Tuesday, 9 June 2015

"Bloody foreigners" is a lousy case for leaving the EU - I fear this will be the core of the 'out' campaign


European immigrants who arrived in the UK since 2000 have contributed more than £20bn to UK public finances between 2001 and 2011. Moreover, they have endowed the country with productive human capital that would have cost the UK £6.8bn in spending on education.

Over the period from 2001 to 2011, European immigrants from the EU-15 countries contributed 64% more in taxes than they received in benefits. Immigrants from the Central and East European ‘accession’ countries (the ‘A10’) contributed 12% more than they received.

There are very good reasons for leaving the European Union. And, right now, that is how I expect to vote come the referendum. This doesn't mean my mind is closed on the matter but rather that any renegotiation has to produce some really big changes for me to vote any other way. But in saying this I want to be pretty clear that my reasons for opposing the EU are not about 'sovereignty', 'nationhood', 'British values' or any of the usual tosh we see rolled out by some opponents. Nor is my opposition based on the fact that lots of great, hard-working people have come to make their home in Britain.

My opposition to the EU is for the following reasons - it makes us poorer, it is unaccountable, it restricts my liberty, and it prevent Britain from having any real influence over trade or international business. I'd also add that - as we see with Greece - the EU is undemocratic and authoritarian caring little about anything except the stability of its polity and certainly nothing for the ordinary citizen.

The EU is a protectionist ramp, something that only serves the interests of a limited number of producers rather than the mass of the population. Yet we line up enthusiastically behind its protectionism - cheering as Cornish Pasties are protected and nodding sagely at the continuation of subsidies for unsustainable upland farming. Here's an example from Tate & Lyle:

Tate & Lyle Sugars said its production has fallen from 1.1m tonnes of sugar to about 600,000 since 2009. The company said the slump began when the EU began scaling back its market regulation of beet sugar rather than the cane sugar that the firm imports.

“If we carry on down this route it puts our business and the jobs here under real threat,” said Gerald Mason, head of T&L Sugars in the UK. “We see the Government’s renegotiation as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the last chance if you like, to keep what’s left.”

He said EU regulations are the “single biggest impact on our business”. The EU is unleashing Europe’s beet farmers in 2017 by removing a production cap, in a move that is expected to push down prices 15pc by 2020. Farmers will be subsidised to counteract this drop, while cane sugar imports continue to face tariffs of up to €339 (£246) per tonne.

We the taxpayers of Europe are paying more for our sugar than we need to do because more efficient sugar producers in places like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic have a huge tariff slapped on their product so as to ensure that beet farmers in Europe are protected. Worse still us taxpayers then subsidise those beet farmers because they are making less money now the EU lets them produce more. We get taxed for the privilege of having more expensive food.

Every UK government since 1979 has promised to 'reform' the Common Agricultural Policy. And loads of tinkering with the policy has taken place since - quotas replace tariffs, one subsidy replaces another subsidy, and some farmers get paid regardless of whether they actually do any farming. And, I guess, it's not a huge deal for most of us most of the time.

But think for a second about those polices. Add to this the policy of distributing agricultural surplus in the form of food 'aid'. Plus anti-dumping rules that mean cheaper solar panels are excluded (what sort of contribution to saving the planet is this). And the negotiation of bilateral agreements that are designed to serve those protected industries at the cost of economic development in Africa and Asia. Not only does the EU make Europeans poorer but it also makes Africans and Indians poorer too (and, as an aside, more likely to take huge risks coming here on leaky boats).

Half of what the EU does is about maintaining this protection - it is the central purpose for much of its bureaucracy and the primary purpose of most lobbyists in Brussels and Strasbourg. The other half of the EU is doing what it calls "harmonisation" - making sure that our rules don't give any advantage to home producers within the single market. And the trend has always been for that harmonisation to be upwards - adding regulations in places where there are none rather than reducing regulations where there are too many.

Finally there are some very bad reasons for leaving the EU. I will repeat again that my opposition to the EU is not about migration. Indeed, if anything about the EU is worthy of celebration then it is the fact that I can go and ply my trade anywhere across 27 countries without daft restrictions and constraints (unless of course I'm a ski instructor wanting to work in France). As can people from right across the continent - including a load who come here and contribute to the success of our economy.

What worries me is that, rather than making the very strong case that Britain will be richer and happier outside the EU, we'll end up with a load of scaremongering about foreigners coming here or foreigners buying up our businesses, or foreigners making our laws, or foreigners over-ruling our courts. Were that the only argument for leaving the EU I would be voting to stay in. It isn't so I'll most likely vote to leave.



Anonymous said...

That UCL study is flawed. For example, it estimated that eastern European migrants would pay the same amount of corporation taxes as the general population, even though they are less likely to own business shares than the richer UK-born population. The study made other unsupportable assumptions that probably overestimate the Eastern European financial contribution to the UK.

I agree with the points you make about the EU aside from migration. But the fact is that uncontrolled, especially unskilled, migration is an issue for most of the British public. I personally have no problem with a controlled number of skilled workers entering the UK, as long as they are productive, assimilate and don't draw on the state until they've contributed. There's 100s of 1000s of Germans or French living in this country, but as their arrival here hasn't been a flood, and they are generally skilled and productive, nobody bothers with them. Eastern and south-eastern European migration in the last decade is different.

Turning the EU vote into a referendum on "pulling up the drawbridge" is likely to result in failure. But there's a case supported by the large majority of the public, for controlled, skilled migration, instead of the opposite that is currently the case while we're in the EU.

Anyway, I don't think No/Out will win. The most recent poll, asking the govt's preferred question, showed 58% for Yes, 31% for No, and the rest undecided. If I was a betting (wo)man, I'd guess >60% for Yes.

personal Injury solicitors said...

EU began scaling back its market regulation of beet sugar rather than the cane sugar that the firm imports.

Kamo said...

I have two problems with analysis along these lines:

1) There is always some level of ambiguity over how the cost benefits are being defined i.e. are the costs of dependents fully covered including those that come from additional pressures on public services. It may be the case that Mr X from Country Y contributes more in tax than he receives in benefits, but what happens if we have Mrs X who doesn't work and three little X's who need special help at school because they don't speak English, and maybe have a specific medical condition? The question isn't whether or not they are entitled to these benefits, the question is are they in the analysis because they need to be.
2) Arguments against immigration are seldom against all immigration, they are against loose immigration control which is an entirely different matter. Economic migration is an economic transaction, we need to consider it as such, Mr X coming to the UK and paying more in tax than he takes in benefits suits both sides. However, if Mr X comes to UK and pays more in tax than he takes in benefits, but the additional costs of supporting Mrs X and three little X's take the overall costs over the benefits than is an entirely different outcome if we're being economically rational (again, I'll stress the point I'm talking about economic migration as an economic activity being viewed through an economic lense).