Friday, June 17, 2016

International relations expert Dr Rod Abouharb: 'I am very much in the Remain camp'

 Dr Rod Abouharb

Dr Rod Abouharb is Associate Professor in International Relations and Director of the International Public Policy Program at University College London. He featured on this blog last year when he stood in the 7 May 2015 general election as the Labour candidate in the safe Conservative seat of Kensington in London. He fought a strong campaign, succeeding in increasing the Labour share of the vote by 5.6 percentage points from 25.5% to 31.1%.

With the EU referendum  due to be held in the UK on 23 June, I thought it would be interesting to know Dr Abouharb's position on whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU.

Abouharb said: "I am very much in the Remain camp. I do think that it is an incredibly complex issue. From a historical perspective the EU was begun to make war between European states unthinkable. It has succeeded in that. The three largest debates are around sovereignty, the economic consequences of leaving and the impact of migration in the UK.

"In terms of sovereignty, in 2014 the UK was a member of 80 intergovernmental organisations, the EU being one of them. In all these organisations we pool our sovereignty because there are transnational issues that we think it's easier and more cost effective to tackle in concert with other countries than on our own. If we left the EU we would still have pooled sovereignty in these other issue areas. I think that the UK must remain in the EU. It needs to make a strong case for a much more democratic and accountable intergovernmental organisation that at its heart governs to realise the economic and social rights of all EU citizens.

"It is very difficult to predict the economic consequences of leaving the EU because something like this has never happened. Nevertheless, it is possible to estimate the effects of an economic shock on the British economy. I have reviewed the Treasury's estimation of the consequences of Brexit and I think it is a reasonable one. They use fairly standard models of trade as the basis for the predictions.

"Renegotiating trade deals with all 27 other member states would be complex. Other states will act in their own self interests in any negotiations. This means that they will only liberalise those areas where their economies' have a comparative advantage in comparison to the UK and will avoid liberalising their economic sectors where they do not.

"Perhaps the most contentious issue related to Brexit is the issue of migration. One of the things that migration exposes is the limited capacity of key state services like the provision of school places, access to the NHS, and access to affordable housing. These problems pre-existed any migration flows. We have not invested enough in these services for decades. Moreover the complicating factor is that many of our key services simply wouldn't function without migrants coming into the UK. The evidence indicates that migrants slot into employment gaps in the market rather than taking jobs away from British citizens. They also pay much more in tax than they use in state services so they are a net benefit to the British economy. We do have problems with poor training and a lack of investment in the skills of our workforce. That is one of the reasons why productivity remains so low in the UK, but these are national government issues."

Remain and Brexit have been running closely in opinion polls, with the most recent polls indicating that Brexit has pulled slightly ahead. Many voters are confused and dismayed by the heated exchanges of claims between the two sides, and a substantial number may not vote. Dr Abouharb urges voters: "Regardless of your views on leaving the EU it is really important to make your voice heard and vote on June 23rd.'
posted by Susannah Tarbush, London