ABC Economics attended the “In and Out of Europe? And which Europe?” conference on the EU Referendum at Kings College, London, on 24 November 2015. Hereafter our minutes.
Mr Celeste (former Italian diplomat):
- It is difficult for the UK to quit Europe altogether so the UK is likely to remain somehow connected to Europe.
- Questions to answer: does the EU need to change and if so wha needs to be changed?
- David Cameron recently said that the EU needs to change in order to address the following:
1. Eurozone crisis
2. EU competitiveness
3. Addressing the gap between EU and its citizens
- Also, Mr Celeste asked the panel to give some thoughts on the following three 2019 scenarios:
1. UK without EU
2. Within EU but not reformed
3. Within EU and reformed
Mr Munchau (Financial Times, journalist):
- Commented on Cameron’s first two points:
a) We are in the EU which is a political project which “failed to deliver”. It did not make Italy or any other EZ member better-off
b) The EU still delivering on competition policy and empowered Britain; however there are problems to be addressed
- Regarding the 2019 scenarios, it is difficult to see the EU to suddenly change and to embrace radical or significant reforms. Achieving a single market and making it work it would be “achieving already a lot”
Mr Siniscalco (former Italian minister and banker):
- Difficult to address issues at EU level: too many countries and too many layers. Difficult to empower EU and to swiftly address crises
- EU to leave bureaucracy behind and to focus on issues
- EU better off with Britain in Europe
- Regarding the 2019 scenarios, Siniscalco does not have a clear opinion on what will happen; however the “status quo long term is unsustainable”.There are external factors which need to be taken into consideration such as: exchange rates, geopolitics, immigration etc.
Mrs Bartoletti (NHS and labour political activist):
- Europe is not perfect. It is a framework. “It is what you make it”.
- EU and Britain can succeed if they work together
- Size matters. The bigger and more integrated Europe is, the more likely we will be able to challenge BRICS and other economic areas
- We, that is Europe, really need to stick together to achieve this
- However, people’s concerns on Europe cannot be underestimated and remain unanswered
- Europe is all about achieving what we cannot achieve on our own
- She agrees with Cameron on the need to address problems on immigration together, at EU level
- Regarding the 2019 scenarios, we have many challenges: Greece, immigration and terrorism. We hope the EU will cohesively deal with its crises.
Paolo Zeriali interviews Ivana Bartoletti at Kings College, 24 November 2015
Mr Whittle (UKIP candidate for Mayor of London):
- It is not all about money and financial matters
- We are underestimating the power of democracy and sovereignty
- When Britain joined the then-ECC “politicians lied to British voters by stating that this was simply going too be an economic agreement. This is false. We did not sign up to the creation of a sole entity in Europe”
- British-EU trade is currently “shrinking”. We have been an independent trading country for many years. Of course, “we would like to continue trading with Europe”
- The amount of foreigners coming to the UK is “far too much” and has reached “unsustainable levels”
- We are better off out of Europe
- Regarding the 2019 scenarios, Europe will certainly look different especially if Turkey joins the EU (“Merkel fast-tracking Turkey”). Sarcastically stated that he is “terribly optimistic about the future”.
Mrs Sandys (Conservative party):
- EU bureaucracy needs to be challenged.
- Thanks to the single market the UK achieved a significant competitive advantage
- London to gain a strategic and competitive advantage through TTIP
- Northern Ireland better off with Britain in the EU rather than without
- Regarding the 2019 scenarios, the British Referendum on Europe will impact the EU as an institution and the individual Member states position and relationship with Bruxelles.
- The challenge is to satisfy the public with different positions on numerous issues e.g. immigration.
- We need to clarify who’s going to benefit and suffer from Brexit. Allegedly SME are usually said to be more affected, however Sandys believes that firms can easily relocate and would be able to survive as a result.
Photograph by ABC Economics