A Wandering Memory was originally conceived as a travel blogging site, priding ourselves on sharing and inspiring our readers to go out experience the world as we have. We believe in community and that an experience/memory is worth its weight in gold.
This blog will be the first where we branch out and touch on the political climate currently dominating the UK.
As many of you may be aware Britain is shortly undertaking a public referendum on its continued membership of the EU (on the 23rd of June). As with most political subjects this is a very contentious debate, with both the ‘Stay’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns dominating the national media daily. In all honesty the whole situation fills us with dread as the majority of arguments do not appear to be based on facts but conjecture (what might happen not what will).
I don’t want to share our detailed views on the economy, trade deals or migration but instead try to keep true to A Wandering Memory’s core subject matter Travel.
Currently UK citizens can travel freely (no visa required) throughout the EU, to everyone of its 28 member states. Twelve of these countries we have recently had the pleasure of visiting, including Germany, Sweden, Italy, Croatia, Greece & Malta. As a European collective Uk citizens are also eligible for reduced cost (or in some cases free) emergency medical care, if needed whilst travelling in a member state. Both of these benefits could easily be removed if the UK were to leave the EU. It would be left to the discretion of the EU as to the process that the UK would be forced to adopt, if they were to leave. This could include Visa Waivers with the requirement of extensive medical insurance in order to travel. On the other hand the EU could be gracious and still allow the UK the same rights they have today – again nobody seems to know for sure. Our concern would be that although allies, the UK has a very colourful past with the European powers of Germany, France and Spain, and that may come back to haunt us.
The UK is also home to the third busiest/fourth largest airport in the world, London Heathrow that connects 180 locations over 90 countries. Along with a number of other airports in the UK you can fly to nearly every country in Europe. These flights are often serviced by British low cost airlines, including Easyjet, FlyBE and Jet2 (not to mention charter flights of Thompson & Thomas Cook), who are only able to keep prices low due to the EU’s ‘open skies’ policy. ‘Open Skies’ was set up in 1994 and essentially encourages free movement between EU countries with no additional taxes. Since this policy has been in effect, travel between member states has dropped by nearly half. A leave vote would undoubtedly increase the price of European travel, be it imposed regulations by the countries involved on citizens or the airlines/travel agents. We have heard the Prime Minister citing a predicted increase of £52.50 per person. Again we understand this is a prediction based against Treasury findings but nonetheless it seems like a risk, that could affect the booming British travel industry. Again this is just conjecture, as the EU could potentially still allow Britain access to open skies, but what if it doesn’t? The fact is it is a risk.
The UK tourist industry also has a part to play in this debate, making up an estimated one-eleventh of the GDP and contributing in excess of three million jobs. Interestingly many of these jobs are filled by EU workers. Where would the change leave them? and also where would it leave the 1.5 million Brits currently working abroad – no one seems to know.
When researching the subject we found a recent survey conducted by travel company Travelzoo, that showed that significant percentages of Italian, Spanish, Germans and French holidaymakers would be less inclined to travel to the UK if it leaves the EU. This is hugely impactful when you think that 63% of the UK’s inbound holidaymakers are from the EU. Even more disturbing is that it would also impact American and Canadian tourism. More ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybe’s’ in this argument also…
Although we mentioned we wanted to avoid economic arguments, unfortunately it is impossible as the impact on exchange rates really rests in this sector. Having a strong local currency (the pound) has always been a symbol of pride for Britain’s when travelling abroad. The impact of the referendum has already influenced the exchange rates, seeing the pound fall due to uncertainty. Just recently as a national newspaper put the leave campaign 10 points ahead, which saw the pound plummet 1.5%. The impact of a potentially weaker currency would have bigger consequences on the country than this article will refer to, however in the terms of travel it essentially makes it more expensive. The UK currently is the fifth largest economy in the world, but still behind Germany and only just ahead of France. Interestingly the combined weight of the EU comes just shy of the USA who sit in 1st.These are cold hard facts, however the leave campaign accepts that the currency may decline in value in the short time but may bounce back stronger than before. Interestingly we didn’t consider the impact on the Euro, with Britain’s potential exit potentially having a bigger negative effect on the currency of nineteen European nations.
As previously noted, we are big advocates of community and the EU is exactly that – a community of nations striving for the best. This doesn’t always happen, and of course there are elements of compromise, as there is with any relationships. We are however starting to witness the increase of Nationalism throughout the leave campaign with comments such as:
‘We are a great country’, ‘We were great once – we can be again’ ‘we can do it alone’ ‘ we are better off alone’
We love living in the UK and are very proud to be British, but as travellers we also respect all cultures throughout the world. The UK is no better than everyone else and in such a turbulent climate the question of does becoming increasingly Nationalistic only serve to alienate our European and Worldwide allies?
We realise that travel is not something that will necessarily be an influencer for many in the UK right now, with the economy, migrant workers, employment, the NHS, welfare and the threat of terrorism leading the fray. We will research all of these subjects extensively before making a decision on our votes, however initial findings follow the same course as our discussions here. It is all conjecture – the economy may be affected, unemployment may rise, we may have more money than previous (but at what cost?).
Many of the subjects relating to Travel leans towards the stay vote, as leaving the EU comes with a definite risk. The leave campaign does include some interesting arguments including, not sending millions weekly aboard and having greater control of trade and laws. We also agree that the migration crisis plaguing Europe is of particular worry, however the UKs immigration policy seems to require a full overhaul as problems are not just via the EU, but a number of worldwide countries.
In all honesty we feel very lucky living in the UK. We lead comfortable working lives, we have jobs, we have education, we have never had issues with our healthcare, we get to travel, we have access to the modern conveniences and we are relatively safe.
With thousands of these articles currently dominating the internet, both the leave and stay campaigns have key arguments that need to be explored by everyone voting. Obviously we haven’t been able to review every aspect of the debate, just some of the key elements regarding potential effect on Travel. The more we research the more conjecture we seem to find, which just adds to the confusion. With that in mind we know the EU is not perfect, as no community is, however we believe that having a voice in a collective is better than having no control at all. The UK currently has the fifth largest economy in the world, we can’t help questioning why we should put that at risk?
As always we are more than happy to hear from you, if you agree with the points raised or not. We just hope you have found the piece on the subject interesting and in the end we hope the UK makes the right choice.