By Nick Kent
In our latest report we have looked at the possible consequences raised for this country by a vote to leave the European Union. This examination of the major policies affected has demonstrated that a wide range of economic, constitutional and political issues would need to be addressed, and in a relatively short period of time.
To avoid a disorderly exit the UK would have to decide its domestic policies on a range of important areas. It could only do this, however, in parallel with its negotiations with the EU because domestic policy choices would impact on the success or otherwise of the UK’s negotiation with the EU. For example, employment issues, such as whether the UK retained the Working Time Directive or planned to continue subsidising farmers, would affect the EU’s attitude to the UK in those negotiations.
Presuming that everything has gone as well as could possibly be imagined, the United Kingdom would be fully out of the EU after the two-year, Article 50 stipulated period. Parliament and Government would have spent much of that time considering and approving the alternative arrangements, most importantly our future trading relationship with the EU.
But despite the detailed examination of the various options for that relationship, it is still not clear what this arrangement with the EU would actually look like. This is the main issue that those arguing for the UK to leave the European Union need to answer. But it is so complex that it needs to be broken down into a set of ten questions. All of these require answering so that the electorate can consider the alternatives to EU membership before deciding how to vote in the forthcoming referendum.
We identify the top 10 questions that supporters of Brexit need to answer as being:
1. What would the Eurosceptic ideal arrangement between the UK and the EU look like and how realistic is it possible to achieve?
2. Every successful arrangement with the EU to allow countries outside of it access to the Single Market has included freedom of movement – how would we arrange access to the Single Market without agreeing to freedom of movement?
3. Article 50 stipulates a two-year timeline for exiting the EU. However, the Swiss deal with the EU took almost ten years to agree. How would we avoid any post-Brexit arrangement taking as long as the Swiss deal did?
4. Won't the commercial interests of the remaining EU countries take precedence for them over giving Britain "a good deal" post-Brexit?
5. Won't the two-year (at minimum) period post-Brexit period see Parliament completely tied up in renegotiation with the EU to the detriment of all other legislation?
6. Without the weight of the Single Market behind us, how will Britain avoid being in a poor bargaining position with countries like China, should they wish to come to the bargaining table in the first place?
7. How could voters be persuaded that the more radical alternatives to EU membership wouldn’t bring radical economic and political change with it that would disadvantage them?
8. Are those who wish Britain to leave the EU proposing open borders – or even significantly relaxed visa restrictions – with all Commonwealth countries, including some developing countries with massive populations, and in some cases large scale internal political problems, such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria?
9. During the two-year negotiation period that starts with the triggering of Article 50 post-referendum, wouldn’t there be a large incentive for an unprecedented amount of EU citizens to emigrate to the UK while it was still legally possible?
10. Are proponents of Brexit willing to remove a crucial aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process, and to risk Scotland leaving the UK, in order to leave the EU?
Our report demonstrates that leaving the EU would be a momentous decision for the country to take, one that would pose a wide range of challenging questions. Those who argue for exit need to put forward a credible alternative, one that offers the UK the same advantages for trade, jobs, economic growth, our environment and our security as EU membership. We challenge them to do so.
Nick Kent is Director of Research at British Influence.