Update January 2020
page below, dating from before the 2016 referendum, details
the arguments presented by the supporters and opponents of Brexit.
For an analysis of the history of Brexit and its background from Churchill to 2020, see ► Brexit a short history
the UK left the European Union on 30th January 2020.
With its solid
the House of Commons passed the legislation necessary to allow
the UK to leave the European Union on 31st January.
practical terms, little will change, as Britain enters a "transition
period" during which it will continue to abide by EU rules and
regulations, and contribute to the EU budget.
2020 is a year of hard bargaining, and whatever deal is negotiated between
the UK and the EU, there will be a large part of the UK population who
will think it is a bad deal.
The arguments over Brexit
did horrendous damage to the UK, to its social fabric, and to its
international reputation. The country remains deeply divided. Bland
words from politicians about "healing the divides" make reassuring
soundbites, but will do little to bring the country back together again.
Brexit may now be "done", but so too is
the damage, which will take many years to heal.
Brexit - the arguments
This short synthesis of who's who, and the main pros
staying or leaving, was written before the referendum in 2016. The
are still valid.
Before the General Election of December 2019, many former
moderate Conservatives, including former Prime Minister John Major, and
Margaret Thatcher's former deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, did
the unthinkable and encouraged people not to vote for Boris Johnson's
new type of Conservative party.
- Britain should remain in the EU
- Britain should
leave the EU
parties (official or majority position before
The Conservative Party,
the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrat Party, the Scottish Nationalist
Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party
UKIP (UK independence party), the BNP (British National Party), the EDL
(English Defence League), the DUP (Democratic Unionists, Ulster),
A few people and personalities...
Jo Cox MP, Jeremy Corbyn, George Osborne, all living former
Bob Geldof, Benedict Cumberbatch, J.K.Rowling, Elton John, Jeremy
Clarkson, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Simon Cowell, Bear Grylls,
Carré, Daniel Craig, Jamie Oliver
and businessmen: Stephen Hawking ,thirteen UK
Branson, Alan Sugar, Mark Carney,
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merckel
Kelvin MacKenzie - columnist and former editor of the Sun newspaper,
regrets having encouraged people to vote Leave.
Boris Johnson, Nigel Lawson, George Galloway, Michael
Gove, John Redwood, Lord Owen, Jacob Rees-Mogg,
Ian Botham, Joey Essex, Katie Hopkins, Elizabeth
Hurley, Joan Collins, Michael Caine
and Businessmen: Richard Desmond, James Dyson
Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, French National Front's Marine Le Pen1
the autumn, most Conservative MPs and many Labour MPs, starting with
Prime Minister Theresa May, have suffered from chronic amnesia, and
voted in favour of triggering Article 50... forgetting that they
campaigned against Brexit in the referendum campaign nine months
groups according to opinion poll surveys : majority voting
Young voters (under 30): 63%
Voters aged 30-39 : 58%
Voters aged 40-49 : 52%
University graduates: 62%
Those with A levels or equivalent: 53%
University students: over 75%
Older voters (over 60): 56%
Voters 50-59: 52%
Voters with no qualification higher than GCSE: 57%
How other nations will see Britain if we leave
do you want other nations of Europe to consider Britain after June
23rd? As a reliable partner, or as the one that walked away?
If Britain leaves the EU, we will lose a massive
amount of goodwill from people elsewhere in Europe. As well as damaging
the UK's own economy, a vote for Brexit is likely to set off
domino effect that damages economies throughout Europe. When
happens, angry fingers will be pointed at Britain, as the nation that
deliberately wrecked the EU. And we'll have to live with it for at
least two generations to come.
It is pure fantasy to
suggest that other countries of Europe will continue to look up to the
UK as, in many respects, they do now. They will not. Britain
be isolated, shunned, as the country that turned its back on the rest
governments of Europe will not be happy with Brexit; but a British
Brexit will actually be a salutary event for Europe, and even if it
does cause an initial recession in Europe, it will not take long for
other countries to appreciate that Britain was actually the first
country to "liberate" itself from the burden of the European Union.
