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Why I'll be voting for Britain to remain in Europe

Festus Akinbusoye

IN MY view, the only thing more irresponsible than keeping quiet about the likelihood of negative economic impacts of a Brexit is to pretend there won’t be any real impact at all. It is quite disingenuous of some in the Leave campaign to downplay the risks of a Brexit while also accusing anyone who highlights such risks of scaremongering.

INVESTORS

It is not scaremongering to raise a voice of warning over a Brexit vote as have many of our major trading partners, economists and investors. I genuinely fear that the vision of a utopian Britain being painted by the Leave campaigners in the event of a Brexit will cause many to vote for the unknown.

For example, the ongoing EU referendum debate and the uncertainty created have caused the value of the Pound Sterling to drop to its lowest in seven years. For many British residents who remit money to loved ones in Africa, the Caribbean, Asia etc - this devaluation means less money in our pockets.

NEGOTIATE

You see, economics is as much about politics and diplomacy as it is about the aggregate number of widgets produced in Birmingham then sold to Bombay. Many in the Leave camp want us to believe that the EU – being the world’s largest market will want to negotiate trade deals with us, given that we are the fifth largest economy in the world. They also claim the United States, China, India and other major competitors will want to do the same.

INSTABILITY

Now imagine this scenario. Britain has just voted to leave the EU. There is a general agreement that there will be a short to medium term hit on our economy. A Brexit will likely cause real instability in the European Union, as markets try to figure out which country will be next. Capital flights could ensue as an already struggling Eurozone is exposed to greater shocks. This is the EU that Britain will be negotiating with.

Why on earth would the EU want to make negotiating with Britain a priority under such a circumstance? It is wishful thinking to anticipate a purely amicable divorce and negotiated settlement following a Brexit.

Additionally, much is rightly made of our position as the world’s fifth largest economy. What is often less mentioned is that we have recently overtaken France as the fifth largest in the world and all things being equal, some forecast Britain to leapfrog Germany as the fourth strongest economy in a decade or so.

Isn’t it ironic that despite both the real and alleged faults of the EU, Britain has emerged from the recent global financial crisis as the fastest growing economy in the developed world while having seen a greater net increase in jobs than the rest of European Union put together? It seems to me that the EU has done little to prevent us from accomplishing these feats and that we are more in control of our economic destiny than many in the Leave campaign will make out.

POLICYMAKING

Lastly, it should be noted that not a single non-EU country, namely Switzerland and Norway, enjoy a free trade agreement with the EU without paying for the privilege and agreeing to the free movement of people principle while having no say at all in EU policymaking. This type of fee paying observer status is surely not one we would want for Britain.

Leaving the EU will not reduce the level of homelessness, knife crime, gang violence or widening gap between rich and poor in Britain. Recent reports show that graduates from wealthy backgrounds continue to earn more than those from poorer backgrounds despite attending the same university and studying the same course. A Brexit will not provide any answers to these structural issues, and in fact may end up distracting policymakers from prioritising the real problems facing hardworking families in Britain as they engage in years of protracted trade negotiations with uncertain outcomes.

With Britain in the EU, we enjoy the same protections, rights and entitlements as other EU citizens in their own countries with limited restrictions. We are able to travel to and trade with, study or settle in any of the other 27 EU countries freely. Indeed, some three million British citizens currently live right across the EU. The inter-connectedness of our academic institutions and knowledge sharing between our scientific communities all greatly benefit from our membership in the world’s largest single market.

Yes, it is far from a perfect institution. However, leaving the EU now would be a gamble and leap into an unknown future. Britain is better, stronger and safer in a reforming European Union. I will be voting to remain in the EU on June 23 and urge you to do the same.

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Festus Akinbusoye was Conservative Parliamentary candidate for West Ham constituency at 2015 General Election. He runs his own business and also works in Parliament. He has served as a School Governor, local Councillor and mentor to young offenders.

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