Brexit campaign: Weighing the effects of ‘out’ vote on U.K, E.U
With less than a week to the in/out referendum, new polls have shown that public opinion is swinging in Brexit’s favour. The referendum, scheduled for June 23, will decide if the U.K continues to be a member-state of the European Union or not.
A TNS poll, last Tuesday, revealed that about 47 percent of the British public would vote to leave the E.U in the upcoming referendum, a discovery that will trouble David Cameron (PM), who has spear-headed the ‘in’ campaign.
Although it has been emphasized these past several months that a Brexit would be devastating, especially for the U. K’s economy, it is important to evaluate what could be behind the rise in opposition to Britain’s membership in the E.U.
The main reasons why the U. K’s membership of the E.U is often criticized seem to be based on the loss of sovereignty with Britain’s continued membership of the community. The very fact that E.U laws supersede U.K Parliamentary laws has been cited repeatedly as evidence that the U.K is losing its ability to make decisions by itself, for its national interest as a result of being part of the E.U. Eurosceptics also refer to the strain on public services caused by immigration from E.U states, not to mention the lack of national identity. With such arguments being promoted by members of the ‘out’ campaign, such as Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K Independence Party, it is not surprising that such a large rise in support of leaving the E.U is occurring.
Interestingly a Brexit could be beneficial for Nigeria and other commonwealth nations because the decrease in E.U migration, that will likely result from the U.K leaving the E.U, will encourage an increase in immigration from commonwealth countries. Nigel Farage, as reported by the Daily Mail U.K, recently expressed that Britain has turned its back on the commonwealth. He is suggesting that Britain’s membership of the E.U has forced it to prioritize E.U immigrants and abandon the commonwealth countries that have done so much to contribute to British society since the Second World War. Skilled migrants from Africa, he adds, have a difficult time attempting to migrate to the U.K due to the influx of European migrants caused by the freedom of movement regulations imposed on E.U members. So, if Britain decides to leave the E.U, this could increase the number of skilled immigrants from countries such as Nigeria. This could be incredibly beneficial for Nigeria’s economy as $21billion is said to accrue from remittances from Nigerians living and working abroad, from 2015 alone.
Clearly, those working abroad are contributing immensely to the economy. A figure that greatly surpasses what Nigeria is receiving in aid. These figures will increase even more if, as envisaged, the U.K leaves the E.U and adopts a migration system that is more open to skilled workers from Africa and Asia.
Having said that, such a scenario could, in the long-term, be a disadvantage to the Nigerian economy. A ‘brain drain’ might result from the increased openness of the U. K’s borders to skilled immigrants from the commonwealth. This would greatly decrease the number of skilled workers who remain in Nigeria.
In fairness though, it is unlikely that the number of skilled workers the U.K would intake from Nigeria in this situation would be enough to cause alarm at a lack of skilled workers remaining. Not only do the U.K not have the capacity to accept unlimited numbers of immigrants, no matter how skilled, it is also unlikely that all the skilled workers there who are doing well in their careers will abandon all to start afresh in a new country. So on the balance of things, it seems that a Brexit would benefit Nigeria and other African countries more than expected.
But it is not self-evident what the effect of an exit will be on the U.K’s economy. A key argument from the ‘in’ campaign has been that the U. K’s economy would suffer greatly if they were to leave the E.U. David Cameron has insisted that, due to Britain’s influential position in the E.U, it would be unnecessary to leave just to have greater control over domestic policy, as that is arguably already possible within the E.U. A good example of this would be Britain’s ability to abstain from the European single currency, an outcome that was possible because of the U. K’s key rank in the E.U.
The ‘in’ campaign have been accused of fear mongering by warning the British public of the downturn in the economy that may result from an exit from the E.U. Currently, more than half of the U. K’s exports go to the rest of the E.U. This makes up about 15 percent of the GDP, according to the Center for Economic Performance. It is unknown how these exports and other trade between Britain and E.U members will be affected in the case of a break-up from the E.U. Trade could decrease tremendously between the U.K and E.U members due to high tariff and non-tariff barriers. Income losses associated with this are predicted to be as high as 3.1 percent of British GDP (£50 billion). However, if Britain is able to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), like Switzerland and Norway, they may be able to continue trade with the E.U on similar favorable terms. Thus, the future of the U.K’s economy in the case of an exit from the E.U is unpredictable and unknown, and depends on complex and variable circumstances.
Contrary to what the polls are saying, I am willing to predict that the overwhelming majority of the British public who will actually participate in Thursday’s referendum will choose to remain in the E.U. Although the current polls are suggesting that the ‘out’ campaign is in a significant lead, this does not take into account that a lot of those who partake in these polls are mere spectators and are unlikely to actually vote in the referendum come Thursday. It is well known that the U.K has been suffering a democratic deficit as, in recent in years more than ever, there have been record lows in voter turnouts. A large segment of the British electorate is increasingly disillusioned with the political and democratic process and have chosen to play a passive role. I am confident that the well informed members of the voting public will lean more towards remaining in the E.U. The uncertainty for the British economy that an exit will cause is, I believe, a major deterrent for those who might otherwise vote to leave.
Not only is it uncertain whether or not the U.K will be able to retain its strong trade links with the rest of Europe in the case of a Brexit, it is also unlikely given the circumstances. It is not mandatory for the E.U to forge any trade deals with the U.K if they decide to leave. Also, in a bid to prevent other remaining members of the E.U from following in Britain’s footsteps in the case of an exit, leading E.U members might choose to block trade arrangements with the U.K as a deterrent for other states. The effects of such a situation would be incredibly disastrous for the U.K. Even with an optimistic forecast that supposes that the E.U continues to deal closely with the U.K, in terms of trade in the case of an exit, there would still be unavoidable political consequences.
Leading member-states of the E.U, such as Germany, would certainly not be pleased if the U.K abandons the European project. This would have far-reaching negative effects on the relationship between these countries. Overall, there is the possibility that majority of the informed electorate have taken these factors into account. As such the U.K would decide to remain in the European Union come June 23, 2016.