Silver linings: the EU referendum and money

Stacked up: The pound is currently worth slightly more than the euro.

Our series about teenagers’ concerns and the EU referendum continues. Today: both sides say they will make Britons wealthier. Amid dire warnings and uncertainty, who is more convincing?

Leaving the EU would make each household £4,300 worse off and destroy the value of both the pound in your pocket and the house you live in. On the other hand, it would save billions of pounds each year, create exciting new trading opportunities and make it easier for you to buy your first home.

This is according to the rival camps in the UK’s referendum debate.

The prospect of a Leave vote has brought eye-opening economic warnings. Mark Carney, the governor of the politically neutral Bank of England, has called it ‘the biggest domestic risk to financial stability’.

Some have suggested the pound could fall by up to a third in value by the end of the year. Leavers dispute the figures, but some economists say that even having the referendum has already hit the pound.

A weaker pound would mean British people paying more to buy foreign currencies. Travelling and buying goods from abroad would become more expensive – but selling goods to overseas buyers would be more profitable.

Some have also predicted sharp falls in house prices after a Leave vote, as buyers would lose confidence and demand would fall. Remainers also say the cost of mortgages will rise; Britons will pay more to live in houses as they lose value.

Falling house prices would threaten homeowners’ security and planning for old age. But young people, who face low home ownership rates and high rents, could have more chance to own their own home.

Several Leave campaigners have accepted the risk of an initial shock. John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, has said: ‘Obviously, there may be some costs’. But they argue Britain would save the money it pays in EU membership fees and that a Remain vote carries its own risks.

They add that, in the long term, freedom from EU rules, and new trading relationships will make you richer and give the government more to spend on services such as health and education. Remainers say leaving would put trade with Europe at risk and deter investment from further afield, making you and the government poorer.

Cash in or cash out

Remain campaigners say leaving is too risky. Investors would panic and pull money out of the UK. People would become fearful and stop hiring and spending money – making everyone worse off. No wonder 88% of economists recently told one newspaper leaving would have a negative impact within the next five years.

Leaving means taking charge of Britain’s destiny, reply leavers. The cosy economic consensus has been wrong before – for example, when so-called experts told Britain to join the euro. The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy; its next generation should be trusted to make the decisions that will make them better off in the long run.

You Decide

  1. Will you be better off if Britain votes to remain in the EU or leave it?
  2. How much do financial concerns influence your view on voting to remain or leave?

Activities

  1. Draw a cartoon strip summing up the arguments being made in this article.
  2. Interview someone from a different generation to you about how they intend to vote in the EU referendum and why. Then report back to the class. How do your opinions differ from those of your elders?

Some People Say...

“When money is involved, choosing security is always better than taking a risk.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I live elsewhere in the EU — not in the UK. How does this decision affect me?
Britain’s departure from the EU would mean its trading relationship with other European countries being re-negotiated. If you live elsewhere in the EU, this will affect you: for example, German car manufacturers sold €18bn worth of goods to Britain in 2014 and want to keep making money. Some of your compatriots may also want to follow Britain’s example.
I do not live in an EU country. Does this matter to me?
The UK’s decision will have a knock-on impact on trading relationships around the world. International businesses will have to adapt to the reduction of the EU if Britain leaves; major companies, who you may work for in years to come, may change their investment decisions in response to the referendum result.

Word Watch

£4,300
According to analysis by the Treasury (presented by George Osborne, the chancellor, who is campaigning for a Remain vote).
Neutral
Carney added that there were risks with a Remain vote too, most significantly around ‘the unfinished business of European monetary union’.
Third
The ratings agency Fitch says the value of sterling will drop by nearly a third against other currencies by the end of 2016 if Britain votes to leave. A think tank, the National Institute of Social and Economic Research, says the pound would slump by 20%.
Currencies
A currency’s value is dictated by the amount investors are willing to pay for it on international markets, and reflects their confidence in a nation’s economy. Even if you do not buy things abroad yourself, others will do so and the way they spend their money has an impact on you – for example, by creating jobs and encouraging people to spend.
Home
Home ownership rates among 20-30 year-olds fell from 62.7% in 1999 to 44.9% in 2015. Economists expect house prices to increase by around 6% in 2016, suggesting the pattern is likely to continue.

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