Britain will once again be seen as the country that saves
as we did by our action in two world wars.
parties in other countries of Europe will follow Britain and reclaim
their sovereignty; eventually there will be no more European Union.
|Leaving the European Union
would allow us to choose our own immigration policy; that is true; but
it is not
going to stop immigration. Asked by the BBC if the Leave campaign's
"chosen immigration" policy would actually guarantee to cut the number
of immigrants, Boris Johnson carefully avoided answering the question.
Then on 19th June, he said; " I am pro-immigration, my
am the proud descendent of Turkish immigrants. And let me stun you,
perhaps, by saying I would go further. I am not only pro-immigration,
I’m pro-immigrants". And these words from the
leader of the
"Leave" campaign that has suggesting that it would drastically reduce
immigration to the UK.
The fact is that if the British economy is to prosper, it cannot do so
without recruiting large numbers of skilled and unskilled workers from
other countries. If they don't come from our own continent, Europe,
they will have to come from other continents.
way will leaving the EU stop immigration to the UK.
EU immigration is a great asset to the UK economy, and
from EU countries pay a lot more in taxes than they receive as benefits.
Immigration is always an emotive issue that appeals to
sense of nationalism. It is easy, and sometimes satisfying,
blame others for our perceived ills. Of course, in the event of a
Brexit, the economic downturn that will follow will make Britain a far
less attractive country compared to other parts of Europe, we'll all be
poorer, and immigration from the EU will fall of its own accord. But
that would really be an own goal.
|We need to reclaim our borders,
and to have the right to determine our own immigration policies for
people from the European Union, just as we control immigration from
other parts of the world.
Immigration from other countries in
Europe accounts for just under half of all the immigration to the UK;
and at present we cannot control it.
continue to let in an unlimited number of immigrants from other parts
of Europe. If we leave the European Union, we will be able to
a "points system" to restrict immigration from the European Union to
people for whom there are jobs available in the UK, and people who
speak proper English.
Today, for instance, there is a
shortage of cooks to work in Bangla-Deshi restaurants in the UK; but
restaurant owners cannot recruit from Bangla-Desh. By choosing our own
immigration policy, we will be able to cap the number of migrants from
other European countries, and bring in more people from Commonwealth
countries, such as cooks from Bangla Desh.
from other parts of the EU, notably from southeast Europe, has driven
down wages in the UK. Reducing immigration from the EU will thus lead
to higher wages for many unskilled jobs as employers recruit British
employees to replace migrant workers who accept lower pay.
We will also keep more of the young people that we educate
the UK, as there will be less opportunity for them to go and work
abroad, if there is no longer free movement of people between Britain
and the countries of continental Europe.
prominent Leavers now admit that leaving the EU will not actually
reduce immigration more than a fraction, if Britain wants to continue
to benefit from Access to the European single market.
In addition, the "Leave" victory has unleashed a wave of xenophobic and
racist incidents in the UK, with police reporting a 57% increase in
such acts compared to before the referendum.
Britain in the
world : a question of reputation and influence
stronger in Europe than out.
We have everything to gain from remaining as a constructive member of
the European Union.
Europe is (as long as it
remains united) one of the four major players on the world
Britain is one of the three major nations in Europe. Alone we
will lose this influential position.
can have more influence as a sovereign nation than just as a part of
the EU. Britain can be an equal partner with the USA, with China, with
Russia and the EU.
Trade and economy: can Britain perform better
in the EU or outside it ?
|The vast majority of
economists in Britain and other countries warn that Britain leaving the
EU would be an economic disaster.
The EU is
the world's largest economic area. Britain will be more successful
economically as part of the EU, than outside it. If we leave, we will
still have to take account of EU rules and regulations if we want to
trade with the EU; but we will no longer be able to influence them and
help to shape them.
A Brexit would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of
jobs, as international firms that need a base in the EU relocate
offices and plants to Ireland or to the continent.
