The EU referendum on 23 June will take place in the middle of the Euro 2016 football championships.
Sport and culture
By then England, Wales and Northern Ireland will either be in the last 16, or out of the competition. For a few days European sport and politics will dominate with the question being the same: in or out? The EU has little direct role over sports policy in member states, though it provides limited funding to UK grassroots sport. But the rules in areas such as free movement and broadcasting mean Brexit would have a big effect on the sport we watch. The vice-chairman of West Ham United, Karren Brady, warned that, if the UK left and was outside the EU’s free movement arrangement, players from the EU would not be able to sign so easily for UK football clubs. Two-thirds of European football players currently playing in this country would not meet automatic visa criteria once EU rules were swept away. The EU runs numerous cultural programmes, including the European Capital of Culture (won by Liverpool in 2008) and funds prizes for cinema, the creative industries and architecture. For instance, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture carries a prize of €60,000 with €20,000 for a special mention. All this would go with Brexit.
For a country with 0.9% of the world’s population, the UK has 3.3% of the world’s scientific researchers who, in turn, produce 6.9% of global scientific output. The EU remains the world leader in terms of its global share of science researchers (22.2%), ahead of China (19.1%) and the US (16.7%).
The UK is one of the largest recipients of research funding in the EU. In the current EU research round, entitled Horizon 2020, the UK secured 15.4% of funds, behind only Germany. And British researchers are increasingly international in their collaborations. Since 1981 the UK has risen from 15% of its papers being international (and 85% domestic authors only) to more than 50% today.
New figures show that nearly 1,000 projects at 78 UK universities and research centres are dependent on funds from the European Research Council (ERC). The UK has more ERC-funded projects than any other country, accounting for 22% of all ERC-funded projects – more than 25 recipient countries put together.
It might not be necessary to back away from Horizon 2020, but the government would have to accept “associate” membership from 2020 onwards. Meanwhile the collaborations that have made the UK such an important player are dependent on the free movement of scientists into the UK. About 15% of academic staff at UK institutions are non-UK EU nationals, a figure that rises to 20% among elite universities.
However, Brexit would allow the UK to escape some onerous EU regulations, such as rules governing clinical trials, which, it is claimed, impinge on innovation.
European legislation is responsible for the way in which we experience a raft of consumer goods, from tomatoes and cheese to mobile phones and faulty fridges. It is designed to harmonise what we expect to get when we buy something as simple as an apple or what we are entitled to expect in the way of redress when we buy faulty white goods.
One significant example of what such legislation has achieved applies to the cost of using a mobile phone abroad. In the summer of 2015 the European commission announced that it had agreed on single market legislation for telecoms, meaning that tourists in EU countries will pay the same mobile fees as at home.
One British MEP described the law as a “massive win for British consumers” as it is designed to put an end to “bill shock”, where holidaymakers come home from abroad only to find they have run up a huge bill for call, text and data charges abroad. The charges for using a mobile abroad will reduce from April this year and disappear altogether from June 2017. If the UK were to opt for Brexit, we would no longer necessarily be covered by the regulation. The government has said that the loss of the safeguard of this legislation would result in a rise in bills, but others believe it’s not that clear-cut.
One industry expert, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “Once in place, it doesn’t seem likely that phone operators would go back on those changes because, in a competitive market, they would have no incentive to be the one to put charges up.”
Travel and holidays
Would flight prices go up and the pound tank? These are some of the fears raised by those who are against the UK leaving the EU.
What does seem likely is that air passengers might find it much harder to hold airlines to account when flights were cancelled or delayed.
A significant piece of European legislation, the Denied Boarding Regulation, allows passengers to claim up to €600 in compensation for delays or cancellations on flights that originate in the EU.
After Brexit, it seems likely the protection of this legislation would be lost. Stephen D’Alfonso, head of public affairs at the Association of British Travel Agents, explained that in the EU there are two types of legislation: regulations and directives. A directive is something that is implemented in the UK, so in the case of the UK withdrawing from the EU it is unlikely that such legislation would be affected unless specifically repealed. Regulations, on the other hand, are bits of legislation that are simply applicable in the UK as they are applicable in all other EU countries. So, if the UK were to withdraw from the EU, regulations technically would no longer apply in the UK.
“The rules that govern compensation in the case of flight delays and cancellation are part of an EU regulation,” he said. “Therefore, it follows that UK passengers could no longer be covered by these compensation guarantees.”
About two million UK expatriates are currently living in other EU countries. As long as Britain remains in the union, their pension and healthcare rights will be protected under defined reciprocal arrangements. They receive their UK pension and any annual increases, as well as free access to healthcare. They also have the right to work and own property in Europe, as well as to claim benefits. Buying a house in another EU country is much easier than in a country outside the bloc. But if we left the EU, the arrangements would cease to automatically apply.
As David Lidington, the Europe minister, says in the Observer today, the government would then have to enter difficult negotiations with other EU nations to see what deals it could strike on behalf of its expats. This is part of the leap into the unknown.
Expat organisations are understandably worried and most of their members seem to be desperate to avoid Brexit. For them, it will at the very least deliver a prolonged period of uncertainty. Will they have to apply for residency and work permits in their adopted lands? Will they be able to apply for dual nationality? What if they fall ill after Brexit? NHS treatment is free for those with a European health insurance card and UK state pensioners living in the European Economic Area. Many would be tempted to return home.
Under EU legislation on free movement of citizens, those moving to another member state have the same access to education as nationals of that member state. Similarly, every eligible EU student pays the same tuition fees and can apply for the same tuition fee support as nationals of the hosting EU country.
