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Mythbust

Voting Leave doesn’t mean taking control

by Hugo Dixon | 04.05.2016

Myth: Voting Leave = taking control

InFact: Out camp calls itself Vote Leave Take Control. But in battling terrorism and Putin or fighting for industry, quitting means less control.

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One of the central myths peddled by the Leave camp is that Britain will have more say over its future if it quits the EU.

In fact, over a range of topics vital for our future – fighting terrorism, standing up to Vladimir Putin and battling for our industries – quitting the Union is likely to give us less control, not more. We would move from a policy maker to a policy taker.

Despite eurosceptic propaganda to the contrary, Britain has considerable influence in the EU. Not only were we the main driver behind the creation of the single market and the expansion of the bloc to include most former Warsaw Pact countries; nowadays, we get our way more often than almost every other country according to analysis by Simon Hix of the London School of Economics.

What’s more, we can leverage that power to punch above our weight on the global stage. For example, the fact that we can often carry the EU with us increases our value as an ally to America, as President Barack Obama said when he came to Britain in April. It also enhances our ability to influence the global rules for things that really matter to us, such as how finance, our largest industry, is regulated.

If we vote to Remain, we will be in a good position to increase our impact. Once we no longer have one foot out of the door, our European partners will listen to us more. We will be able to drive the debate on fighting terrorism, shoring up Europe’s troubled neighbourhood and completing the single market.

The Leave camp, of course, denies all this. But you only have to listen to what they say when confronted with the prospect of missing out on all the good things the EU gives us. They say they want to keep them.

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Boris Johnson told the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee in March that, after Brexit, Britain could still be “an active partner” on foreign and defence policy, as well as home, justice and criminal affairs (Q1351). The Mayor of London described these as areas that all “matter greatly to this country”. He said cooperation would be at an inter-governmental level.

Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt, the anti-EU armed forces minister, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics that she valued the EU “defence structures” as a complement to Nato. She added that, after quitting the EU, we could still participate in EU combat missions and work with the rest of the Union on defence procurement.

Britain played an important role in imposing the tough sanctions that brought Iran to heel and that have checked Putin’s war in Ukraine. One of our former intelligence officers is leading the fight against terrorism and organised crime as boss of Europol. Under the European Arrest Warrant, we extradited 675 suspected criminals between 2010 and 2014.

The Leave camp is right not to want to throw away the chance to work with the EU on these topics. But, if we quit, the terms of cooperation would be very different. The hope, seemingly harboured by Boris Johnson, that we would continue attending their summits and councils, his “inter-governmental” cooperation, is fanciful.

We wouldn’t be in the room with the other 27 nations when policy was made. They would make a decision and tell us to take-it-or-leave-it. With less influence in the EU, we’d also have less value to our allies outside Europe and be more susceptible to being bullied by our enemies.

Or look at industry. Leave campaigners say they want access to the EU market. Boris, for example, told the Treasury Select Committee that farmers and the City should be able to sell freely across the bloc. The snag is no country has full access to the single market without also agreeing to free movement of people – and it would involve an astonishing u-turn for the Leave camp to agree to that after campaigning so zealously against migration from the EU.

That said, after years of damaging economic disruption, we would get some access to the single market. The problem is that, insofar as we were free to sell across the EU, we’d have to follow their rules. We’d move from being a rule-maker to being a rule-taker in Europe. As a consequence, we’d also lose influence over global rules. And the idea that, on our own, we’d be better able to stand up to China, say, and defend our steel industry against dumping is for the birds.

In other words, voting leave means less not more control.

This article is an adaptation of a piece that previously appeared on InFacts

Hugo Dixon is the author of The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better. Available here for £5 (paperback), £2.50 (e-book)

Edited by Geert Linnebank

One Response to “Voting Leave doesn’t mean taking control”

  • According to Ambrose Evans-Prichard in the Daily Telegraph of 31st. of March this year: “What we know is that the British government has for the last three years been blocking efforts by the EU to equip itself with the sort of anti-dumping weaponry used by Washington to confront China.

    The EU trade directorate has been rendered toothless by a British veto.” Is Mr. Evans-Prichard due for a spell in the Sin Bin?