If the status quo were different…

In June the British public will go to the polls to decide whether to stay with, or leave, Europe. Matthew Cowley is a Politics and Economics student, leader of Southampton Students for Britain and an active member of the Conservative Party. These are his views.

Matthew Cowley, BSc Politics & Economics, University of Southampton
Matthew Cowley, BSc Politics & Economics, University of Southampton

The debate around Britain’s membership of the European Union is one which is vital to our future as students. It is one which will shape our economic prospects, shape our ability to achieve our goals and ambitions, affect our businesses. It is one which has the power to give our generation the sovereignty and political powers taken away in generations past.

The nature of the European Union is that it encourages intra-EU trade through the removal of tariffs between member states, and the establishment of the Common External Tariff (CET) to result in trade creation within the EU.

But the CET also results in significant trade diversion, reducing our ability to trade with non-EU nations like China, India and the United States. Added to this, the EU removes our ability to negotiate our own trade deals. This means that the businesses that the students of today create and run will be hampered by an inability to buy and sell in the growing markets of the modern world.

With the EU having a declining share of world trade, due to the success of the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the effects of the global recession on the EU economy; and with this trend unlikely to reverse due to the continued rise of economies outside of the EU28, the road to our prosperity after university lies in exploring emerging markets, not with the EU.

Furthermore, the UK’s declining trade with other EU nations – partially concealed by the Rotterdam effect (the theory that the level of UK trade with the EU is overstated as many goods we buy enter the EU elsewhere, for example Rotterdam) reflects a long-term development of trade and economic relationships with economies outside the European Union, trade relationships which could improve the prospects of our future businesses significantly without the effects of the CET.

We need to make a decision on our future this year. Do we want to be tied into a declining single market? Do we want our economic future to be with the Eurozone area, or with the growing nations of the world? Do we want to take back control of our trade, and become a truly international nation, trading with 196 countries, rather than just 27? If you believe that we should reassert control over our trade, that we should trade with nations like China, India, and America, then you should use your vote.

A true democracy is one that gives power to its people. The European Union takes decision-making away from local, British authorities, and hands it to bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg. To reclaim our democracy, to bring power back to the most local level possible, we must reclaim our sovereignty from the European Union. Pooled sovereignty (giving away powers to the EU) is no sovereignty at all.

The removal of power from local authorities, devolved authorities, and the national government seems to run counter to the basic concepts of a liberal democracy. Taking power back from Brussels would enable us to give powers on issues that affect us as students, to the local governments and national governments that we elect.

The points I have raised are by no means a complete guide to why our future would be better outside the EU. I will conclude by simply offering something for you to ponder: if the status quo were different, if the United Kingdom were outside the EU debating whether or not we should join … how would we vote then? Would we be willing to give up our sovereignty, our freedom to trade, our democracy? Would we want to join a Union which, for a developed economy, represents a declining market?

My answer would be no.

Matthew’s blog originally appeared on Public Policy @ Southampton’s blog page, Views on Europe.

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