Economy and trade

The Herald:

ARGUABLY, this is the most critical issue of all.

EU membership is estimated to be worth around £90 billion to the UK economy with some three million jobs linked to the country’s trade with the continent. The single market means British businesses can export to the EU without tariffs and there is free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

With global organisations like the IMF and OECD as well as foreign allies plus the Treasury all pointing out the benefits of remaining in the EU, this is regarded by the Remain camp as its strongest card.

When the likes of the Bank of England also warn of Britain being plunged into a recession if it leaves the EU, then David Cameron has a welter of opinion to draw on.

As with the Scottish independence referendum before, Whitehall has churned out a plethora of documentation to show the downside, as it sees it, of Brexit: households taking a £4,300 a year hit, almost one million jobs being lost and an £8bn black hole that would need to be filled by either raising taxes, cutting spending or a combination of the two.

Quitting the EU would, the Prime Minister has warned, be like “putting a bomb under the economy” and lead to a “DIY recession”.

But Vote Leave insists that the doom-and-gloom fearmongering is misplaced. Britain, it points out, is the fifth largest economy in the world and could handle itself well economically free from burdensome Brussels red tape and free from the “jobs-destroying machine”

of the EU.

It rebuffs the opinions of many foreign and domestic organisations, suggesting they are discredited because they wanted Britain to have full membership of the ERM and urged it to join the euro; “they were wrong then and they’re wrong now,” says the Brexit camp.

A Britain outwith the shackles of the Brussels bloc would mean it could negotiate new and better trade deals, boosting growth and increasing jobs. Trade with EU nations, Vote Leave insists, would continue unhampered with the EU because the UK has a trade deficit; it imports more goods from them than they import from us.

Following Brexit, the country would leave the EU but be part of a European free trade zone, which already exists and stretches from non-EU Iceland to the Russian border.

Read more: Henry McLeish - Let’s opt to end Britain’s identity crisis


The Herald:

THIS is probably the most sensitive issue.

At present, total net migration to the UK is running at more than 300,000 a year, despite David Cameron’s infamous “no ifs, no buts” pledge to cut it to below 100,000.

The most recent detailed split shows net migration from outwith the EU is slightly higher than that from within it.

The Leave side’s argument is that the single market, with its principle of free movement, means the UK Government simply cannot have control of its borders. Any migrant worker who wants to come and seek work in the UK can do so.

The net annual migration figure from the EU is about 180,000, which, says the Out camp, is putting unacceptable strain on Britain’s public services.

Migration Watch, which campaigns for limited immigration, predicts this is likely to grow to 250,000 a year for the next 20 years. If the same movement rights are given to Turkish citizens, this rises to nearer 350,000.

The only way to relieve this is to leave the EU and the single market, argues Vote Leave, which wants an Australian-style points system extended to all would-be migrant workers.

The Prime Minister has now shifted his language on the 100,000 target from a pledge to an “ambition”, but the Remain campaign insists the immigration issue is not as simple as Vote Leave suggests.

It notes migrant workers, particularly those from the continent, pay more in taxes than they take out. To put it another way, immigration is good for the economy. From 2001 to 2011, EU migrants contributed an estimated £20 billion to the UK economy.

Mr Cameron has stressed that his “special status” deal with the EU also means there will be more restrictions on migrants claiming benefits; meaning they have to pay in before they get out.

Remainers also argue that to maintain Britain’s economy and, most importantly, its public services, like the NHS, foreign workers would still be needed in large numbers.

Moreover, if, as some Brexiters argue, outwith the EU Britain could have a system like Norway and Switzerland, these countries still accept the free movement of people principle in order to maintain trade with EU member states.

But Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson this week signalled his party would be willing to support a revision on the free movement principle if Britons vote to stay; in other words, more controls on immigration.


The Herald:

ANOTHER deeply emotive issue. By law, EU rules and regulations are binding across 28 member states.

