Brunel think tank event warns against Brexit

Published: Thursday 10 March 2016

Britain in Europe – the Brunel-based think tank which brings together lawyers, judges, academics and NGO members from across the UK and Europe – had organised a debate on the EU referendum on 1st February 2016.

Mr Stephen Kon, Senior Partner in global law firm King & Wood Mallesons and Britain in Europe member, stressed the important benefits that EU membership brings to the UK. He demonstrated that alternatives such as the Swiss or Norwegian models are unconvincing, and reflected on the very significant risks of Brexit.

“The EU economy is double the size of the economy of China, and bigger than the economy in the United States”, he said.

Not only that. If Brexit were to happen, Britain would not only be excluded from free trade with the EU, it might be excluded from other important free trade opportunities such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that the EU is currently negotiating with the US:

“The US have been very clear that, if Britain is out of Europe, it will not benefit from TTIP”.

The EU Business Passport was equally critical for UK economic interests. Without it, businesses “would have to establish subsidiaries in each Member State”.

The British health and pharmaceutical industry had also heavily benefited from EU legislation in this area.

“This is much more than an economic union”, stressed Stephen. This, at least, was the view of many of the clients of his firm, for whom Europe was designed to bring “peace, prosperity and security” in Europe.

Speaking about the importance of correcting misconceptions, and attempting to dispel myths, around the EU, Stephen said about EU bureaucracy that it was allegedly “too heavy and too weighty”, but then gave the example of the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK, which employs 91,000 people, while EU institutions employed in total 55,000 staff members in 2015!

Stephen equally noted that halfof the migration into the UK was coming from outside the EU, and 20 percent of this 50 percent was UK nationals returning from Europe!

“We should not underestimate the risks of Brexit”, he warned. This would be “the greatest constitutional change since the restoration of the monarchy”, and the legal process for withdrawal was not at all straightforward.

There was also no doubt in Stephen’s mind that Brexit would lead to the break up of the United Kingdom: “If we were to leave, I think what inevitably would happen is there would be a second referendum in Scotland for them to secede from the United Kingdom; Scotland would declare independence and much business that is currently based in the UK in London would move to Scotland”.

In the Q & A that followed the presentation, Stephen reflected on the historic and cultural reasons for Euroscepticism in Britain, arguing, however, that these were not sufficient in themselves to support the case for Brexit and that the reason we were finding ourselves in the current situation was mainly the result of Conservative party internal politics:

“David Cameron is either going to come out of this a hero, or he is going to come out as the man who actually singlehandedly destroyed the UK relationship with Europe, and took us into global wilderness”, Stephen concluded.

Opening the event, Britain in Europe’s Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos commented that it was indispensable to have a fully informed, evidence-based, debate on Europe, and that the Brunel-based think tank would actively participate in it.

The referendum presented the UK public with an important dilemma about the future of the country, he added:

“In or Out of Europe? Continuing to be a major international player or isolationism: legal, political, cultural, economic isolationism?”

For inquiries about the event and other Britain in Europe activities email bie@brunel.ac.uk or follow on twitter @brineurope

The debate can be viewed here

Page last updated: Tuesday 15 March 2016