EUROPE: Leaving would weaken UK

I read with interest the views of Mrs Trevelyan, the MP for Berwick upon Tweed, in which she gives her reasons for campaigning to leave the EU, (Morpeth Herald, March 3).

She asserts that there would be savings on a contribution of £350million per week to the EU budget, regaining sovereignty, ability to control our borders, better protection from terrorist attacks, better trade deals with the rest of the world, and a good trade deal with the EU post BREXIT. But I believe these assertions do not stand up to scrutiny.

Our net contribution is about £119million per week after deducting the amount won by Mrs Thatcher in 1984 and the money the EU spends in Britain. Britain is only the eighth largest contributor per head. And it must not be forgotten that this ‘membership fee’ helps create jobs, trade and investment.

Any increase in sovereignty would be illusory. We already give up sovereignty in exchange for power through our membership of NATO, the IMF and numerous other bodies where we agree common rules for the benefit of all. Does Mrs Trevelyan realise the loss of sovereignty involved in being a member of NATO where the UK could be committed to going to war if another member state was attacked?

Being an EU member increases, not decreases our clout. Britain outside the EU would have to follow EU rules if we wished to continue to access the European Single Market, our largest trading partner and the world’s largest market. It would put itself in the same position as Norway and Switzerland, which both accept free movement with no say in the rules. The UK can stay in the EU and have a say, or it can leave and do what it is told in order to get market access.

Leaving the EU would give the UK control of its borders. But if it chose to ban the free movement of EU nationals into the UK it would lose access to the single market. It would also hurt businesses and public services, which rely on labour from EU countries. The NHS is just one good example, with its heavy reliance on staff from elsewhere in Europe.

Anti terrorism benefits greatly from co-ordination at an EU level. This does not preclude involvement with the US. The EU Arrest Warrant enables countries to bring to justice quickly wrongdoers. Terrorism wreaks havoc without respect to national borders and requires an EU-wide response. In the same way, climate change can only be managed on a supra-national basis.

It is difficult to see how being in isolation can improve the UK’s trading position. The EU and US are negotiating an ambitious deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. If the UK votes to leave the EU it will not have access to this and the US is not interested in doing single country deals. There is more clout in being in a 28-member trading bloc than in splendid isolation.

Mrs Trevelyan does not say what the alternative to EU membership would be. Is it the Norwegian, Swiss, Canadian or World Trade Organisation model? Does she have another in mind? She needs to tell us.

If the UK votes to leave, then under the Treaty of Lisbon there will be a two-year period of settling the future arrangements between Britain and the other 27 member states. Britain will have little say in what will be decided.

Exports from the UK to the EU are about 45 per cent of our total exports; the share of EU exports going to the UK make up about eight per cent. The UK will be the party that has sued for divorce. But the rejected partner, the EU, will be the one that determines the settlement.

All our friends and allies around the world are urging Britain to stay a member of the European family.

Following BREXIT, UK nationals will be deprived of their common European Citizenship that enables them to move, live, study, work and buy property in Europe. Any rules restricting immigration from the EU would be likely to compromise the position of the two million UK citizens who live, work, study or are retired on the Continent.

British visitors to the Continent would no longer have the EHIC card in a health emergency. And when mobile phone roaming charges are abolished across the EU in 2017, UK visitors would still have to pay a higher tariff. Our young people would no longer be able to participate in the Erasmus Student Exchange programme in which thousands have been able to study on the European mainland.

Mrs Trevelyan does not mention that a BREXIT might lead to a second Scottish referendum on independence, which could result in the break-up of the UK. And she makes no mention of potentially disastrous consequences for the Northern Irish peace settlement. Does BREXIT matter more to her than the integrity of the United Kingdom?

A vote to leave is a vote for a pig in a poke.

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