The Last Days: what have we learned?

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RISK AND ECONOMIC IMPACT: the House of Commons Library identifies 17 estimates of the impact of Brexit. 16 of these say it will be negative. The only one that departs from this consensus is Economist for Brexit, whose joint Chair is an advisor to Boris Johnson.

It’s clear that the consensus among experts is that Brexit would lead to major disruption of the economy, but the leave camp persists in basing its approach on the assumption that this won’t happen. It’s clear that there aren’t any realistic plans for Brexit. They are inviting us to make a leap in the dark. Do we feel lucky?

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT: in 2010, it was estimated by Parliamentary researchers that UK population would grow from 62m to 73m by 2035. The number of pensioners is growing much faster than this, so that while in 2010 there were 3.3 working people for each pensioner, by 2035 there would be 2.9. We need young, educated, healthy tax-payers to support our ageing population. If our economy remains healthy, freedom of movement from the EU will attract such people, as it does now. It is a national responsibility – not the EU’s – to ensure that our housing, health and education systems can absorb these changes.

Freedom of movement works both ways. 1.4m British people live elsewhere in the EU. How many of them will have to return – adding to the stress on housing education and the health service?

EU migrants account for only about half of last year’s immigration figure. Given the need to attract healthy skilled taxpayers, many of these would still presumably be welcomed (although we don’t know how many, because the Brexit side doesn’t know how any new system will operate). And if we leave and the numbers coming from the EU fall, how many more people will we need to attract from elsewhere?

COST: the leave side persists with saying that we hand over £350m per week to the EU, even though it has been proved that the true figure taking account of what we get back is about half this. The figures fluctuate widely year by year – e.g. our net contribution in 2017 is forecast to be 35% lower than in 2016. And we’re not alone; in 2014 there were 10 member states that got back less than they put in. The UK net contribution as a proportion of its national income was the lowest of these 10 – 0.23%, or 0.5% of total public spending.


Robert Lowson

Co-Chair, Cambridge for Europe