On Brexit: the outcome of UK elections next May to be based on false promises?

Mr Cameron seems to be trying to get inside the British voter's mind! He thinks he is able to convince the electorate that the "Referendum Promise Land" is a worthy cause to get re-elected. Shot taken during the national briefings at the European Council on 20 March in Brussels. (European Council TVNewsroom, 20/03/2015).

Mr Cameron seems to be trying to get inside the British voter’s mind! He thinks he is able to convince the electorate that the “Referendum Promise Land” is a worthy cause to get re-elected. Shot taken during the national briefings at the European Council on 20 March in Brussels. (European Council TVNewsroom, 20/03/2015).

The British elections that will take place on 7 May will show whether UK’s relationship with the European Union is about to change dramatically or not. Britain has always been seeking to have a different and more privileged approach in comparison to the rest of the EU member states and now is even proposing to hold a referendum with the question to stay in or out the EU. The promise is set for 2017 by its Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK voters seem to buy it very dearly.

Every once in a while, as we get closer to the elections, you have “right leaning” studies or polls coming to the surface that “prove” how beneficial the Brexit would be. This time it is the British businesses to be in favor of this referendum supported by the report “Britain and the European Union: What business thinks”, issued by Business for Britain, which is based on a study of more than 1000 UK business leaders.

To be noted here that while the referendum would happen in two years time, if the Conservative party of Mr Cameron wins the elections, still the question that will be set remains unknown, something that makes things pretty unclear for the UK voters. At the end of the day if the referendum happens, the question might as well be formed on the basis of a “slight” modification of UK’s position but within the EU; and that only to serve the “pop myth” of the referendum.

Referendum’s scope

Mr Cameron is currently trying to gather votes from the electorate that is undecided or even “steal” votes from other parties, UKIP being top in his list. His hopes are gathered around the referendum hype regarding EU membership which he so vigorously defends in his pre-electoral announcements. Nevertheless, the percentages that he receives so far in the polls compared to the Labour party are only a breath’s distance, something that clearly reveals that this action is not as successful as Mr Cameron would expect.

On the other side, Ed Miliband, the Labour’s party leader and Cameron’s main opponent in the upcoming elections, has stated his party’s main pledges with the core idea being to stay within the EU but claiming a leadership role in it. In this way, this British politician plays it rather safe, keeping distance from Cameron’s Brexit promise land but at the same time serving the “island’s expectation” that UK should be always receiving a special treatment for the sake of its glorious past.

Mr Miliband has stated to Bloomberg the following on the matter: “There could be nothing worse for our country or for our great exporting businesses than playing political games with our membership of the European Union – I’m not going to do it. It (the referendum) threatens to leave UK businesses out of a market that gives them access to the world’s largest trading bloc. It’s simply the wrong direction for our country. If you care about strong foundations, if you care about long-term stability, if you care about prosperity, then Britain must be a committed member of a reformed European Union, not threatening to leave, not locked out of the room.”

The role of the business sector

It seems that the UK’s Prime Minister has by his side the majority of the business owners. The survey that was conducted with 1024 companies, of which 70% were SMEs, showed that 66% of them want a referendum to be held whereas only 26% voted against. Robert Oxley, the campaign director of Business for Britain, mentioned that: “just like voters, business leaders back a referendum as it’s the best way to secure meaningful change to our relationship with the EU”.

What is more, 56% of the companies under investigation supported the modification of the EU treaty in order to change Britain’s relationship with the EU, something that the leader of the Labour Party is trying to promote in his electoral campaign. It needs to be mentioned here that trade was the section that they would like to see the majority of the changes occur; one of the main reasons that a “Brexit” would be beneficial according to the think tank Global Britain.

Yesterday, this organisation also published a report about the recommended “Brexit” option-the Global Britain Free Trade Option. In this research paper, the UK would be subject to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and would be able to become “the largest free trade economy in the world by removing all trade tariffs on imports from other nations”. Thus, yesterday an exit from the EU was seen as the best choice for the UK according to Global Britain. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe another study casts light on some other “dubious” findings.

Should I stay or should I go?

Now the “game” rests in the hands of the British voter who must state her own opinion and will. Does she really want to stay in or out of the EU? Of course the mere question stands if and only if a question like this will be the exact question of referendum in two years time from now and if and only if Mr Cameron wins the elections.

A last month’s poll showed that UK voters do not base their final decision on the factor that is called Europe (only 8% consider Europe important) but on others such as the national health system (38%), the economy (31%) and immigration (25%).

Nevertheless, they should bear in mind that even if they don’t see Europe as a crucial and influential factor for their decision in the national elections, a possible “Brexit” will have serious impact on their economy and immigration as well. What kind of impact? It seems that there are plenty of studies showing this or that but nobody can really sign a contract about it. Doesn’t it seem like Brexit is too vague for the voter to grasp at this point?

The Promise Land

Consequently, a more thorough investigation of the pros and cons of a UK exit from the EU should be weighted by all UK citizens before the 7th of May. The problem is, as always, that the vast majority of voters do not have either the knowledge or the time or even will to dig into this; their daily routine and problems keeps the busy enough already.

But more so, even the “connoisseurs”, political leaders, opinion poll companies or well-known British economists find it too hard to accurately estimate the “Promise Land” at this stage. An isolated UK would be able to trade with everybody through WTO, as the recent study reveals, but what is really there to trade in the UK the study did not tell us. UK is definitely neither Germany nor France in manufacturing production; instead a substantial part of the country’s GDP (78%) is produced by the services sector, while the financial sector in London is already some 10% of the British economy.

With no serious economist being able to put his signature on a clear forecast of the Brexit’s economic outcomes and the British average voter being unable to grasp the matter in its full length, it seems that the outcome of the UK elections next May is bound to be based on false promises.

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