The "Remain" campaign don't have the monopoly of "believing
Britain". We all "believe in Britain"; but believing in Britain is not
some magic trick that will let us defy the economic odds.
57% of the UK's car production is
exported to the EU countries, according to the
A vote for Brexit is certain to have a negative impact on this.... if
only from EU consumers who are furious about the UK leaving the EU.
There have already been calls in Europe for consumers to boycott
British products if Britain damages the European union economy by
voting to Brexit. But it is likely to be much more negative than this,
leading to plant closures and job losses in the UK motor industry and is subcontractors,
many of them small firms.
In addition, in spite of the claims by Leavers that Britain can't
target export markets outside the EU because of EU rules, the UK car
industry's biggest export market is the USA... followed by China. Not only can
we export outside the EU; we can do so with great success.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. - 2016
|A handful of neo-liberal
British economists believe that Britain could do better by leaving the
hampered by bureaucratic red-tape from Brussels. Even the 80% of
British companies that do not export have to follow EU rules on
standards, employee rights, union representation, health and safety,
paternity leave and other bureaucratic red tape;
this is a burden on small businesses.
If we leave the European Union, we can bring down the cost of
labour in the UK, so that firms can hve manufacturing plants here in
the UK, rather than exporting their production facilities to countries
with low labour costs.
Besides, big companies will want to keep their
operations in the UK and will only relocate as little as possible, as
Britain without EU red-tape will be a more attractive place to do
We need to believe in Britain.
EU intervention and interference, and the concept
of the EU
the last 40 years, membership of the EU has actually been very
beneficial to the UK. When we joined back in 1976, Britain was "the
sick man of Europe". Becoming part of the world's largest union of
independent states has helped our economy, our wealth, our science and
development, and our status on the world stage.
Much of the "interference" that the "out" campaign so dislikes is
actually legislation to protect the rights of ordinary people, to
protect the environment, to protect consumers, to force phone companies
to reduce roaming charges, or to require greater
transparency from financial operators to combat money-laundering and
In addition, the biggest burdens on business in the UK today have
nothing to do with the EU. For instance", the new "living wage", a
major cost to business, is intervention by the UK government,
by the EU.
The EU is a force for peace and stability in a continent that
long been fractured by wars and national rivalries. It was set up, and
still functions, to defend and promote peace, democracy and democratic
institutions throughout Europe.
The last thing Europe wants is to return to being a continent
divided by rival nationisms, as it was in 1914 or 1939, with the
consequences that we all know. Many Brexiteers seem to imagine that a
Brexit will turn the clock back to some golden past, when Britannia
ruled the waves and the Empire.But no amount of imagining will bring
back the past.
intervention, and even more so EU intervention, interferes with natural
market forces, therefore is bad for the economy. By leaving
EU, Britain will take
and be able to get rid of a lot of unwanted Brussels legislation in
fields such as consumer protection or employee rights.
Freed from unnecessary bureaucratic
intervention, British firms
will become more efficient and profitable.
The European Union is an attempt to deprive the nations of
of their independence and sovereignty, by the creation of a massive
European superstate run by unelected bureaucrats. Boris Johnson likens
the European Union to Adolf Hitler, in the way that it is trying to
unite Europe under a single authority.
Brexit and business
businessmen, and in particular the leaders of exporting companies and
large companies, agree that leaving the EU would seriously damage their
business and employment opportunities in the UK.
There are some who feel "Big business wants the UK to remain
the EU for its own interests, for its big profits." Well maybe it
does... But profitable businesses create jobs; and their profits mostly
go to big investors, notably our pension funds.
Brexit will hit our big companies and our small ones; and while it may
mean some people don't get fat-cat bonuses, a far bigger impact will be
that a lot of ordinary people lose their jobs, or can't get
jobs that have been moved to the Continent or to Ireland. And pensions
will be smaller if business are less profitable.
minority of business leaders and company owners dislike the EU because
it imposes an extra cost, and extra rules on their freedom to act.
These include EU workplace legislation, social legislation, employee
standards. Some business leaders also complain that EU
legislation restricts Britain's freedom to set up bilateral free-trade
agreements with non-Eu countries.