EU legislation is proposed by the European Commission but most of it has to be endorsed by a majority of national leaders in the European Council as well as by the European Parliament. Laws are then enforced by the European Court of Justice.

The Brexit camp argues that the vast majority of legislation affecting UK citizens is now made in Brussels and that, because of qualified majority voting, decisions on the continent can be imposed on Britain against its wishes.

Eurozone countries have a majority on the Council and so they can outvote the UK at all times. Britain is always at a disadvantage as it has just eight per cent of the votes among EU leaders and only 10 per cent in the European Parliament.

Read more: Nigel Farage accused of resorting to xenophobia as political opponents denounce Ukip's "disgusting" campaign poster

Outers point to how the UK Government has faced the ignominy of repeatedly losing cases before the European court, meaning that laws proposed by unelected eurocrats have been forced upon British citizens by unelected judges. The only way to end this anti-democratic system is to quit the euro club altogether and bring democracy home, says Vote Leave.

But Remain points out that in this interconnected , interdependent world, ceding some sovereignty is key to protecting workers’ and consumers’ rights, securing environmental protections and maintaining security and trade across the continent.

The In camp sees the glass as half full, arguing that in practice only a minority of UK laws emanate from the EU and, in any case, Britain wins most votes in the Council of Ministers and retains a veto.

It highlighted a decision by the European Court this week when it ruled against the Commission and upheld the UK’s right to withhold welfare payments from EU citizens, who did not have the right to live in this country.

But the Brexit camp said the case underlined how the European court was supreme over the UK Parliament and the only way to avoid such an intervention was to Leave the EU.

David Cameron insists his “special status” deal also means the UK has a guarantee against ever closer union and national parliaments will be able to block any future EU legislation they do not like. He also insists the very act of holding the In-Out referendum shows that Britain is still sovereign over its own affairs.

Cost of Membership

The Herald:

THIS has been one of the most contested issues throughout the campaign.

The UK is a net contributor to the EU budget. In 2015, its gross contribution was £17.8 billion. However, Britain’s annual rebate is worth £4.9bn, while another £4.4bn is channelled back to this country through farm subsidies and other policy programmes.

On the side of the Vote Leave battlebus is the claim that the UK sends to the EU £350 million a week.

This is not strictly true, as the rebate is deducted before any money flies towards Brussels; the net contribution, therefore, taking this into account as well as EU spending in the UK, is about £190m a week.

Nonetheless, Boris Johnson insists this is “cold, hard cash” that belongs to Britain and could be better spent by a UK government no longer bound by Brussels bureaucracy.

The Leave camp insists quitting the EU would produce a £10bn-a-year “independence dividend”, which would be spent on the NHS and lowering VAT on domestic fuel. Ukip’s Nigel Farage says it could also be used to help those areas most affected by the impact of immigration on public services.

But Remain insists the Brexiters are being disingenuous about the amount of money the UK might get back. In last week’s TV head-to-head debate, Labour’s Angela Eagle urged Mr Johnson to “take that lie off your bus”.

The In camp insists that the economic benefits of being part of the world’s biggest trading bloc outweigh the costs.

It has challenged the Brexit camp’s independence dividend. Remainers point to what they regard as the economic consensus that should Britain quit the Brussels bloc, then it would take a financial hit of many billions of pounds a year.

Read more: How Brexit could provoke a crisis for the UK, even without a second independence referendum

Alan Johnson, who leads the Labour In campaign, noted how it would only take a 0.6 per cent reduction in the UK’s economic output after a vote to leave to “eradicate the £8bn that is sent to the European Union and distributed through farming subsidies”. Vote Leave’s claims of a post-Brexit windfall were “fantasy economics”, he said.

These figures come from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which calculated an £8bn Brexit dividend, but has also noted that there is “virtual unanimity” among economic forecasters that leaving the EU would cost Britain more than £8bn.

It says, therefore, Brexit would “not leave more money to spend on the NHS; rather, it would leave us spending less on public services or taxing more, or borrowing more”.

