not known.

flatpackhampster You are right the EU cannot 'boot us out' but my feeling is that they would make it uncomfortable for Britain to stay, if they do not repatriate any of the powers or policies Cameron will ask for, he will make himself unpopular and Britain will become isolated. I think many want the relationship that Norway has with the EU, whether we will get is another thing.

Does Cameron seriously think that the EU will give back any of the 55 million we give it a day? The EU has changed greatly since it emerged as the Common Market over 40 years ago. When there last was a referendum on the EU, I couldn't even vote on it!
I wonder how many MNs voted in the last referendum?....Just a thought.grin

ironman Fri 18-Jan-13 00:21:27

Goodnight.

niceguy2 Fri 18-Jan-13 07:51:45

I agree. The EU cannot 'kick us out'. Noone has suggested that. But the issue is one of credibility. We're the ones hinting about possibly leaving. Merkel and the rest would be crazy to let us cherry pick as it opens the floodgates for everyone else. So then we're left with either following through and leaving or looking silly after getting our bluff called. If the latter happens then whose going to take the UK seriously at the next EU meeting?

As for all the talk of having a Norway option, I can't see why this helps us at all. Yes we get certain powers back. We'd still have to stick to all EU trade laws & standards. But we can no longer help define those rules. Isn't that the exact opposite of what we intended? ie. to have more control?

We've had years & years of the press telling us how much money EU bureaucrats are wasting. How immigrants are coming to steal our jobs and squat on our benefits. What we are not seeing are articles explaining how many jobs depend on the EU.

I read somewhere that 52% of our exports go to EU countries. So it seems to me a HUGE gamble to our economy that we can negotiate a Norway style membership at the risk of having EU import taxes slapped on our exports.

somebloke123 Fri 18-Jan-13 16:00:31

The figure often quoted is 3 million jobs.

In very round figures, 80% of our GDP goes into goods and services for the UK. The other 20% are exports, split roughly equally between the EU and the rest of the world. (Actually this may overestimate the exports to the EU due to the "Rotterdam effect" - the fact that quite a lot of the exports nominally to the EU are then just forwarded on to places outside.) The proportion to the EU is falling.

So that makes sense of you assume the number of jobs is proportional to these percentages. Total workforce around 30 million, so 3 million associated with trade with the EU.

Note though that it's jobs dependent on trade with the EU, not on membership of the EU. By the same token there are 6-7 million jobs in the EU dependent on trade with the UK.

The 3 million jobs figure was originally arrived at by an economic research institute, doing work for a pro-EU lobbying group which then claimed that the jobs were at risk if we left. This misinterpretation so incensed the director of the research institute that he called it "pure Goebels".

www.democracymovementsurrey.co.uk/dyk_impactonjobs.html

It's unlikely that our leaving the EU would lead to any kind of trade war with the EU as we import more from them than they from us, and if Mexico can negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU then so can we.

juneau Fri 18-Jan-13 16:06:08

I would vote to repatriate certain powers to Westminster (particularly regarding immigration, benefits, working hours, etc).

I wouldn't vote to withdraw from Europe.

We get a lot from Europe as well as giving a lot and many of the foreign companies based in the UK are here because of ease of trade with the EU. If we withdrew ourselves it would be a disaster for the UK trade-wise. I'd like to see some economics boffin put a figure on what it would cost us - but it would be a lot. We'd lose a lot of our clout in terms of world politics too.

niceguy2 Sun 20-Jan-13 12:29:37

I would vote to repatriate certain powers to Westminster....
...I wouldn't vote to withdraw from Europe.

Yes, I would do exactly the same. Except the EU isn't likely to let us to repatriate powers. And the main reason is that if they let us do it, then other countries will also want to cherry pick the bits they want to abide by too.

So we can vote all we like but the EU may tell us that we either put up & shut up or we are welcome to go. And the way we've positioned ourselves we may end up going.

flatpackhamster Tue 22-Jan-13 11:44:59

juneau

I would vote to repatriate certain powers to Westminster (particularly regarding immigration, benefits, working hours, etc).

I wouldn't vote to withdraw from Europe.

You don't have that choice. What do you think the EU is, some trading organisation you can pick and choose the rules in?

The EU is a government. It rules us, and it's going to keep expanding its powers until Westminster has no power except to vote its MPs pay rises.

You're either in or you're out. There's no in-between stage.

We get a lot from Europe as well as giving a lot and many of the foreign companies based in the UK are here because of ease of trade with the EU. If we withdrew ourselves it would be a disaster for the UK trade-wise. I'd like to see some economics boffin put a figure on what it would cost us - but it would be a lot.

What would we lose? Which markets would be closed to the UK and which industries would be affected?

We'd lose a lot of our clout in terms of world politics too.

Membership of the EU loses us influence. We're going to have to give up our permanent seat on the UN Security Council to the EU. We've already lost our independent position on trade to the EU.

flatpackhamster Tue 22-Jan-13 12:35:42

Interesting article in today's Telegraph about how closely linked British and German exports are. Britain has overtaken France as the primary trade partner within the EU.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/9816643/Britain-becomes-Germanys-biggest-trade-partner-as-Berlin-London-pact-deepens.html

The EU now makes up just 37% of Germany's exports, compared to 46% a decade ago. It's becoming less and less economically relevant to Germany.

Callisto Wed 23-Jan-13 08:27:53

It is the never-ending power grab that worried me the most. The way its going in another 20 years the EU will have become the Federal States of Europe, with all the countries run by Brussels and only very minimal governing powers given to each member state.

I don't like the kind of democracy that Brussels approves of and although I can see there are benefits of trade and stability, I don't want to give up the right to run my own country through the kind of democracy (and accountability) we have in the UK. When the expenses scandle happened, there were an awful lot of EU members ridiculing our horror at the corruption of our politicians. That makes me want to be ruled by Brussels even less.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 23-Jan-13 09:25:22

As we're only going to get a referendum if there is another Tory or Coalition government do we think today's speech improves or reduces the PM's election chances?

niceguy2 Wed 23-Jan-13 09:27:38

What would we lose? Which markets would be closed to the UK and which industries would be affected?

Our entire approach is basically to assume we can leave the EU but remain in the free trade club like Norway/Switzerland. This assumption is dangerous because the other EU members will not actually want this at all and we're relying upon two very poor politicians to deliver this. Plus this sort of cherry picking is exactly why the other EU countries are pissed off with us.

If we leave the EU and don't stay a member of the free market then our exports would be subject to duty. This would make our goods/services more expensive and put consumers off buying them. That translates to less jobs.

Regardless of if we stay in the euro market, over time we would find a lot of important industries relocating their head offices to mainland Europe. Especially to tax havens like Luxembourg. They may choose to keep a small UK HQ but the tax revenues and many jobs would slowly trickle towards the EU.

Lastly I really don't understand the idea of not wanting to abide by EU rules....so we'll quit.....except we want to stay sort of in the club....but then we no longer can influence setting of any future rules.....

That's not a strategy....that's just cutting off our noses to spite our face.

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