A ‘Brexit’ would leave behind a more left-wing EU, keener on business regulation and a financial transaction tax and more anti-nuclear, according to research published today (19 April).
Analysis by VoteWatchEurope found that in recent times, the UK has been the most outvoted member of the EU Council, whilst also losing influence in the European Parliament.
Launching the report in Brussels, Professor Simon Hix of the London School of Economics, said, “Minus British MEPs, there would be less allies for ‘anti-red tape’, less protection for copyright, possibly a majority for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), and less support for nuclear and shale.”
He added that overall a Brexit could be “good for environmentalists”, in that the EU would likely end up “far more regulated.” Although he was quick to point out that the UK had been a leader in some areas, such as foreign aid and climate change.
The 15-page report looks at UK influence in the Council and parliament from 2004 to the present day.
It finds that the UK is the most outvoted member state in the EU council – although it has supported some 97% of EU laws adopted in the past 12 years.
Drilling down into the data, it emerges that the UK was most at odds with the rest of the bloc over questions of the budget, foreign policy and foreign aid.
It finds that the biggest individual losers if Britain votes to leave the EU on 23 June would be the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, who are the UK’s “closest allies” in the Council, and would “lose an important partner if Brexit occurred.”
And it concludes, “the main losers of Brexit among EU stakeholders would be those that promote less regulatory burden for EU businesses and stronger protection of copyright”.
The report also finds that – although the UK punches above its weight in terms of senior positions within the European Parliament, such as chairs of committees and rapporteurships – it has lost influence for two key reasons: the departure of the Conserative MEPs from the EPP in 2009, and the election of so many UKIP MEPs in 2014, who have a low voting rate.
The report also finds that the remaining 27-members of a UK-less EU would be pushed into paying more into the EU.
Warning about the “Leave” campaign’s promise of a favourable post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, Hix said, “France and Germany would be very wary of the ‘contamination’ affect on countries such as Hungary, Poland and Sweden.
“They would make an economic example out of the UK.”
That was backed up by Neil McMillan, a former Cabinet Office adviser to prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown on EU affairs, who told a Brussels audience of around 100 that “the other 27 members would be a bit pissed off with us”.
McMillan, now director of EuroCommerce, warned that a Brexit would be a “distraction” to a bloc of 27 dealing with both the refugee crisis and the euro crisis, and may even lead the EU to “start to disintegrate”.
And – in reference to the two-year timeframe put on exit negotiations and a new trade deal for Britain, he said it would “take a lot longer to unravel 43 years of membership”.
German MEP David McAllister – who is half-Scottish – also poured scorn on the Leave campaign’s idea that the UK would be able to replace EU trade with greater imports and exports from the former Empire countries.
“If that is the case, why is it not a single Commonwealth leader backs Brexit?” he asked.
Hix called it “an astonishing fantasy”, stating that the UK currently does more trade “with Poland than with Pakistan, with Austria than with Australia, with Italy than with India, with the Czech Republic than with Canada”.
McAllister added that the EU without the UK would be “like fish, without chips. It would still exist, but it would not be the same, or better”.
All panellists at the launch of the report that turnout in the June referendum would be crucial to the result, which would be “slim” whichever way it went.
Speaking afterwards, Hix said that turnout in the 50% range would be good for UKIP’s hopes of a Brexit, whilst in the 60% range and above would favour the remain camp.
During his campaign for re-election in 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union and organise a referendum to decide whether or not Britain should remain in the 28-member bloc.
The British PM said he will campaign for Britain to remain in the EU after a two-day summit in Brussels where he obtained concessions from the 27 other EU leaders to give Britain “special status” in the EU.
But EU leaders had their red lines, and ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.
The decision on whether to stay or go could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.
The campaign will be bitterly contested in a country with a long tradition of euroscepticism and a hostile right-wing press, with opinion polls showing Britons are almost evenly divided.
- 23 June: UK referendum on EU membership.
- 27-28 June: EU summit.
- July-December 2017: UK holds rotating EU Council Presidency.