by Sylwia Heller
It has been a subject of a wide scale concern whether the UK should remain within the EU. It is because there will be a referendum on 23rd June about this matter where everyone will be able to express their opinions. The referendum is a result of Conservative MP’s and the UK Independence Party’s influence and Prime Minister’s David Cameron attitude to immigration. Nevertheless, being a part of the European Union has many advantages as it is a partnership of 28 countries, which cooperate on economic and political levels.
Being a member of the European Union is certainly advantageous for British Citizens because it allows them to travel freely and to trade within a single market. However, the EU has its own source of law in transport, environment, and human rights with its own Parliament. It is to achieve coherence and consistency within European countries. The law is based on shared international values so most countries should not have a problem with adopting them. The law of the EU focuses mainly on protection of human rights, which is especially well welcomed by citizens of international community. It can be problematic, however, as it may result in a domestic law being changed by the government. It causes feelings of lack of sovereignty and supremacy by being dependent on the EU. It causes that some politicians favour the idea of leaving the EU more than others.
The UK Independence Party, half of Conservative MPs are for Brexit because of the laws of the European Union placed on businesses, because of lack of control over borders and because of immigration in the UK. It is not appreciated by British Citizens that for allowing foreigners to enter the UK they can emigrate or travel around the EU without visas themselves. Because of the amount of benefits such as free trade and incoming workforce the Labour Party, David Cameron and Barack Obama believe that the UK should remain within the EU.
Immigration is one of the greatest advantages of being a part of the EU. It is because people who immigrate to the UK are significantly influencing economic growth through buying and renting of houses, paying for health and other services, paying taxes, etc. while working. Nevertheless, currently there are more immigrants from outside of the EU than from the EU. There are 942,000 Eastern Europeans, Romanians and Bulgarians and 791,000 Eastern Europeans working in the UK as the Office for National Statistics says. The number of workers from outside of the EU such as China and India is a lot of higher as their numbers rise to 2,93m. Therefore, leaving of the EU would not change drastically the number of immigrants coming to the UK.
One of the criticism relating to immigration is that foreigners come to Britain because of welfare. This is why the PM David Cameron proposed restrictions on benefits to immigrants from the EU. However, according to the House of Commons Library briefing EU members are the smallest group getting benefits in the UK. There are more non-Europeans who get benefits, however, as they get almost twice as much benefits as immigrants from Europe. So reduction of benefits for EU immigrants would not change too much in the welfare system.
According to statistics, in 2013 3,9m British families were receiving benefits, 413,000 claimants of benefits were from the outside of the EU, and only 302,000 of claimants were from the EU. The latter are usually employed in low paid work and this is why they get tax credits, especially as they live here permanently and have children as Jonathan Portes from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research observed.
Leaving the EU would not change welfare, therefore, but it can have enormous impact on British economy as many economists predict. According to Adam Possen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, business investments could get worse. Additionally, Donn Smith, Deputy Chief Investment Officer at Brown Shipley says that leaving the EU would damage sterling’s value. Besides, John van Reenen, Director of the Centre for Economic Performance said that Brexit would result in lower number of highly talented Europeans who have aided the UK’s growth coming to the UK. However, foreigners commit a quarter of crimes in London. But, they can be deported to their countries if they committed a serious offence to be sentenced to more than 12 months of imprisonment as the UK Border Agency spokesmen said.
So, problems of immigration seem to be exaggerated for political reasons. Immigrants from the EU are not a burden for the UK. To the contrary, they keep economy of this country growing. However, the option of leaving the EU is likely to appear in the future again if the UK does not decide to leave the EU during the soonest referendum.