Would the UK be better off leaving the EU?

Euro notes and coins

Euro notes and coins

We would be substantially better off not being in the EU because the opportunity cost of us not being able to make our own trade deals with the emerging economies of the world is holding back British business. In terms of trade, the EU is now a millstone around our neck. Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, on the BBC Radio 4’s World at One on May 4.

Nigel Farage’s statement about UK trade repeats arguments regularly made by UKIP. As an EU member, the UK does not negotiate trade deals independently. Rather, the European Commission negotiates to a mandate set by the member states. His reference to “emerging economies” is because several of these countries are growing faster than, for example, most EU countries, offering growing export opportunities. Beyond this, the statement involves points presented as fact, but which are opinion – and questionable opinion at that, writes Professor Robert Ackrill. Continue reading

A ‘jobs-led recovery’? Assessing the facts behind the Conservatives and Labour manifestos

WalletIn the run-up to the General Election, the two largest parties have attempted to paint different pictures of the economy, particularly what this means for people’s jobs, in order to justify their Manifesto commitments and – by extension – why they should lead the next Government, writes research fellow Chris Lawton.

The Conservative manifesto emphasises the strength of recovery in terms of the quantity of jobs created since the start of the Parliament in May 2010: “Thanks to the success of our long-term economic plan, Britain is creating more jobs than the 27 other countries of the European Union put together… Over the past five years, 1.9 million new jobs have been created; 1,000 jobs for every single day that we have been in government.” Continue reading

Reform of zero hours contracts could be a defining point of election campaign

Peter McTigueSince writing my last piece for the NTU election blog, the issue of zero hours contracts has featured heavily in the media. In last week’s leader’s debate on Channel 4 David Cameron admitted that he could not work under a zero hours contract and it is clear that the Labour Party are keen to attack on this issue as they believe it exposes weaknesses in Conservative arguments about the strength of the current economic recovery.

At a campaign event in Yorkshire later today, Ed Miliband will say that a future Labour government would guarantee zero hours workers the right to a regular contract after 12 weeks. While further details are yet to be released, this is a key policy pledge by the Labour Party and one that has been welcomed by Trade Unions. Continue reading

Five myths about Europe that need busting before the British general election

EU flagAs we gear up for the 2015 general election, EU issues are bound to feature prominently. Sadly, much of what is being said is hogwash, particularly when it comes to EU membership itself.

The Conservative Party has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership if it wins in 2015. UKIP has of course been long known for its opposition to the status quo. The party’s representatives take every opportunity to talk up the nefarious influence eurocrats have on the lives of ordinary people – from dictating our human rights to undermining our democratic traditions.

And now Nigel Farage is seeking to push for a referendum before Christmas.

The problem is, when British voters are told the choice is a simple in/out decision, they are being lied to. There will be multiple options on the table if the UK votes to exit. And to understand the implications of these, it is important to understand what being in the EU means for the UK.

There are a number of myths circulating about what membership of the EU really means and what would happen if the UK were to leave. Before the UK heads to the polls, we need to bust them. Continue reading

What is the future for zero hours contracts?

contractIssues surrounding employment and the economy are set to feature heavily in the run up to this year’s General Election and so the Chancellor must be extremely pleased by the continuing fall in the number of people out of work. The UK’s unemployment rate now stands at 5.8% of the working population, its lowest level for more than 6 years and represents a remarkable turnaround for the UK economy.

Yet data released recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) about zero hours contracts shows that many of the jobs being created are low paid and offer little job security.

Zero hours contracts are highly controversial because of the fact that they offer no guarantee of work. Those working in this way often have no idea how many hours, if any, they will be working next week and the lack of a regular wage packet makes budgeting and managing bills extremely difficult. Those working in this way are also more likely to come from groups that traditionally perform poorly in the labour market. So more than half of them are women, roughly a third are aged 16–24 and 6% are over 65. Continue reading

Quality of employment, not quantity, is what matters

Job vacancyDavid Cameron has outlined his plans for the UK to become a nation of ‘full employment’. However, ‘full employment’ was also the aspiration, although never a formal target, of the previous Labour Government.

In a series of policy reviews in 2006 and 2007, including the Leitch Review of Skills, ‘full employment’ was defined as an 80% employment rate – which the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Peter Hain, described as achievable “within a generation.”  At the time, the UK employment was around 73% – it is now back up to this rate, according to the latest Labour Force Survey for October to December 2014. Continue reading