The EU referendum on 23 June will give us a say in one of the most important decisions of our generation – whether Britain should remain in the European Union or go it alone. To inform the debate, staff, students and external contributors will be commenting on the University’s Views on Europe blog, set up by Public Policy@Southampton. The following extracts provide food for thought on a number of key topics, including migration, national security and the economy.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Southampton.
Dr Christopher J Fuller, Lecturer in Modern History
Since the Islamic State assault on Paris in November 2015, Brexit campaigners have sought to draw a link between Britain’s partnership with Europe and the vulnerability of its cities to similar attacks. UKIP’s Nigel Farage argues that until Britain takes back control of its borders, it cannot be ‘isolated’ from the threat posed by Islamic extremists.
But in an increasingly interconnected world, the belief that Britain’s geography could somehow allow its government to simply pull up the drawbridge is simplistic and old-fashioned. Modern terrorism is a transnational threat, and as a primary target of Islamic extremism, the UK benefits significantly from its counter-terrorism partnerships across the EU.
One example is the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy, introduced in November 2005, which was based on the British government’s own strategy and ensures EU counter-terrorism efforts align with the UK’s wider foreign policy agenda. It includes an explicit focus on what Britain judges as the root causes of instability and radicalisation. The UK couldn’t hope to have such an influence over the counter-terrorism priorities of other European countries if it was outside the EU. Being part of the EU also means the UK can implement the European arrest warrant to detain terror suspects and enables easier extradition and deportation.
These are just some examples of how the ‘Europeanisation’ of UK counter-terrorism has pushed the frontiers of British security well beyond its own borders. The EU’s multilateral partnerships, as opposed to the outdated isolationism of Brexit campaigners, offer the best security for the UK in this context.
Matthew Cowley, BSc Politics and Economics and leader of Southampton ‘Students for Britain’
The nature of the EU is that it encourages intra-EU trade through the removal of tariffs between member states, and the establishment of the Common External Tariff (CET) to result in trade creation within the EU.
But the CET also results in significant trade diversion, reducing our ability to trade with non-EU nations like China, India and the US. And with the EU having a declining share of world trade, due to the success of the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the effects of the global recession on the EU economy, the road to our prosperity lies in exploring emerging markets, not with the EU.
We need to make a decision on our future this year. Do we want to be tied into a declining single market? Do we want our economic future to be with the Eurozone area, or with the growing nations of the world? Do we want to take back control of our trade and become a truly international nation, trading with 196 countries rather than just 27?
If we were outside the EU debating whether or not to join, how would we vote then? Would we be willing to give up our sovereignty, our freedom to trade, our democracy? Would we want to join a union that, for a developed economy, represents a declining market?
My answer would be no.
Dr Ingi Iusmen, Lecturer in Governance and Policy
In EU literature, scholars have often questioned the nature of the EU. What does it stand for? Is it a purely economic ‘beast’, or is it driven by deeper political values? The current negotiations between Britain and the EU bring this question to the fore again.
The EU started off as an economic project. However, the improvement of the lives of European workers has always underpinned it, leading to the development of EU legislation that ensures that their rights and wellbeing are upheld.
This important body of law provides the minimum rights that EU citizens should enjoy, such as health and safety at work, protection against discrimination based on sex, race, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation, equal opportunities for men and women and rights in the workplace. These are vital cornerstones of human rights protection that most of us, as EU citizens, take for granted. However, if Britain left the EU this legislation would no longer apply to European and British citizens in the UK.
The EU stands for more than just economic integration and free trade. It is also about a set of political norms and values that underpin and support the functioning of the common market. Thus there will be profound consequences for Britain if it decides to leave the Union.
Dr Jakub Bijak, Associate Professor in Demography
The idea that migration is fully controllable or predictable is a comfortable illusion. Even though it may well win the ‘exit’ vote in the EU referendum, this mirage of control does not change the fundamentals of UK migration, which involves a complex web of interrelated factors that influence population movements. In reality, migration has its own dynamics, which will remain largely unaffected by the referendum outcome.
With respect to migration and asylum, the EU needs reform. The current migrant crisis has laid bare the dysfunctionality of the asylum system based on the Dublin regulations (which set out criteria for determining the EU country responsible for handling an asylum claim). And despite the obvious benefits of free movement of workers in the EU, in the short term migration can generate negative pressure on the wages and employment prospects at the bottom of the job hierarchy. Important challenges are also related to security and migrant integration.
However, a reformed EU would be in a better position to address these challenges than any single member state on its own. Given the volatility of migration, the stakes are too high to base a decision just on the present crisis, with disregard for the economic and political potential of a multinational block of countries in mitigating similar risks in the future.
Regardless of the referendum outcome, society would benefit from an informed and rational debate on migration. Migration contributes to the economy, science, culture, and many other areas of social life. Still, it is not black or white, not universally beneficial – or harmful – and the debate needs to reflect its full complexity. Emotions may sway the referendum result, but ultimately the British society will have to live with the aftermath of whatever decision it makes, for generations to come.
Adam Corres, Faculty Administration Officer, Institute for Life Sciences
For me, the EU referendum is a conflict between head and heart.
My head demands we must ‘leave’. If I asked colleagues if they would prefer to live under a democracy or a tyranny, it is probable that they would choose democracy, yet the UK’s highest form of law-making government is completely unelected (the European Commission) and the President of the EU is chosen only by people already receiving their income from the EU.
My story has a cruel twist though. Although I am a British subject and we have a British child, I am married to an EU citizen who lives here by exercising EU treaty rights. Neither of us meets the current criteria for residency in each other’s country without these rights in place. By voting to leave I would invite my own and my family’s banishment from the UK and a life as immigrants in any country that would take us in. A ‘leave’ result will kick over my apple cart.
My choice is whether I can be incorruptible and vote ‘leave’ to restore democracy, independence and ultimately freedom to over 60 million people for generations to come or, whether I will waver in my resolve and vote ‘remain’ to protect the daily imperative, my little world of family.