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NIESR: Uncharted territory: the Implications of Leaving the EU Think

The latest issue of the National Institute Economic Review, edited by Angus Armstrong and Jonathan Portes, brings together some of the leading academic researchers on EU issues in the UK, under the auspices of the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe programme, to examine the UK's place in the EU and the implications of the referendum. Five articles are included:

  • Britain's influence in the EU, by Anand Menon and John-Paul Salter (King’s College London)
  • Immigration, free movement and the EU referendum, by Jonathan Portes (NIESR)
  • The free movement of services, migration, and leaving the EU, by Catharine Barnard and Amy Ludlow (University of Cambridge)
  • EU membership, financial services and stability, by Angus Armstrong (NIESR)
  • The EU budget and UK contributions by Iain Begg (London School of Economics)

Menon and Salter find that, despite headlines about the UK being ‘outvoted’, that at least up until the most recent period, the UK has been relatively successful in influencing policy, in both a negative (preventative) and positive (proposing) sense. In many ways the UK has steered the EU in its own preferred direction of market liberalisation combined with national control of social policies. However, the run-up to the referendum may have eroded our credibility and hence our ability to advance this agenda. If we vote to Remain, re-establishing the UK’s centrality to EU debates will be an urgent task.

Portes notes that a vote to Remain will unequivocally be a vote for the status quo as regards EU migration and free movement. Leaving would increase flexibility but hard choices would remain. Ending free movement might allow a more liberal approach to non-EU migration, particularly of skilled workers, with consequent economic benefits; but it is also seems plausible that policy might become significantly more restrictive overall, since even a large reduction in EU migration would leave overall net migration well above the government’s target. Portes concludes that leaving the EU would not alter the fundamental tradeoff between reducing immigration and promoting economic growth. 

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