James Dyson (whose
company has moved all its manufacturing from the UK to southeast Asia)
wants to leave the EU on account of European vacuum cleaner
energy regulations, and because the EU requires vacuum cleaners to be
equipped with different types of plug for different countries.
Jobs, mobility and employment
|The free movement of people
within the EU has been of massive benefit to Britain. Many of our firms
and public services could not survive without recruiting
workers from other parts of Europe. Actually, EU citizens working in
Britain pay more in taxes than they take back in benefits. And millions
of Britons live and work in other countries of Europe, where they enjoy
the same services and benefits as other EU citizens. If we leave the
EU, all this will change.
Many firms depend on labour from the EU to do jobs that
British workers cannot or do not want to do.
There are some 65,000 EU nationals claiming
jobseeker’s allowance in the UK : but that is only half the
picture. 2.5% of Britons who live in other EU countries are also
claiming unemployment benefits in those countries, notably in Ireland,
Germany and France.. which is a similar rate.
|The free movement of people
within the EU has led to millions of people from Europe coming to
Britain to benefit from our welfare system. They put pressure on our
hospitals, our schools, our housing, our roads; and ordinary British
people are having to bear the cost of this .
The influx of workers from eastern Europe has been driving
wages in some sectors, and ordinary British workers have suffered from
this. Leaving the EU will allow wages to rise again.
Healthcare and Brexit
9 June. Tory MP
Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the House of Commons health select
committee, has quit the "Leave" campaign over its untrue
about the health service, and will vote to remain in Europe.
in the EU is vital for the National Health Service. The NHS benefits
from EU research grants, and from the free movement of specialists
within the European Union. Many of our leading specialists are from
other EU countries. The argument that EU immigrants are breaking the
NHS is a lie. Thanks to the EU health-care agreement, hundreds of
thousands of UK citizens have a free EHIC card, and thus get treatment
health services in other countries of the EU. Arrangments are
reciprocal. Everyone benefits, including holidaymakers. "Healthcare
tourism" is very marginal... and it works both ways.
|According to the Daily
immigration has put a huge strain on A&E waiting times."
Leaving the European Union will reduce
pressures on limited resources. A number of leading figures in the
"leave" campaign have misgivings about the way the health service is
Farage, there is plenty of room for cuts in the NHS; and according to
Boris Johnson, people should be made to pay for certain services so
that they "value them more". Tory MEP Daniel Hannan claimed
American television that the NHS has been a "60 year
mistake", and that a national healthcare system is
not a good way to run healthcare in any country.
The cost of belonging to the EU
|Belonging to the EU costs us
of our wealth: domestic taxation in Britain, by contrast, costs
us 35% of our wealth – 100 times more. The small cost of
belonging to the EU is actually is vastly outweighed by the benefits of
membership. Though leaving the EU might allow some of our
richest people to get even richer, it would make most ordinary people
The figure of "£360 million a week"
banded about by the Leave campaign is seriously wrong, as it
does not take account of what we get back. The real figure is less than
half.... and a good bit of that pays the salaries of the thousand or so
UK nationals employed by the EU civil service
|Belonging to the EU costs
Britain billions of pounds each year, money that could far better be
spent on reducing taxation, or spending more on our public services.
There is no point at all going on spending all this money to pay for
unnecessary bureaucrats in Brussels, or to pay the salaries
and expenses of MEPs.
senior Leave campaigners have now backtracked on the idea that
£360 million a week could be saved and spent on the NHS . The
figure had been widely condemned as wrong, before the vote, but the
Leave campaign continued to use it.
The consequences of leaving the EU
|For the last 70 years,
Britain has basked in an aura of goodwill from other nations in Europe,
as the nation that saved Europe. In 1939, inspired by great Europeans
like Churchill, we went to war for Europe and we didn't count
the cost. With the help of our allies, we won, and Europe has been
grateful to us ever since.