Fishing and agriculture

The Herald:

FROM the start, Scotland’s farmers and fishermen have found themselves on the front line in the EU referendum battle.

For Leave campaigners, the chance to wrest control of agriculture and fisheries from Brussels is one of the great prizes of Brexit.

In Scotland, the claim has an added appeal, they say, because in a post-Brexit Britain, they would be run from neither Brussels nor Westminster, but Holyrood, where responsibility has resided since 1999.

The pitch has tapped into a deep dislike of the Common Fisheries Policy and, to a lesser extent, the Common Agricultural Policy. At the same time, it reflects a desire for greater devolution to the Scottish Parliament.

More recently, Leave.EU, the most prominent of the ‘unofficial’ pro-Brexit groups, put figures on the claim.

It argued that of the £709 million the EU currently spends on farming and other subsidies in Scotland, £614m would automatically revert to the Scottish budget.

As for the £95m balance, Leave. EU said it would be “hard for Westminster to resist” handing it over to Holyrood.

There’s no doubt the message has found a ready audience, particularly in Scotland’s fishing communities.

With widespread unhappiness about the way the UK has to agree to EU quotas, there was little surprise when an Aberdeen University survey found an overwhelming 92 per cent of fisherman will vote for Brexit.

The survey was UK-wide, though Scots fishermen made up nearly 70 per cent of respondents.

Farmers’ union NFU Scotland has backed Remain, though there are some in the community who would rather scrap the cap and start over.

The promise of Holyrood “taking back control” has found a wider audience, especially among SNP supporters, Jim Sillars, the party’s former deputy leader and a leading Leave campaigner, has claimed.

The Remain campaign has been slow to rebut the claims.

But John Swinney, the deputy first minister, finally stepped in this week to argue that any post-Brexit talks over fishing rights or agricultural exports would be conducted by the UK, not Scottish, government.

“Their hollow offers of more powers are nothing more than a Tory con-trick,” he said.


The Herald:

AMID a slump in the global oil price and rising concerns about climate change, how would leaving the European Union affect Scotland’s environmental and energy needs?

The question has attracted some high-profile figures, including Boris Johnson’s father Stanley, who is campaigning against his son as the co-chairman of a group called Environmentalists for Europe.

But the issue had not received the attention paid to others like the economy or immigration.

Unsurprisingly both Leave and Remain argue that their plans would be better for Scots boilers, beaches and birdlife.

The Remain campaign says that EU membership allows Scotland and the UK to work closely with other countries to cut carbon emissions and tackle global warming.

They point to EU environmental rules which promote and protect the names of high-quality agricultural products such as Scottish Wild Salmon, Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar and Scotch Lamb as well as others which look after native birds and beaches.

And they highlight university funding – overall the UK gets more back than it puts in – some of which is used in the field of environmental science research.

Vote Leave insists funding would stay, and no UK institution would lose out on cash it currently receives from EU grants.

Leave argues that being outside the EU would allow the UK to take control of its own energy and environment regulations. This could regenerate local fishing communities while allowing the UK to set its own rules to protect fish stocks, they argue.

The EU’s environmental protection directives are “spirit crushing”, Vote Leave claims, and the UK could innovate better solutions outside the organisation.

Millions of pounds extra could also be freed up for UK-schemes and farmers, a claim disputed by Remain.

The future of the energy sector is also highly contentious.

Remain warns that the UK would face an economic hit, one that could hurt the already beleaguered oil and gas industry. But Leave point to the fact that that Norway is outside the EU and has fought attempts by the organisation to regulate its oil industry.

Whatever choice voters make on June 23, both sides will be asking them to do it for a combination of the North Sea and the natural world.


The Herald:

THERE will be thousands, tens of thousands of faces to scan.

As the broken bottles and smashed street furniture is swept up from Marseille’s Old Port, scene of days of football violence, both petty and serious, police officers are sifting CCTV and almost countless mobile phone videos.

