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According to a recent opinion poll, over half of British voters would vote to leave the European Union if it came to a vote. The Observer survey found that 56% of people would likely vote for a fully independent UK, as opposed to 30% of people probably or definitely voting to remain, with 14% of the population undecided.
I strongly feel that leaving the European Union would be a mistake for the United Kingdom. To start, I believe that the free movement of goods and people throughout EU member states is a positive aspect of the EU. Although it has been criticised by those who consider immigration from inside the EU to be a problem in the UK, for instance those who consider foreign workers to be “stealing British jobs”, this also allows us to travel freely throughout the EU without a visa and for British businesses to sell products in Europe without tariffs. Furthermore, this greatly simplifies the process of studying in other countries, with initiatives such as Erasmus encouraging cultural exchange between students in European universities.
One attribute of the European Union that is often criticised is the “membership fee”. This money goes towards maintaining the structures of the European Union, for example the European Parliament and European Commission, as well as various EU initiatives, such as agricultural subsidies. However, one particular area that is often forgotten by critics of the EU is the way in which it provides funds in order to help stimulate economic development and job creation throughout the EU, not only in other European countries, but also in the UK, for instance in Yorkshire and the Humber. Although the UK doesn’t see a complete return on this membership fee, it could be said that it is because, as one of the major economic powers in Europe, do not require it as much as some of the new EU member states, those that have joined more recently, emerging from Communist regimes that fell in the 80s and 90s, for example Poland, Romania, and the Baltic States.
Another issue that has been attacked by Eurosceptics is the current floundering of the Euro. The Euro, while admirable in purpose, was doomed to have these problems when a global downturn came due to its poor implementation in the beginning. However, being outside of the Eurozone, we would have been in the same situation had the Euro been introduced or not, as bailout packages are not merely to keep countries stable, but to protect investment in economies overseas and maintain the image that first-world countries will make debt repayments. If Greece were to default, it would reflect badly on all European countries, as investors would realise that these countries are not guaranteed to make their payments. Furthermore, until these problems with the Euro are ironed out, there is no force from Europe urging us to adopt the Euro, and many other EU member states still use other currencies, for example the Krone, the Koruna, the Lats and Forint.
Although the idea of compromise with other European member states is frowned upon by many groups, I personally believe that greater cooperation in a supranational framework such as the EU is one of the ways that the United Kingdom will continue to be able to compete in the future, as rising economic powers such as India, China and Brazil start to overcome the shadow of colonialism and totalitarianism to become superpowers in their own right. We cannot hope to match China’s GDP alone, but through the European Union the continent may continue to be relevant as the West declines and developing powers begin to become the centre of international business and affairs.
I will not argue that the European Union is perfect. The Euro has been proved to be poorly implemented with the current Euro Crisis, and the perceived democratic deficit in the EU must be addressed. However, the answer to difficulty in the European Union is not to leave the European Union, but to work with the system, attempting to create a fairer Europe that better reflects British interests.