If Britain leaves the EU, Britain will change from being the
nation that saved
Europe to the nation that abandoned
it, or maybe that contributes to a major crisis in the EU, by
unleashing nationalisms all over the continent.
It is pure wishful thinking to imagine that in this new
Europe, the UK will benefit from any special favours. Europe will not
listen to us, and we will not
be in a position of force to make them do so. As a small island off the
coast of a disgruntled Europe, our future could be very bleak.
According to the IMF, a British exit from the EU
would be likely to have
serious consequences for both Sterling and the UK stock market,
damaging investment, pensions, and the UK's balance of trade.
Experts suggest that sterling could rapidly fall by 10 -20 % against
the dollar.... which will make everyone in Britain poorer, by
considerably increasing the cost of foreign holidays
and everything we import.
In addition, if Britain leaves the EU, the
remaining countries will certainly lay out the red carpet to attract
international investment away from
Britain and back into the EU.... and
to develop an international financial centre in the EU that will
eventually rival and maybe overtake London.
It would take a few years, but it is foolhardy to imagine
one minute that the EU would just acquiesce to having Europe's major
financial hub in a nation that is no longer part of the Union.
|Britain has everything to
gain from leaving the European Union, then negotiating lots of
bilateral trading deals, visa deals and citizen exchange deals with
Freed from EU rules and bureaucracy, the UK will
to negotiate deals that are in Britain's best interest, and this will
be far more
beneficial to British business than being obliged to set up
international deals in the framework of the European Union, as happens
Since Europe exports more to Britain than Britain
exports to Europe, European countries are going to do whatever we ask
them to do, to make sure that their firms can still compete in the UK
market. They are not going to erect trade barriers.
If Britons vote to leave the EU, there will quite likely be
short term consequences on the stock market and for the value of
sterling; but these will not last long.
A fall in the value of Sterling will make the cost
of holidays abroad more expensive, and will drive up the cost of
imported goods - cars, computers, electrical goods, but not by a lot.
But on the other hand, it will make British goods cheaper, so
our exporting companies will be more competitive in international
markets, which will generate more jobs.
As for the IMF, their predictions are not always
Besides, London is so well established as the world's
leading financial centre, that this will not change whether we remain
in the EU or leave it.
Collateral consequences - the future of the UK
|All opinion polls show that
Scots and Welsh voters will vote strongly in favour of remaining in the
Any victory of the "leave" campaign in the UK as a whole
would open the floodgates towards victory for Scottish nationalists in
a new Scottish Independence referendum, leading to a breakup of the
United Kingdom within maybe less than five years. Nicola Sturgeon has
already said that a new referendum could be organised.
This will leave England even more isolated – on
the outside of
Europe and no longer even a United Kingdom.
If Britain leaves the EU, the whole EU may rapidly
which will have catastrophic geopolitical and economic consequences for
Britain, Europe and the West in general
Britain leaves the EU, this will weaken the cohesion of the EU and
encourage Eurosceptics in other countries to demand referendums too.
The new EU that emerges from this will be much weaker and
attractive than the UK. which will benefit from being out. In
this new order, the Scots will prefer to remain with a stronger
independent UK, than with an increasingly uncertain European Union.
If Britain leaves the EU, other countries with strong
movements may follow, leading quite quickly to a collapse of the
European Union. This will allow all the nations of Europe to
regain their sovereignty and take back their authority –
will be a good outcome
Brexit has been widely welcomed by far right nationalist and xenophobic
parties across Europe
Why is the
British NHS (National Health Service) under pressure?
has featured prominently in the Brexit debate; sadly, the facts and
figures quoted have often been misleading. A reality check shows that
the problems with the NHS are British
, and nothing to do
with the EU. Other major EU countries have better funded and staffed
heath services than the UK does. Most recent figures available from the
share of GDP
|Number of GPs for
per 1000 population
The NHS is overstretched NOT because of pressure from EU migrants, but
because our sovereign
governments choose to spend less on it
than others ; we have less
hospital beds, and less
nurses and midwives per population than other major EU countries. Even
Italy and Portugal pay a higher share of their GDP on their health
services than the UK does. No wonder the NHS is overstretched. And this
is a 100% sovereign situation.
