There’s no doubt that, since the general election, Brexit supporters have launched an all-out attack on the government’s position in relation to the European Union - and it seems to be working. Since May, a decisive lead in polls for the Remain camp has gradually been absorbed by the Leave campaign, until a recent poll gave Brexit a 4% lead over Bremain. This is not necessarily surprising, given the disproportionate proliferation of Eurosceptic propaganda over the past few years. In addition, support for the EU has fluctuated widely ever since the beginning of our entry into the Common Market. But, looking at our membership of the EU through the cold hard economic and political facts of today, Britain cannot survive a Brexit scenario. And we must do everything possible to prevent such an occurrence.
Firstly, the EU is the UK’s principal trading partner, accounting for 45% of exports and 53% of imports of goods and services in 2014. There is no doubt that even taking into account modest redistribution of trade to non-EU countries over the last decade, leaving the EU, at least in the short term, would inflict massive damage on our trading contracts, our balance of accounts and by extension our economy. In a deteriorating global economic climate, to willingly sacrifice the economic security provided by the EU would be tantamount to a wilful sabotage of our long-term financial health.
Then there is the matter of employment. Over three million jobs are linked, directly or indirectly, to our EU exports. Although some of these jobs would survive Brexit – as not all EU trade is dependent on our membership – at least a third would be in jeopardy should the UK sever ties with the Union. Even losses based on optimistic estimates would drive the unemployment count back up to well over 2.5 million, the figure last seen in 2011 at the height of the Great Recession. In the event of Britain’s withdrawal, the net effect of lost jobs would be magnified on the country as it struggled to adapt to its new circumstances. Living standards, pay packets and employment security would likely plummet once again.
Beyond the short-term repercussions of Brexit, Britain would struggle to restore investment that would be lost from European trade and funding. The EU is a major source of inward investment into the UK; in 2014, EU countries accounted for £496 billion of inward Foreign Direct Investment, 48% of the total. A 2015 survey by Ernst and Young found that the UK attracted more FDI projects than any other European country in 2014. With the recent collapse of our steel industry, it seems folly to rely on Brexit campaigners’ assurances that the UK could restore lost investment, when countries the world over are experiencing economic slowdowns and struggling to build new industrial assets.
Then there is the question of devolved decision making. In the complex quagmire of British politics and devolution, the question has been raised by the Scottish National Party as to whether Brexit should prompt a second Scottish independence referendum. In Scotland, though Brexit support has increased somewhat, Bremain still has a 24-point lead according to the latest YouGov polling. Given the far more decisive nature of the Scottish vote, it is clear that an attempt to forcibly eject Scotland from the EU would almost certainly trigger another fierce independence, and could even be the final death knell of the already badly strained Westminster-Holyrood relationship.
These effects should set the minds of every undecided voter in the country. Brexit is a fantasy; a pipe dream invented by self-indulgent Eurosceptics. When Britain joined the EU in 1975, its economic fate was hardwired directly into the nervous system of Brussels. Rip it out, and the country will flat-line. We can also rest assured that we would be humiliated if we attempted to re-enter the EU after trialling Brexit. We risk losing our prestige, our economic security and our influence, in the pursuit of archaic isolationist policies that have no role in today’s open world. Britain cannot survive Brexit. We must prevent it at all costs.