Brexit: Will UK leave EU today?

By: Kashinath Basu
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Today is one of the most important days in British history since the end of the Second World War. There has never been such large scale engagement of the masses, so much adrenaline rush and passion and this level of hectic and tireless campaign cutting across party political line in any vote in British history. The question in the referendum however seems straight and simple "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union (EU) or leave it?"  [What is Brexit and why is it important?]

The impact of the result from this subtle question will seal the destiny of this land for generations to come.

Who are the members on each side of the debate

The leadership and the number of heavy weights supporters on the two sides of this referendum vary significantly in their credentials and experience. The "Remain" campaign is headed by the leaders of most major political party including the Prime Minister David Cameroon, Chancellor George Osborne, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron, Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon and many others. They are supported by majority of big industry stalwarts from Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury, British Telecom, Virgin, etc.

brexit campaign

In fact, over half of the FTSE 100 chief executives and hundreds of small and medium sized businesses, an overwhelming number of vice chancellors, academics, financial houses and economists including the Chief of the Bank of England, majority of trade unions and all three living former prime ministers, John Major, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown are all supporting the "Remain" campaign. The list can go on. [Will Brexit make UK's security vulnerable?]

Leave campaign a less glamorous side

The "Leave" campaign comparatively has a far less glamorous list of leadership and supporters. It is to some extent still led by Nigele Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party popularly called UKIP. The motto of the party and their ethos lies in the name itself. The main rhetoric of the party since its very inception has to been to take Britain out of the European Union (EU). [Will India gain or lose from Brexit?]

Obviously this is to certain extent their election for survival. They have been joined with some prominent second tier leadership from conservatives such as Boris Johnson, the previous Mayor of London, Michael Grove, the Justice secretary, Priti Patel, the Minister of State for Employment and a number of backbenchers and a few from other parties. [Why June 23 is a memorable date in Britain's history]

Their main supporters outside the political class have been mainly from some newspaper and tabloid houses and the British business houses of JCB and Dyson. They lack the heavyweight, breath and diversity of the "Remain" team.

Anti-exit team has a whole lot of arguments

The leadership team on each side to certain extent reflects the causes and the arguments laid out by their team. The "Remain" team's arguments and data clearly demonstrate that since Britain joined the single market, the country has flourished both economically as well as socially. [Will Brexit see a Domino effect in Europe?]

Access to a huge market

The access to a single market of over 500 million people had brought enormous benefits to British industries. Small, medium and large industries, both UK based as well as multinationals operating from UK have thrived in this open market demonstrating the competiveness of our businesses and the skillset of our manpower.

Mixing of cultures

Britain, like other European countries, has benefited tremednously due to the economy of scale of a large market which has kept the prices down. The "Remain" team also believes that the free movement of people in and out of Britain as well as around the EU member countries has flourished the society, brought more diversity, have amalgamated cultures and have enriched the definition of Britishness.

Knowledge & technology

In terms of knowledge and technology, the success of EU is perhaps the most prominent. The collaboration in research, free movement of scientists and academics and EU wide sharing of research infrastructure and projects has significantly accelerated the growth of British science and engineering.

Going out of the EU will immediately cut off Britain from the £80 billion Horizon 2020 EU research and innovation budget. This will have catastrophic implications for generations in terms of UK's leadership role in the technology sector.

There are also arguments presented that in working together, we can more effectively deal with fighting crime and terrorism, develop strong employee legislations on pay, equal rights, social justice and tackle global warming.

These are however debated by the "Leave" team as something that can be more effectively managed by being outside EU singlehandedly based on UK's own terms and interest.

Leave campaign has only 2 big agendas: Immigration, legislation

The "Leave" team's limitation in size and experience is reflected in its campaign and content. They have presented only two explicit agendas: one centred around "immigration" highlighting how a "Remain" vote will increase the number of EU migrants over the years. Unfortunately, the rhetoric has been poor at times and mostly scaremongering. More importantly there has been no proposal on how a "Leave" vote will reduce the number of migrants.

Their second agenda has been to be so called "independent" again to redesign our own policies and legislations outside the framework of the EU directives and their courts.

However, analysing the records show a very small minority of the legislations are actually affected by EU laws and moreover these laws covering human rights and employee rights are fundamental and therefore should be applauded by employees and workers rather than being discouraged. A big drawback of the "Leave" team has been their inability to project a picture and a pathway of Britain's vision outside the EU.

The thriving middle-class will want UK to stay in EU

The result of the referendum will be ultimately decided by the millions of voters of this island. Looking at the various opinion polls, analysis, discussions and speaking to them over the past few weeks a very clear stark contrast among the voters profile is very evident. The majority of middle class, the white-collar professionals, the successful businessmen and women who have all thrived being part of this union will vote to "Remain".

Their peaceful and tranquil lifestyle in the leafy suburbs and picturesque villages in the south east has not been impacted significantly by the migration from Europe. These places have remained prosperous and white and the effects on their public services have been minimal. They have benefitted from all the positives of immigration from cheap east European nannies, plumbers, skilled and unskilled labour force for their businesses and of course holiday and retirement in the mainland.

Blue-collar working class people backs the pro-exit camp

The "Leave" campaign support base mainly comprises the blue collar working class people, a section of the above 60s who wants back the so called glory of the "Raj" days back and a small section of the recent immigrants who lives in the inner cities. These are the population who have been severely impacted by the migration from Easter Europe.

Their wages as a plumber, electrician has taken a bite from cheap labour, their waiting list in council houses have gone longer, and the demographic of their neighbourhood in the inner cities have changed fast. These are all valid reasons for their concerns.

Unfortunately, not being able to keep pace with the demand is the failure of the successive government and their cuts and not the majority of the Europeans who mostly come in good faith to work hard and improve their living. Studies after studies have shown that there is a net benefit in the system from what is put in by the migrants in terms of tax and other revenues minus what is taken out in benefits.

What if the UK indeed leaves the EU?

If the United Kingdom decides to "Leave", it will be an island nation of 60 million inhabitants solely on its own. The outside world today is a very different one from when UK was last time in a similar scenario before joining the single market. Since then, throughout the world, nations have been building bridges with different types of trading and military blocks to promote trade, movement of skilled manpower and knowledge, sharing of resources and joint operations in terms of security, military, disaster and recovery. The levels of migration have moved several folds over the decades.

Manpower---both skilled and unskilled, young individuals hungry for knowledge and opportunities as well people suffering from human and natural plights have been and will be migrating like never before. This is the trend of the time. We cannot close our eyes and swim against the tide.

As the outside world gets more interconnected, we need to ask if we want to get disconnected. Being part of EU, we have lead the world by showing that being together we can heal the wounds of the two world wars and prosper together, sharing our common values and building over them.

The ethos of the new world order depends on strong global interconnectivity and free movement of knowledge and people. In the expanding capitalist framework, as big corporations keep growing, it is almost impossible to negotiate with them viable tax and employment deals unless we are part of a big bargaining block. It also requires strong regulations and legislations to protect society and people. These values are central to the fundamentals of the union. So as we vote today, the decision we need to make is whether to move forward or make a full "U" turn.

The author is based in Oxford, the United Kingdom

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