For several years now, the UK media have highlighted the
problem of the lack of hospital beds in the UK, with the sick and the
injured waiting for hours on stretchers in hospital corridors until a
bed becomes available. Noone who takes the trouble to check out the
figures will be surprised that people have to wait in hospital
corridors until a bed is available. Relative to its population, the UK
the number of hospital beds of
France, Germany or Belgium.
not part of the problem
of the NHS; by helping provide the
health professionals we do not have enough of, it is part of the solution
Still undecided ?
If you are still undecided, look at the arguments again, weigh up the
pros and cons and draw your
Which parties are in favour of remaining in the EU, which parties want
to leave? And which of these parties do you have most sympathy with?
Which of these parties have the competence to run the United Kingdom ?
And what solution do they or their leaders recommend?
Which of thepersonalities in either camp do you have confidence in?
Objectively, which arguments are most credible ?
And to conclude, three final points.
1. If you still don't really
issues, you are not alone. They are not all
easy to follow; they have
to do with economics, finance, politics, geopolitics, nationalisms and
lot more. Not everyone masters these.
2. Who will
be most affected by the
result of the Brexit referendum? Obviously, those who will
have to live
with it for longest. The young. And what future do they want ? 63% of
the under 30's want Britain to remain in the EU. Older
voters: don't jeopardize your childrens'
3 Why do
some business leaders and politicians want Britain to leave the EU?
it takes all sorts to make a world, and even clever and intelligent
do not always agree. And in business and politics, there are plenty of
intelligent clever and ambitious
people, who can disagree strongly on many things.
Some are motivated by deep-held ideology, others by loyalty to a cause,
others by personal ambition, others by a dislike of anything that
restricts their liberty.
In the world of
: there are businessmen, fund managers and financiers
who dislike anything that limits their ability to make money or take
EU has pioneered rules and regulations to bring more transparency into
banking or stop money-laundering. It has placed disclosure obligations
on investment funds, many of which operate out of secretive tax havens
such as the Cayman Islands or Bermuda. Unsurprisingly, many fund
managers and their friends in politics object out of principle to these
limits to their "freedom".
In the world of
politics: Most (but not all) of the
MPs and other influential people in Britain who want to leave
EU are politically on the far right - the right wing of the
Conservative party, or even further to the right. Their desire to leave
the EU is not motivated by rational argument, but by neo-conservative
political far right, is traditionally
nationalistic, sovereignist, and anti big-government. This is true in
the UK and the USA, just as it true in other countries. Throughout
far-right parties are anti-EU, and looking forward to a Brexit for
inspiration. Paradoxically, the same goes for a number of parties of
the far left, for whom the EU is a tool of capitalism and big business.
Moderate, middle-of-the-road politicians and
parties are generally in favour of remaining in the EU.
History shows us however that when
far-right nationalists take control, the results are not usually very
happy. Just think of two recent examples - Milosevic in
or Galtieri and the generals in Argentina. Their rhetoric
good to the people, they appealed to nationalistic emotions, and they
blamed outsiders for their country's woes (in Serbia's case the
Bosnians, in Argentina's case, the British); but their results were
calamitous for their
Being nationalistic is not at all the same as
being patriotic. Patriotism is a love for your country.
Nationalism is imagining that your country is better than others.
1. As reported in
many news media. The Kremlin is refusing to make any public
comments on Brexit, fearing (quite logically) that any announcement of
a Putin backing for Brexit would be counterproductive, in the way that
French National Front leader Marine Le Pen's planned UK Brexit support
visit was blocked by Brexiteers as being more likely to damage the
Brexit campaign than help it.See numerous articles
2. Percentages from YouGov poll as reported in the Daily Telegraph, 26
© Andrew Rossiter and About-Britain.com
2016 - 2020
Photo Marcha gainst Brexit. By John Briody
Licence Creative Commons 2.0