Brexit: A European View

Brexit: A European View

Nicoletta Enria gives her view on Brexit as a European

I remember when I was about 12 years old being told on several occasions by my British peers that immigrants were coming over and stealing our jobs. Now, whilst I understand that this was probably not their own personal convictions at the time and were probably just repeating things they’d overheard, I distinctly recall not understanding how they could have been so blind to the fact that I too was one of those infamous EU migrants. With the passing of time, whilst my friends have definitely stopped making such remarks to me the mainstream anti-immigration discourse that has fuelled attacks to the EU’s free movement of people has anything but diminished. And this is only one of many campaigns dominating the Leave campaign for the upcoming referendum regarding British membership in the European Union – the infamous Brexit. Years of fervent anti-EU attitudes that permeate British media and politics finally culminating in the referendum and here is why I think Britain will lose out hugely if they leave the EU.

Indeed, one of the biggest motivations driving eurosceptics is certainly to grant Britain the ability to have full control of its own borders. Cameron tried to regain control on the overall levels of immigration by constraining social benefits to EU migrants in the UK. His recent compromise with Donald Tusk includes an emergency brake preventing EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits upon arrival and gradually gaining access over four years. This is expected to change incentives to migrate for low paid employment and therefore have fewer EU migrants coming to Britain. The new mechanism introduces a debatable differentiation of treatment for workers on the basis of their nationality, but is certainly a better option than exiting the EU and adopting stricter anti-immigration laws, thus losing a great majority of EU migrants in the UK which play such an active role in the British economy.

The attitude towards immigration has been considerately hardened with the escalation of the refugee crisis. With the scenes of desperation in the “Jungle” of Calais and Britain agreeing to take in a measly 20,000 refugees over the course of five years – the Greek island of Lesbos, with 80,000 inhabitants, agreed to take in the same number of immigrants last year –, it seems to me that Britain has managed to maintain a hardline attitude towards immigration within the EU. Their exit from the EU will not make the refugee crisis vanish, or change the situation in any way.

I have been trying to wrap my head around the motivations of eurosceptics to leave the EU. It is undeniable that a sentiment of belonging to the EU is something that was always lacking in British society, something often blamed on the English Channel separating the UK from mainland Europe and on a history not so intertwined with mainland Europe. Therefore this is seen by many in the Leave campaign camp as an opportunity to restore British traditions and customs – which in their eyes the EU had apparently been fervently attempting to regulate. This attitude is taking ground also outside the UK, as nationalisms start permeating again the Western European political debates. It is the hypernationalistic fuel to this campaign that particularly irks me. With such a degree of nationalism comes a great sense of exclusivity – further amplifying great problems with integration and promoting a Britishness that is not accessible to all.

Most voters seem to think of Brexit as a cost free option that would produce new deals with countries on their own agenda and improve the British economy stimulating more jobs. Hoping to simulate deals with the EU maintaining the same degree of cross-border trade, though, is a naïve expectation. Britain would be breaking off a 40 year old prosperous if difficult relationship with the EU. This hostile act would receive equally hostile behaviour in the creation of new trade relationships. Joining the European Economic Area, as Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, is not a very attractive option, as these countries commit to apply all the rules agreed within the EU without having any influence on their design. Another myth is that Brexit would have no economic repercussions, whilst without free access to the broader single-market, something the UK had actually worked to achieve, many successful business sectors such as finance, pharmaceuticals and higher education will suffer greatly. Most importantly this exclusion from the single market would strip the City of London of its role as European financial hub.

I cannot deny that the EU has its faults and especially in light of recent events, such as their appalling handling of the refugee crisis, I have felt increasingly disillusioned with various aspects of the EU. However I believe that an “in or out” referendum is not starting the debate and conversation to criticize and thus reform the EU to become what we want it to be. There are many aspects of the EU that our generation has become far too accustomed to so we have lost our appreciation. Thanks to freedom of movement, tax free trading, EU employment laws and social protections some of the advantages of the EU have become so engrained in our everyday life they are invisible, and I for one am not keen to find out what life without them would be like. Whilst the opinion polls show roughly equal numbers on either side, the same opinion polls also show that most voters don’t really even care about the EU. This misconception of Brexit needs to be rectified and with the upcoming referendum in June of 2016 time seems to be running out. With a predicted Scottish independence after Brexit, due to Scotland’s pro-European stance, Britain will be left alone lacking a voice in any EU decisions or procedures and isolate itself from the opportunity to join other European countries to overcome the challenges to face the continent in the years to come.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons


  1. Avatar
    Simon Oxley
    April 12, 2016 / 12:17 am

    This is a great article Nicoletta! I agree with your points and very much hope we can fight our way through the mass of nationalistic prejudice to make the right decision in June. To stay in the EU and work with all our great friends across the continent to improve the areas of concern 🙂

    • Avatar
      June 15, 2016 / 8:40 pm

      I think what most people who see Europe as the great provider of opportunities for all, prefer not to see that those at the bottom of the great e.u. human resource barrel see their overall wages being suppressed to such a degree, they can no longer afford even the basics, hence the rise in food banks, lack of affordable housing even in the rental market.
      I am of an age to have seen the changes occur in this country and it’s impact on industry as a whole, where we did have a pretty large home grown manufacturing base, this has been whittled away to almost nothing, instead being replaced by service industries which rely on undercutting other companies for contracts, this is usually achieved by having a low paid workforce, where better to get such a workforce than those countries of Europe who have a lower wage still, thereby undercutting the local population, yes as all those in favour of being part of the e.u. keep telling us they are free to move anywhere in Europe in search of work, but where would that be exactly if people are coming here for higher wages in the first place.
      It’s no coincidence that in recent years the wages gap between those at the top and those at the bottom has increased to such a large degree, the e.u. is a great thing for big business, I still find it a sad when I hear workers being classed as a resource rather than personnel, but that, I feel is what being part the e.u. will mean for the majority of people, not just in the UK, but across Europe. I find it hard to believe that people think that an organisation like the e.u is to be applauded, they have not passed an audit in at least twenty years, so not a shining example for fiscal responsibility and in all that time, no-one has been able to reform it, even the much vaunted placement of an e.u. president, it has become self governing and answerable to no one.

  2. Avatar
    Dave Bennett
    June 24, 2016 / 8:50 pm

    I enjoyed your article which at least tried to be impartial in principle.
    What won the day was the fact that the UK must stand on it’s feet and not be told what to do by an unelected junta in Brussels.
    We don’t want mass immigration as our country cannot cope with the consequences. our borders human rights agriculture are all better governed from Westminster.
    The pound may have fallen sharply but the real winner in the UK is politics because we will hopefully no longer have liars and spin doctors telling us what is good for us as we will kick their arses.
    Britain is everyone’s friend except it’s own but trust me we will be stronger even if it ends up as England on it’s own.

  3. Avatar February 6, 2017 / 1:10 pm

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  4. Avatar
    David Clarke
    July 24, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    I voted to leave the EU because I believe in democracy and the idea of the nation states parliaments making the decisions that impact upon their people. The concept that created the EU was free trade and slowly overtime it as developed into a dictatorship, with an a unelected commission making decisions and then imposing them in a one size fit all approach, and god forbid if the people object. Look at how the EU have ordered new votes or in the case of the Duthc, tell them to ignore the people and do what the EU as told them to do, we have seen elected governments removed because they are opposed to the EU policies, i.e Greece. If you look at the EU parliament the decisions have already been made and the role of parliament is not to change things, but just to have one minute to express an opinion and that is it. The EU reminds me of the old Soviet Union with its unelected leadership, complaint parliament. Its desire to destroy national cultures through deported of people and replacing with people from other parts of Russia, the EU calls it free movement and Russia desire to brainwash people into seeing them as citizens of Russia, rather than Estonians for example. The EU uses a similar sort of brainwashing from nursery right to secondary education to get the people of the EU a citizens of the EU, rather then Germans or Spanish. The EU concept of a United States of Europe is like the Soviet Union built on sand and is held together by fear and bullying, that is why in the long-term it will fail. Whereas the USA was built on a one language, one culture and one one government, rather then a mixture of cultures, languages and governments.

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