Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

In discussion: Leaving the EU

In discussion: Leaving the EU


With debate over the UK's continuing participation in the European Union hotting up, Solicitors Journal invites its readers to explain which way they are voting come the 23 June referendum. Can they persuade you? This week it is the turn of private client partner Andrew Kidd

For a politico, I have been surprised by how little I have enjoyed this referendum, only the third in our history. I started out with the logical approach that I would vote in accordance with the recommendation of the government, which had been at the coalface of the 'renegotiation' and had a better grasp, so it seemed to me, of what was in the best interests of the British people.

Unlike a general election, there are no names on the ballot paper, though it can be difficult to detach arguments and prophesies from those who make them. Nobody can doubt there are credible people making cogent arguments on both sides, armed with evidence which can be overwhelming in its volume for an observer.

However, the more I engaged with the debate, the more I was drawn away from backing the government's recommendation.

Remain, in some ways, has a harder job to do. Preserving the status quo of the EU is always going to be less captivating than promoting a new, exciting opportunity. Indeed, the arguments for leaving the EU capture the imagination and British buccaneering spirit infinitely better than remaining tied to the EU, of which the UK is one of the ten member states that pay more than they get out, with all its flaws and inefficiencies.

On the other hand, the unknown risk of leaving has some currency. While large corporations and the City have certainly not been short of voices backing Remain, as the saying goes, 'a ship in harbour is safe, but that's not what ships are built for'. Our glorious past was not built with ships in harbour.

In the life of Britain, the EU is very new. We have been a great global trading nation before and we can be so again, trading through bilateral free trade agreements in a way consistent solely with our best interests. In the face of new challenges and opportunities, not least the revolutionary nature of future technology, we can benefit from the efficiency of being a free trading nation, outward looking and drawing on our rich pedigree and unique respect in the world.

Some have espoused, that an 'associate membership' might be offered if we left, though any form of 're-entry' to the EU, in its current form, would no doubt involve adopting the Euro and Schengen and losing our rebate - hardly a 'special relationship' we are currently being offered.

While, no country has ever left the EU, it seems a reasonable proposition that a UK vote to leave might encourage other countries to consider their own position. As Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission president, has warned, 'we are living in a time of referendums and they are contagious.' If we left, the EU might deconstruct itself from its present form. It raises the questions, what would we in fact be leaving?

The EU project can hardly been called an unmitigated success. Its problems, not least the euro and the migration crises, need hardly be recited here. Indeed, the diabolical youth unemployment rates in countries like Spain, which is by no means alone, lead me to the conclusion that the EU is not the panacea Remain would have us believe.

In what has been labelled a 'turnout referendum', there are those, such as Tony Blair, who believe that this is not a decision where you can remain 'on the fence'. Such is the serious nature of the decision being asked of us, Mr Blair would say, that unless the arguments to leave are overwhelming, you should vote 'Remain'.

At this juncture, the case for remaining in the EU in its present form, albeit it with our so-called 'special status', has not been made out and the arguments to leave have reached that satisfactorily high threshold.

But for a critical blow from Remain between now and 23 June, I will vote Leave.

Andrew Kidd is a private client partner at Clintons

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