The work may sound thankless. But it is effective: The perpetrators of the trouble that poisoned the first round of Euro 2016 can be identified. The question is: Can they be prosecuted? That depends on whether they live in the European Union or not.

France has already jailed some of the English fans guilty of violent offences in Marseille. If they spot any more British suspects in CCTV coverage, they can issue something called a European Arrest Warrant, or EAW, and those individuals will be seamlessly and easily sent to France to face trial.

But EAWs do not apply outside the EU, in countries such as Russia. And that means any Russian brought to light in the video trawl will escape justice if they get over their border in time.

The Marseille crimes, of course, were truly international and were committed on the fringes of a multi-national sporting event. But senior law enforcement sources have long stressed that criminality is as globalised as business. Crooks, big and small, cross borders. So, as the recent conviction of an eBay-style drug dealer trading internationally on the dark web from Edinburgh showed, do their goods and services.

Cue a level of cross-border co-operation in Scotland never seen before. There are Scottish and British officers at the very top of the EU’s crime-fighting agency, Europol, including, crucially, its head of cybercrime. Scores of criminals have been either brought back to face justice here – or sent to their home countries. All this, argue most professionals, is being put at risk by Brexit.

The UK could, of course, revert to establishing bilateral extradition treaties and mutual co-operation arrangements, or try to negotiate access to a new law enforcement alliance.

Some Brexiteers, however, express an ideological opposition to EAWs. British subjects, they argue, should not have to kowtow to foreign courts or foreign police. There is another European country that takes this view. Its fans are the ones now most likely to escape justice after the Marseille trouble.


The Herald:

JUST weeks ago, Nicola Sturgeon has said she would “almost certainly” move for a second independence referendum in the event of should the “democratic outrage” of Scotland voting to Remain stay in the EU but being taken out against its will occur.

The SNP manifesto, which won the backing of the public, said that the Scottish Parliament “should have the right” to hold another referendum if there is a “material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014” before specifically citing Brexit against Scots’ wishes as an example.

So with polls now consistently pointing to a lead for Leave and, despite a narrowing gap, Remain on course to win by a double-digit margin in Scotland, is a new independence referendum inevitable if the “democratic outrage” comes to pass? Not necessarily.

For one thing, Nicola Sturgeon has noticeably softened her stance recently, amid evidence a majority of Scottish voters would prefer to stay in the UK even outside the EU. In a recent TNS poll, asked specifically about how they would vote in a post-Brexit independence poll, just 38 per cent of Scottish voters said they would back Yes.

Surveys have consistently indicated that support for the EU is broad in Scotland, but not necessarily deep. Assertions that large swathes of No voters would swap sides to cling on to EU membership are not yet backed up by evidence, and the last thing the First Minister wants is to lead the independence movement to another defeat.

As Humza Yousaf, the SNP cabinet minister spearheading his party’s Remain campaign has admits, there would be new difficulties in making the case for independence with Britain quitting the EU, leaving aside the oil price crash that weakens the economic case weaker than in 2014. If the SNP remains committed to keeping the pound – and the FM confirmed it is – would it be welcomed into the single market with a currency controlled by a non-member state?

That said, there would be positives too – the SNP could argue EU membership would lure businesses from the south, with a vote taking place at a time that the economic cost of Brexit had become stark - adding a potentially potent argument in favour of independence.

Ms Sturgeon, so far, has masterfully kept the more impatient within her own party in line. But Keeping the SNP united if Ms Sturgeon passes up the chance to press for a referendum despite previous indications she would do so presents a far tough challenge. Alex Salmond, for one, appears more keen than his former deputy on a post-Brexit independence vote.

Yet even if the FM does go for it, Westminster would have to grant permission for another referendum, and With the SNP falling short of a majority last month, both in terms of Holyrood seats and votes cast, and failing to include a cast-iron commitment in its manifesto, the UK Government has already said there is no mandate for another referendum.

