Young people have an unprecedented chance to have their say on our relationship with Europe on 23 June.
So what’s it going to be – are we in or out? More importantly, how will Brexit – if it happens – affect our personal finances?
My friend and award-winning deputy editor of Mirror Money Julia Rampen chaired a debate on this exact question at Parliament today in association with Scottish Friendly. The mutual hosted the event to coincide with the publication of its latest research, showing that nearly half of the population (45.2 per cent) are worried about the outcome of the EU referendum.
Speaking at the event was Lord Howard Flight, a Conservative peer who has had a long career in the City; Chris Philp, Conservative MP and Treasury committee member; Kelvin Hopkins, Labour MP and longstanding member of cross party group Grassroots Out; Gareth Thomas, Labour MP and chair of the Co-op party.
Lord Howard Flight opened the debate by talking about how Brexit will improve our economic outlook. “It will be good for our wider economy because by leaving Europe’s protectionist racket, the prices of our everyday goods will go down and our overall quality of life will improve.”
Lord Flight said it was vital to raise Britain’s personal savings rate, adding that auto-enrolment will not be enough to plug the gap. But he argued that the EU regulation will have a “contrarian impact” on the nation’s savings, causing pension schemes to close. “We may have postponed the EU solvency directorate but we haven’t stopped it.”
He believes Britain is “shackled” to a failing European economy, with Italy already experiencing runs on some of its banks. “We can expect disruption but in the longer term, I believe a Brexit would be very good for this economy by developing better trading relationships with the rest of the world.”
Chris Philp concurred with Lord Flight that savers benefit when the economy is prosperous – but that was where his agreement with Brexiteers ended. “Europe is the world’s largest single market, with 40 per cent of our exports going to Europe and 3 million jobs depending on that. Anything that is a threat to exports is a threat to jobs.” He raised the possibility of companies moving abroad in the event of Brexit, with BNP Paribas already indicating that 10 per cent of its workforce would move to Paris.
He added that it would not be the EU’s interest to “cut us a sweetheart deal” on trade relationships. “We are more likely to negotiate free trade deals on goods but not services, which comprise most of our exports. No exit campaigner has given a cogent argument about the future of trade in the event of Brexit.”
Mr Philp agreed that Britain had a “serious” current account deficit of 7 per cent but that one major way that it needs to be tackled is through foreign investment in the UK, which will “take a hit” in the event of Brexit. “All in all, it’s a leap in the dark and it will affect savers because the cost of imported goods will go up…that is why I am a reluctant remainer.”
Kelvin Hopkins described the EU as “anti democratic and anti socialist”. He questioned why so many young people are supporting the EU when their counterparts in southern Europe are being treated “appallingly”,.
He added: “The Lisbon treaty was designed with the purpose of reducing pension contributions, and wages as a proportion of the GDP have fallen. The purpose of the EU has been to drive up private profits – and we can now see that approach has been failing right across Europe.”
He regards Europe as a bureaucracy that has been set up so it “cannot be challenged from beneath”, while the European parliament (the directly elected arm of the EU) is too feeble and inadequate to make the system work. “We talk about Ireland being a thriving economy now but they have seen 300,000 people emigrate in recent years – that is equivalent to millions leaving Britain. I don’t see how that is a successful economy within the EU.”
Gareth Thomas says true patriots would see that it is England’s interest to stay in the EU. “We want to be an outward-looking country and we have to think not just about this generation but the generation after ours who want to work and study abroad.”
He described the “huge uncertainty” we would face, arguing that Brexiteers have not offered compelling analysis of the benefits. “We simply don’t know what would happen, so do we opt for the the imperfect option – and the EU is certainty imperfect – knowing that it will give us certainty in terms of jobs and security in the form of forced co-operation with other countries?”
Now it’s over to you – leave me a comment or tweet me @ionayoungmoney. What do you think?