The EU Why leaving is bad for Britain
With the country divided and just a few days left to decide, tensions are mounting on both sides of the debate. From the Brexiteers, there are cries of the cost of the EU, while from the Remain camp, you'll hear estimates of the cost of leaving it. Just last month, nine EU experts from across the University of Leicester almost unanimously agreed that staying in the European Union would be beneficial for Britain based on their research, but how convincing are some of the other reasons which are doing the rounds in the national newspapers?
One of those experts, Dr Sara Lemos from the University of Leicester's Department of Economics, has been discussing some of the main reasons given to stay: the four figure gains in UK households attributed to EU membership; the economic benefits of immigration; concerns about a decline in jobs and trade outside of the union; and a loss of influence in Europe should we leave.
The cost of leaving
"The general consensus is that the economy benefits from being in the EU." says Lemos. Citing an LSE study which looks into the consequences of Brexit for UK trade and living standards, Dr Lemos says that the cost of leaving could be as high as 0.7% of the GDP for 15 years. "That's quite a high cost...", she adds. Estimates from the CBI also suggest that Britain would be better off within the European Union. Their report "Choosing Our Future" estimates that EU membership is worth around 4 to 5% of our national income - about £3,000 for the average household every year.
The untold story of immigration
The issue that Nigel Farage seems to constantly bring up (and the Prime Minister seemingly doesn't want to) is that of immigration. While the British right-wing press hasn't shone away from migrant-bashing front pages, some positive statistics about EU migration were supposedly skipped by centre-left media outlets too. "We know that EU immigrants pay on average 30% more in taxes than they use in public services" says Lemos. In other words, for every £1.30 that EU migrants pay in taxes, they only use about a pound's worth of UK public services like the NHS.
"Canada's agreement took seven years to negotiate"
After struggling to find any economic advantages to leaving the EU, in a recent conversation with the University of Leicester News Centre, Dr Lemos pondered the thought of a Brexit and how it could affect Britain's trade with the rest of the world. "The UK could have an agreement similar to Canada's agreement...[that] agreement took seven years to negotiate." Even if we did manage to negotiate such a deal, she says that it could lead to a lot of uncertainty for the British economy, British businesses, and those that wanted to invest in Britain. "Any agreement with the EU is never going to be as good as being in the EU in terms of jobs and trade and prices", Lemos warns.
Britain's voice in Europe
A lot of the arguments for leaving the EU revolve around one thing: Self-governance. A document on the Vote Leave website itself says "If we Vote Leave, we will take back control and can spend our money on our priorities". However, Dr Lemos argues that the debate is more about emotions than facts. "If you look at arguments by people like Nigel Lawson or Boris Johnson who are people who would like to leave the EU, they can be quite vague and they can lack in detail.
"The vast majority of EU directives are in line with British ways", she claims. "Some people will say that, for hundreds of years, we've been unable to stand completely aside from the issues happening in Europe, so perhaps it's better to just stay and have a say in what's happening and perhaps, better still, have a say and lead."
Where do you stand?
The country is split and thanks to strong views from either side may continue to be for some time after 23rd June. Despite the referendum's ability to divide cities, friendships and even families, many University of Leicester academics have already been giving their opinions on the subject. These are not necessarily the views of the University of Leicester - each piece expresses the independent views and opinions of the academics behind it. If you don't agree with some of the opinions expressed, are a doctoral student or academic at the University of Leicester, and would like to write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester, please send it to Alex Phillimore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where will we be better off? In or out?
In new programme "Expert Comment: Brexit", eight University of Leicester academics from the Department of Economics, Department of Politics and International Relations, School of Management, and the Leicester Law School - including Dr Sara Lemos - have been weighing in on the debate, as well as the President and Vice-Chancellor himself.
Among others, some of the themes explored include how trade, employment, workers' rights, crime, terrorism and influence could all be affected by the referendum result.
You can listen to the programme for yourself here: