In many ways it is a shame that commitment to “ever closer
union” is not available to choose in the UK’s referendum on membership of the
European Union. Both options actually on offer exclude this idealistic
commitment which was at the heart of the project originally envisaged by the
founding parents of European amalgamation (whose idea began with economic
integration as a platform for associated political affiliation). In its
absence, the only options available are:

either half-hearted
consent to continued limited membership;

or attempted
abandonment of such commitments as remain after eschewing the euro and the
Schengen zone (these residual commitments being the common external tariff and
regulation associated with the Single Market, plus certain common policies,
such as the CAP, and financial contributions associated with funding them along
with a set of EU-wide institutions such as the European Parliament).

Given this context, concentration on the economic dimensions
of remaining or leaving is understandable. The free movement of resources
across the unified or single market is most visibly manifest in the case of
labour (i.e. workers’ economic migrancy): hence the consequences of immigration
in the UK are a subject for debate. Likewise, the feasibility and financial
consequences of alternative international trading arrangements are an issue
requiring discussion. Unsurprisingly therefore these two topics have dominated
the propaganda campaign being conducted on both ‘sides’ with a repellent lack
of regard for the intelligence of the public at large.

With regard to immigration: it seems to me that the
responsibility for dealing with any consequential congestion in relation to
public services or infrastructure lies with the national government; and since
immigrants are subject to taxation like the rest of the citizenry they can be
presumed to pay their way like the rest of us (not to mention that they may be
working in those public services anyway). Rejecting EU membership on the
grounds of its impact on immigration is effectively a vote of no confidence in
the UK national government rather than a judgement on the EU itself.

Regarding international trade arrangements: losing a protected
price advantage of 5% (typical for manufactures) will eat into margins or
value-added across the tradables sector of the economy whilst making such tradables
cheaper for consumers. Since most businesses buy inputs as well as selling
their output at such newly lower prices the impact on margins may be somewhat

It is by no means clear that the financial consequences of abandoning
the EU will be bad for the UK population in real terms. The Treasury’s analysis is completely bogus owing to the tragically flawed
view of the country’s economic situation according to which the Treasury
operates (see
for details).

If, as a consequence of abandoning membership of the EU,
sterling is devalued, then this will impact adversely upon the standard of
living enjoyed by workers in the UK in the short term by raising the prices of
tradable goods and services; but it will also increase margins or value-added
in those same tradables-producing sectors of the domestic economy (hence also offsetting
the impact of any reduced tariff protection).

The political choice that I might want is not available. Neither
‘side’ has made a case worth voting for. I would not make this choice on
economic grounds. Is it worth having a vote?