A Remain vote would be likely to take independence off the table for the rest of the decade, with little sign that the SNP’s second trigger - a consistent surge in support for leaving the UK - is around the corner. Brexit against the wishes of Scotland, meanwhile, would leave the FM facing the toughest call of her political career.

Employment right

The Herald:

FEW are expecting protections for workers to collapse overnight as a response to Brexit.

While the EU has been a major factor in securing improved rights for British workers, most of the changes it has brought about have been enshrined in UK law.

However there are fears that hard-won protections could gradually be eroded by a UK government operating outside the EU. The argument about sovereignty is key, of course. Leave campaigners would argue that they could also be enhanced, because Westminster and Holyrood would no longer have to answer to overarching EU laws.

Employment rights in the UK such as the right to paid leave, legal limits on the number of hours employees can be required to work, or the right to a daily break have their roots in EU law. So do protections for employees who have to take time off work to nurse a poorly child.

Major steps forward for temporary and part time workers – who now have equal rights to things like time off and holiday pay – also came about as a result of EU rules. They have strengthened crucial protections against discrimination for people on the grounds of gender, race, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation.

TUPE rules – which govern staff transferred from one company to another, for example when a public sector contract is won or lost, are also a defence for workers guaranteed by Europe.

Leave campaigners argue that much EU employment law is red tape and meddling which imposes unnecessary costs and other burdens on British businesses.

But most observers also point out that for future trade deals with the EU, Britain would probably have to retain most of EU employment law, even if no longer in the union. Norway, for example, while outside the EU, is bound by EU law for most of its trade agreements.

Of course nobody has pledged to dismantle rules protecting workers in the event of a Brexit. Nevertheless, there are many on the right of the Conservative party who would like to get rid of working time regulations.

Yet a case can also be made that many of the protections brought in under the umbrella of EU law are now simply too much part of the UK employment landscape to be changed. Removing legal protections against discrimination, or curtailing parental leave, or holiday entitlement might be easier to do following a vote to leave the EU. But would any government really risk its popularity by doing so?


IT IS the one issue that riles Brexiteers even more than their mythical straight bananas: the potential for an “EU army”. Ukip’s Nigel Farage has suggested Brussels officials will unveil a secret plan for joint armed forces as soon as the referendum votes are counted.

Former former defence secretary Liam Fox – one of the biggest Scottish voices lobbying for an EU exit – has warned the bloc’s embryonic defence arrangements are a “dangerous fantasy”.

Europe watchers have more or less dismissed talk of an actual EU army any time soon. But Europe is, increasingly, seeing itself as a defensive as well as a political and trading alliance. EU members – like those of Nato – have agreed to defend each other, but without the actual machinery of a mutual military command. Even this vexes Brexiteers, whose rhetoric has firmly focused on building links with America, the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world.

Leave says Nato is more important than the EU. Their avowedly Atlanticism, however, runs in to a very particular Atlantic problem: America wants to see Britain stick in the EU.

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said: “The US supports the UK remaining in the EU. There is a strategic reason for that.” The boundaries of EU and Nato membership do not quite overlap. Norway – outside the EU but in the single market and subject to its rules, including free travel, driving up migration – is in Nato. Sweden and Finland are in the EU but not Nato. But EU membership – and nagging fears over Russian military expansion in the Baltic – have seen the two Nordic neutrals move closer to Nato. Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose populist anti-migrant and anti-EU rhetoric echoes that of prominent Brexiteers, has been championing Eurosceptic movements across Europe.

Nato figures fear an EU exit would be seen as a chink in the armour of Western defences.

During the independence referendum, observers were always quick to link membership of the EU to Nato for the proposed Scottish state. Like Mr Carter, they thought being plugged in to both supranational bodies, political and military, was part of a package ensuring Western defensive cohesiveness.

Malcolm Chalmers, of think tank Rusi, has warned Brexit could prompt “a wider set of disintegrative factors” across Europe. Britain, he added, would have to up defence spending to convince European allies it was still a viable partner.