I advocate for the UK to democratically re-join the EU. Without shame or apology.
"We can't re-join, there was a referendum!"
There was indeed. The referendum said the UK should leave the EU. On the 31st of January 2020, it left.
The referendum did not say "The UK should leave the EU and stay out forever". It didn't even give a minimum number of years. I checked the wording on the ballot paper just to be sure. It prescribed a single action and that action has been done.
The moment the UK left on the 31st of January, the 2016 referendum lost all power. The UK could have re-joined the next day. We do not need to continue to "respect the result" because it has already been respected, in full.
This piece is an attempt to persuade you, dear reader, that the UK should apply to re-join the EU. "Remaining" is not longer an option, but applying to re-join certainly is, and it is an option we should wholeheartedly take.
"We couldn't get the same deal we had before."
To re-join, the UK would be entering the EU as new members. The opt-outs negotiated by governments past would not be available. Let's deal with those before going any farther.
"The UK would have to join The Schengen Area."
Yes! Let's join The Schengen Area! This was meant to be a section of responses to reasons not to join, but this is a benefit. We'd get to be in the Schengen Area! Huzzah!
This is an agreement that allows people to cross internal borders without having to show a passport or apply for a visa. You just cross the border, maybe glancing at the welcome sign that announces you're in a new country now. There are exceptions allowed for emergencies and pandemics, but most of the time you cross over without ceremony.
I have an American extended family, via my American wife. One of those relatives was going to visit Paris as a second honeymoon and they asked us if they could come and visit us in England on a day-trip through the tunnel. We looked at the details and because the UK has never been in Schengen, they would have to formally leave Schengen in order to enter the UK. On their return to France they would have to go through the process again to re-enter the Schengen area again under a new visa, just to return to their hotel room where they left all their luggage.
In the end, the hassle of multiple entries and re-entries was too much and they decided against including England on their second honeymoon. I see this often in Americans travelling around Europe, skipping the islands because the inhabitants' insistence on being special and having their own passport area.
But if you really want to keep the advantages of being outside Schengen, I have a plan. Next time you travel to France, take your passport, even though you wouldn't have to. When you arrive, approach some passing French person and demand they look at your passport.
"Look at my passport, Frenchie! Look at it!"
"The UK would have to join the Euro."
Great! Let's join the Euro! (Why are benefits of EU membership keep getting named as down-sides?) We'll be able to trade with other member states without having to bear the costs of exchanging currency rate all the ding dang time.
We won't be missing much. The Pound we have today isn't the same Pound from my childhood. Small change nowadays goes straight into a jar in the corner. 50p coins used to have an image of Britannia but now is only some design from a trendy design studio. £1 coins used to have the Latin "Decus et Tutamen" engraved around the edge, a tradition that dates back to Isaac Newton, but no more.
Since Brexit caused the value of the pound to tank from which it has never recovered, people have no idea how much things are any more. The pound has given us neither history nor stability. We may as well join the Euro and retire the pound.
But even if you are not as enthusiastic for joining the Euro, the EU's rules only require that new members join when the economy is ready. Those EU members who are not using the Euro seem quite relaxed about this status quo and are showing no hurry to switch. There's no reason the UK can't do the same.
"The UK wouldn't get the rebate from its membership fees."
In the 2016 referendum campaign, busses were driven around with the claim that the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU. This was false, because it didn't take account of the rebate the UK negotiated in the 80s. The actual amount the UK sent to the EU was in fact significantly smaller. If the UK did re-join, it is with a bit of irony that this could actually end up being the amount we'd send to the EU.
It sounds like a lot of money, but is it really? There are around 42 million adults in the UK. Divide one figure by the other and the cost of the UK's EU membership is on average, around £8.33 per week per adult. That's the big scary number on the side of a liar's bus. Eight f...ing pounds and thirty three pence a week!
If that one pound and change per day is really the argument for staying out, Brexit itself has already cost the UK almost as much as it has sent the EU since joining the EEC in the 70s. Throwing good money after bad is not a viable economic strategy. Add all the costs and benefits together and the UK gained from EU membership!
The UK would benefit from membership.
Support for the Good Friday Agreement. Freedom for UK citizens to live/work/retire across the EU. Participation in Galileo satellite navigation. Driving licences and insurance valid accross the EU. Erasmus student exchanges. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications. (Just a few of my favourites from Edwin Hayward's list.)
We'd get the benefits of EU membership. Why shouldn't we pay at the same rate all other member states have to pay?
This is the core reason I advocate for re-joining the EU. We would be members and membership has its benefits. Thanks to the EU's Single Market and Customs Union, any EU based business can trade all over the EU. Any regulatory tests can be done once without having to repeat them for each member state. Your couriers don't need to wait for customs checks or to pay tariffs. Your invoices can be paid without additional paperwork.
It might be argued that the UK could join the Customs Union and Single Market, without joining the EU as full members, as many of the EU's neighbours such as Norway have done.
But imagine if a club local to you offered you a couple of choices. Both choices included use of the club's facilities in return for a membership fee, but one choice also gave you a democratic say in how the club is run.
That democratic say in how the EU is run comes with membership. Norway doesn't get to sit at the European Council nor do their citizens get to elect members of the European Parliament. If we're going to be in the club, let's be in the club!
I wasn't going to write this. A friend of mine asked me to make a case for re-joining and it felt like a fool's errand. I know his feelings about the EU and I doubted any argument I could make would persuade him, a serious long-term euro sceptic. The arguments I've made here are what would convince me, but I'm already a flag-waving pro-European.
As such, I would like to consider this piece part one of a series. To both my euro-sceptic friend and anyone else who may be reading this, why do you want the UK to stay out of the EU? If I get enough responses, I'll put a part-two together responding to those points.
- BBC News, including image of 2016 opinion poll form.
- The Guardian, UK leaving the EU in January 2002.
- European Commission, Schengen Area.
- Martin Höpner, Should Sweden adopt the euro?
- New European, Brexit set to cost more than UK’s net contribution to EU over 47 years.
- Passport Control at ATH by "bobbsled".
- Brexit Demo, London 2019, by Bill P. Godfrey.