In 2013-14, there were 125,300 EU students at UK universities and in that year £224m was paid in fee loans to EU students on full-time courses in England – 3.7% of the total student loan bill. The Erasmus+ scheme is an EU programme open to education, training, youth and sports organisations. It offers opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe, and the scheme will allocate almost €1bn to the UK over seven years. Around 250,000 people are expected to undertake activities abroad with the programme.
If Britain decides to leave the EU, the government will need to juggle the need for EU nationals to pay into the UK’s higher education system, and offer their talents and wisdom to its universities, with a public appetite in the country to limit net migration.
About 15% of the UK academic workforce come from other EU countries. More than 200,000 UK students and 20,000 UK university staff have spent time abroad through the Erasmus exchange programme. While the government would save money through not having to provide student loans or maintenance funding for EU students, the UK would probably lose access to EU research funding and also to student mobility schemes.
Ultimately, universities and students would probably lose out – universities are concerned about their research funding. But the government would save money on student finance. All universities in the UK have come out against Brexit. Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, said: “British students benefit from being taught by the best minds from across Europe. Membership of the European Union is good for our universities and good for the science and research that improves people’s lives.”
Between 2014 and 2020 farmers in the UK are due to receive £27.8bn in subsidies from the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP). A large part of that money is directed towards “agri-environment” schemes where farmers receive payments for practices that protect and enhance the environment. Money is also put aside for the development of rural areas, allowing the Treasury to offer little of its own cash. Innovation in the sector is restricted to the pace of the pan-European regulatory system.
A post-EU British government would pursue bilateral trade deals away from the EU. Meanwhile, a reassessment of the regulation and licensing of pesticides, which is undertaken on a pan-European basis, would be undertaken. There would also be a new UK regulatory system for genetically modified crops.
The net contribution of the UK to the CAP budget in 2014 once the rebate is taken into account was €1.27bn (£1bn). In a post-Brexit world, the government would want to continue some subsidies, but leaving the CAP regime would probably reduce farm incomes. The UK government would be unlikely to match the current levels of subsidy.
The British farming industry might be able to exploit its competitiveness unshackled from the EU, offering potential for food prices in the UK to come down. But the UK imports two and a half times more from the EU than from the rest of the world, and new tariffs will add costs to imports. Food prices for the consumer could go either way. Alan Matthews, professor of European agricultural policy at Trinity College, Dublin, said: “The EU as an institution has many flaws. They include a wasteful and ineffective agricultural policy, which is still not fit for purpose.
“But the EU as the embodiment of an idea, of collective action to achieve common goals more effectively than any one nation can do on its own, remains a powerful force.”
London and the City
London has the world’s largest financial centre and is home to more than 250 foreign banks, which have access to the single market under the terms of the UK’s EU membership. Financial services represent up to 10% of the country’s gross domestic product. It also accounts for 10% of the nation’s GDP, 12% of tax that goes to the Treasury, and the City is the largest exporter of wholesale financial services in the world, employing more than one million workers.
Were the UK to leave, it would have to renegotiate the terms of any post-membership access to the single market, with rival city financial centres both in the EU and outside – including New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo outside Europe and Frankfurt and Dublin inside – seeking to take advantage of any uncertainty. Opinion in the City about Brexit is divided. Many smaller firms say the City would thrive once free of EU regulation, but the bigger revenue and job creators believe the risks of life outside would be too daunting to wish for. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan said in evidence to the parliamentary commission on banking standards that: “In common with financial institutions across the City, our ability to provide services to clients and engage in investment activities throughout Europe is dependent on the passport that London-based firms enjoy to operate on a cross-border basis within the union.
“If the UK leaves, it is likely that the passport will no longer be available, thereby forcing firms that wish to access EU markets to move their operations to within those markets.”
Security and defence
For decades, the EU has been trying to answer the question posed by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” But progress towards a common EU defence policy has been slow and uncertain. In 2009, however, the Lisbon treaty came into force and created the common security and defence policy. It defined goals of mutual assistance and solidarity and allowed the creation of a European External Action Service under a high representative for foreign and security policy. While limited to peace missions, it has helped establish stability in the Balkans, Georgia and Indonesia, while in Afghanistan the EU policy mission has worked alongside Nato to increase the capacity of the Afghan police.
The UK might well continue to back its actions as a third-party state, wishing to avoid more costly Nato interventions. The UK government now talks warmly about collective European defence, and even more so about EU security policy, intelligence sharing and anti-terror policy. David Cameron has made a specific point of hailing EU intelligence sharing and the European Arrest Warrant as the means of tracking down terrorists and preventing attacks on the UK’s streets.
The environment is an area in which UK and EU law are strongly intertwined. The environmental principles enshrined in the Single European Act provide that environmental action by the EU aims “to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment; to contribute towards protecting human health; and to ensure a prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources”.
EU legislation sets limits for a range of air pollutants and requires member states to have plans setting out how they will be met. The EU emissions trading scheme sets a decreasing cap for emissions from energy intensive sectors, and allocates or auctions emissions allowances, which can be traded on the open market. This will represent a 21% reduction by 2020 in emissions for all sectors in Europe covered, compared with 2005 levels.
The commission has described the habitat directive and the birds directive as the “cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy”. The directives provide for a network of member state designated conservation areas across Europe relating to specified habitats and birds.
The UK government has expressed “strong support” for the aims of the EU’s environmental directives, particularly in the protection of wildlife and planning, and so it is unlikely that there would be a huge change in emphasis. In some cases (such as drinking water standards) UK requirements are actually stricter than, or in addition to, those required by the EU. However, leaving the EU would lead to more uncertainty for investors in the environmental sector. An economist from the Environmental Services Association said an EU exit ‘‘would leave a huge void for the industry as it would be unclear to what degree we would retain any elements of the European path towards higher levels of environmental sustainability’’ and ‘‘billions of pounds of fresh investment in green jobs and growth [could dry] up overnight’’.
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