Brexit: UK economy in much better health since 1973
Ryanair's Michael O'Leary for long took pleasure in tweaking the tails of the fat cats of the establishment but as some British business leaders this week shied away from taking a public stance on Brexit — the shorthand that combines the words Britain and exit from the European Union, which British voters will decide on via a referendum on 23 June, 2016 — O'Leary made a strong call for an anti-Brexit vote:
As the UK’s largest airline, Ryanair is absolutely clear that the UK economy and its future growth prospects are stronger as a member of the European Union than they are outside of the EU. Leaving Europe won’t save the UK money or red tape because like Norway the UK will still have to contribute to Europe, and obey its rules if it wants to continue to trade freely with Europe, so it’s clear that UK voters should vote Yes to Europe and Yes to the reformed Europe, that David Cameron has delivered. Ryanair, our people and I hope the vast majority of our customers, will all work together over the coming months to help deliver a resounding Yes vote on June 23rd
Chris Giles, the economics editor of the Financial Times, wrote this week:
Britain joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973 as the sick man of Europe. By the late 1960s, France, West Germany and Italy — the three founder members closest in size to the UK — produced more per person than it did and the gap grew larger every year. Between 1958, when the EEC was set up, and Britain’s entry in 1973, gross domestic product per head rose 95% in these three countries compared with only 50% in Britain.
After becoming an EEC member, Britain slowly began to catch up. Gross domestic product per person has grown faster than Italy, Germany and France in the 42 years since. By 2013, Britain became more prosperous than the average of the three other large European economies for the first time since 1965.
Giles does acknowledge that some aspects of EU membership have not been so good for the British economy. He says that today one in 20 UK residents was born in another EU country. But numerous studies have shown that most gains from immigration have fallen to the immigrants themselves. Apart from a net benefit to public finances of importing workers, free movement has not itself obviously increased British people’s prosperity.
This week, the FT has published videos of debates on the arguments for and against Brexit.
How good has EU membership been for the UK? Economics editor Chris Giles tests your knowledge on Britain and the European Union and asks: has being in the EU been good for the UK?
Up for debate: ‘Brexit will boost the British economy’. Supporting the motion is John Redwood, British politician and Eurosceptic. Opposing the view is Martin Wolf, the FT's chief economics commentator.
Up for debate: ‘Brexit will be a disaster for The City of London’. Supporting the motion is Gina Miller, co-founder of investment managers SCM Private. Opposing the view is Howard Shore, founder of investment bank Shore Capital.
Up for debate: ‘Brexit would be a good thing for both Britain and Europe’. In support is Daniel Hannan, secretary-general of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. In opposition is Peter Mandelson, British Labour politician.
'Brexit would damage the UK’. British Labour politician Tristram Hunt supports the motion, opposed by Steven Woolfe, Ukip member of the European parliament.
The last referendum in the UK on the issue of Europe was on 5 June, 1975. Almost exactly two-thirds voted in favour of staying. Lots have changed since then, but there are also many relevant parallels as veteran film maker Michael Cockerell explains.