The Brussels Brexit Debate

Wednesday, 25th May 2016 5:00 to 6:30 pm (GMT+0200) Bruxelles, Belgium

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Event Summary

At a debate hosted by Open Europe and the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Brussels to discuss the upcoming UK referendum, UKIP MEP Roger Helmer stated: “to support leave doesn’t mean one wants to isolate the UK. Instead, the EU is isolating itself”, adding: “the EU is currently discriminating non-EU migrants, as compared to EU migrants”. He went on to claim that the EU is imposing an “economic cost” on Britain, not only through the UK’s contribution to the EU budget, but also because “Europe has higher energy costs than any of its competitors: the US, Canada, etc. This is due to EU energy policies.”

Labour MEP Richard Corbett responded that “a lot of EU spending actually saves cash at the national level, for example with regards to scientific spending”, and “often, EU regulation cuts red tape, given that firms no longer have 28 different rules, but only 1.” He also noted: “The EU Commission is accused to be unelected, but it really only proposes EU legislation. Ultimately, national governments decide.” He went on to say that “the EU’s common fisheries policy was bad, but there were good reforms three years ago and either way, we need cooperation there.” He concluded by claiming that “the leave campaign has basically given up making the economic argument, so has now resorted to scare mongering about immigration”.

Also speaking at the event was Simon Boyd, the Director of British steel producer REIDSteel. He explained that he supports “Brexit”, because “we export to 140 countries, for 80% outside of EU, while we suffer from French protectionism…We suffer from endless EU regulations: these are more harmful to SMEs than to big companies…I love Europe and the people of Europe but the unelected EU bureaucrats fail to cut red tape.” on the prospects for the UK to get a good deal after a possible Brexit – vote, he noted it’s in the EU’s interest to have a deal, saying: “the UK has an enormous trade deficit in goods with the EU. It’s goods that create the jobs.”

Allie Renison of the Institute of Directors pointed out that when looking at the EU-UK trade, “we should look at supply chain as well, not just at exports, to determine EU’s importance for UK. Often the UK imports materials and then creates something. Therefore, many supposedly “domestic” companies aren’t purely domestic”. She also pointed out that “the UK government, even when the Tories are in power, is often more keen on strict rules than EU”, citing capital standards, emissions trading and health and safety rules as examples. On what would happen post-Brexit, she said: “the UK is unlikely to go for an “EEA” arrangement, like Norway, given the opposition to freedom of movement, but would go for a free trade deal instead.” UKIP MEP Roger Helmer responded that in his view, this was indeed what should happen.

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