Dominic Harwick and Ben Marshall argue the pros and cons of EU membership
Yes – Dominic Hardwick
The EU has been around for longer even than many of your lecturers, but it is still a comparatively young institution. Now only 55 years of age, the EU was born out of a war-ravaged Europe. It is responsible for many of the things that we take for granted today: easy access to Europe, workers’ rights, prosperity, and peace.
Before the Schengen Agreement opened the borders between European countries, you needed a visa to travel Europe. Inter-railing was a nightmare, and hassle at border checkpoints was the norm. Today, you can travel freely, and even live and work abroad without any trouble.
As well as allowing you to work across Europe, the EU also protects many of your rights. In 1975, the EU made it so that any woman paid less than a man for the same job can seek redress through the courts. This protection has been extended to give part-time workers (frequently women) the same rights as full-time workers. You are also entitled to 4 weeks’ paid holiday per year, 1 day off per week, and 11 hours rest in every 24 hours thanks to the working time directive.
We are also undoubtedly richer as a country for our participation in the EU. Most of our trade is with Europe, and this is aided by the EU’s total removal of internal tariff walls that would stifle our trade. British businesses can also compete on an equal footing with foreign concerns in the EU, and this has benefited us enormously.
Finally, and most importantly, the EU has ensured peace in western Europe. Where once we would have used guns and soldiers to settle our differences, we now use trade and diplomacy to resolve disputes, guarantee democracy, and keep the peace. We live in an unparalleled period of peace when compared with any other time in history, and the EU has had an important part to play in it.
Europe is now a continent united. Alone, we would be buffeted about in the economic and political currents of the world; but the EU is greater than the sum of its parts, and we are stronger for our membership of it. Therefore, the only sensible vote (should there be a referendum on our membership) is a vote to keep us in.
No – Ben Marshall
In light of the eternally negative publicity of the European Union in the UK, it’s not surprising that the country is largely distancing itself from this organisation – and for good reason.
For wealthy nations like Britain, the price of membership every year hugely outweighs any benefit that we gain from it. It is estimated that our expenditure for the EU from 2007 to 2013 is a whopping £105 billion – the equivalent of every British citizen paying nearly £200 per year. And what is this money being spent on? Well almost half the EU’s annual budget goes towards the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is basically money paid to EU farmers to try to help them produce enough food for the continent. Sounds OK? Quite the opposite – it’s fraught with problems.
Firstly, with the money we contribute to the scheme compared to subsidies British farmers receive from it, it’s a losing proposition. The other astounding problem is the fact that 70% of the scheme’s funding goes to just 20% of European farms, ultimately meaning that there are many farmers in the EU who are missing out on any benefit at all, and are surviving on as little as £5,000 per year. How’s that a fair system? As for the remaining half of the budget, don’t get me started on the kind of things that is spent on. Lavish private planes and luxurious hotel suites for top EU fat-cats are all on the list, as well as outrageous amounts being spent on ill-thought-out legislation. You may recall the hugely controversial Lisbon Treaty that the UK was bullied into signing in 2007; it effectively means Europe can simply impose laws on the country, thus transferring yet more of our national powers to Brussels. What a joke.
All this spells out one word – disaster. A system that, to a large extent, has already failed. Just look at the diabolical state of the Euro. A so called ‘United States of Europe’, which is the track that those power-hungry Eurocrats are taking us down, simply wouldn’t work. Time we got out of this shambles now before it gets to that.