The EU is the biggest market in the world, with a population of over 500 million people. For the UK, it represents 44 per cent of the country’s exports, while half of overseas investment to the UK comes from the EU. But the union is also flawed, and even proponents argue that it is in need of reform.
As voters gear up for a referendum on continued EU membership – "the biggest macro decision" they will make in their lifetime – King & Wood Mallesons joined forces with The Spectator for the second in a series of podcasts.
In this episode, we discuss the Brexit question – and its impact for business.
Click here to hear the audio.
Stephen Kon, senior partner, King & Wood Mallesons
Richard Reed, founder of Innocent and advocate of ‘Stronger In'
Matthew Elliott, founder of Vote Leave
Fraser Nelson, editor, The Spectator
The talking points...
Elliott: “I don’t think jobs would be lost as a result of Brexit. I think, on day one after a referendum, the government would have a very strong hand to start negotiating a new relationship with Europe. I am very, very confident that because the UK is such a big export market for the rest of the EU, the other member states would very quickly want to have a trade deal with the UK.”
Reed: “Wanting to retreat from one of the great infrastructures of the world, in which we play a leadership role, is the absolute antithesis of what we stand for. Our role is to be part of the EU because it makes our country stronger economically, it makes our country safer and it ensures prices are cheaper for consumers.
“What we would have to do if we came out of the EU is spend lots of time and energy trying desperately to get back into the situation we are in. It would be a total waste of time."
Kon: “There is a false assumption that if we leave, we can get whatever deal we want from the EU– that isn't necessarily going to follow. You would need 28 Member States to agree to that deal, and that will not necessarily come to pass.”
Elliott: “We often assume that if Britain were to vote to leave all of a sudden, we would get the backs up of Angela Merkel and President Hollande and they would say 'let's put huge tariffs on British goods'. I don’t think that would happen. I believe they are better people than that. I also believe the World Trade Organisation would not allow it to happen."
Kon: “I don’t know what makes anyone think that if you are outside of the EU you are not going to have to supply the EU on the terms of regulation that are in force in the EU. Suddenly it’s not going to disappear. If you are exporting to the whole of the EU, whether you are small or large, you are going to have to comply with EU regulation and the big down side of exiting is that you are going to have no part in determining what that regulation is.
“There’s a general consensus that there’s a need for reform of the EU. Meaningful reforms we could make to the EU include giving Parliament more responsibility and power over legislation as it is enacted. We could establish a protocol for what ‘ever closer union’ means – that’s a doable proposition and not novel in an EU legal context.”
Reed: “I am sure the Prime Minster can secure meaningful reform, but even if the EU doesn't change one per cent, it is still a relationship in which the benefits far outweigh the costs.”