We hope to see the completion of the Prime Minister’s renegotiating package shortly. This would make Britain even stronger in Europe and is something the country should get behind.
When we do we will know what ‘in’ looks like. Britain will have the best of both worlds: the benefits of economic partnership but not taking part in arrangements that don't suit us.
We will still be in the dark, however, on what ‘out’ looks like. Those campaigning for Britain to leave will excitedly declare their hand. But while we know what they will say about Europe, they still cannot tell us how Britain would prosper outside Europe.
Here are the ten questions that everyone campaigning for Britain to leave must be able to answer if they are to have a credible or achievable alternative. At present, it is clear they do not have one.
1. Would Britain have full access to the single market, covering both goods and services?
As part of the single market UK businesses and those they employ benefit from trade barriers being broken down. Tariffs are removed and regulations are commonly agreed. This increases trade, drives competition, lowers prices and enables business expansion, which increases employment. Is this what the leave campaigns want to sacrifice with a leap in to the dark?
2. Would Britain adhere to free movement and European employment regulations?
The leave campaigns have long argued that Britain must end free movement and repatriate employment regulations. There is no country that opts out of both and retains full or even partial access to Europe’s single market. Those campaigning for Britain to leave must come clean on their precise policy on free movement and EU regulations and its implications for financial security, prices and jobs.
3. Is there an existing trading arrangement Britain would seek to emulate?
We have heard the leave campaigns cite Norway, Switzerland, South Korea, Mexico and even Peru as examples the UK should follow. Each has a different trading relationship with the EU, each of which is worse than being a full member and getting the full benefits of economic partnership. However, the leave campaigns seem totally unable to say what Britain outside Europe looks like. So they must tell us: which country should the UK follow?
4. Would Britain cease paying in to the EU budget completely and therefore make zero annual contribution?
We have heard much about made-up figures on how much the UK sends in EU budget contributions. In truth, we get back more than we put in. But those campaigning to leave must say whether they intend to end contributions altogether. There is no country which makes no payments at all and retains access to the single market. If we were to make no payments, we would experience more trade barriers than we do now, risking jobs, prices and financial security. Is this what leave campaigners really want?
5. Under a free trade agreement, what terms would you campaign for and what evidence exists that this could be achieved?
Many claim that if the UK were to leave we would be given a new trade deal that would give us all the benefits but none of the costs of being in the EU. So far, some fantastical ideas have been suggested. Any deal would have to be agreed by the European Council and European Parliament. Therefore, leave campaigns must come clean about what trade deal they would seek and must show that this would be agreed by European partners.
6. How long would it take to negotiate a new free trade agreement with the EU?
If the UK voted to leave, under Article 50 the UK would have two years to agree a withdrawal deal. But trade deals take far longer to negotiate. How long do leave campaigners expect a UK-EU deal to take, and what would happen to the UK economy in the meantime during a period of such dramatic uncertainty?
7. How would the UK renegotiate bilateral trade agreements with the 50+ countries with whom the EU has agreements, from which the UK currently benefits?
The EU has trade deals with 50+ countries, from which the UK benefits. If we vote to leave, we lose access to these deals and those countries’ markets. We would have to renegotiate these ourselves, as a country of 65 million rather than a bloc of 500 million. This would take years and we would not be guaranteed the same terms we currently enjoy. What guarantees can the leave campaigns give that the benefits we currently enjoy could be replicated?
8. Can it be guaranteed that no job in Britain would be put at risk by our leaving Europe?
Three to four million jobs are linked to our trade with the EU, our largest trading partner. If we were to leave, trade would be hit and therefore these jobs would be at risk. Leave campaigners have already admitted that jobs would be lost. Can they guarantee no job, in the long or short term, would be lost?
9. Can it be guaranteed that investment would not be put at risk by our leaving Europe?
Almost half of all foreign investment in Britain is from the EU and our access to the single market is a primary reason for the foreign investment we get from around the world. If we leave the single market and erect new trade barriers, this investment would be at risk. Many businesses have said that they would rethink long investment decisions. Can leave campaigns guarantee this would not happen?
10. And can it be guaranteed that UK-EU trade would not be damaged by our leaving the EU?
Half of our trade in goods goes to the EU. Over 200,000 UK businesses trade with the EU. We sell six times more in goods to the EU than we do the BRIC countries. If the UK were to leave Europe, trade regulations would be set in Europe and tariffs may apply to our imports and exports. This would make trade more expensive and complex. Can it be guaranteed that trade would not be hit?