Monday, 30 May 2016

EU Referendum - why I believe we should vote to remain in the EU

The most important vote I will ever make (except maybe, the vote I made at a Church Meeting once about whether to adopt a new hymnbook in 1999) will be the vote in the EU Referendum on 23rd June.  This vote will have wider consequences than any vote I have ever cast in any General Election, important though those votes are. 

As the referendum campaign rages on, become ever more and more embittered, especially within the Conservative Party, I offer a few reasons why I believe a vote to remain is the best thing for the United Kingdom.

1.       A vote to remain means remaining in the largest single market on earth.  We have free access to this market now.  If we leave, we will have to negotiate access to that market on terms the EU imposes.  Undoubtedly, this will probably mean keeping most of the conditions we currently have, but without being in a position to have a say in the matter.
2.       The EU is largely responsible for 70 years of peace in continental Europe.  Just over 70 years ago, Europe had been torn apart by World War Two.  A generation before that, it was World War One.  A generation before that, Germany, France, and Austria were at war with one another in the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars.  A generation before that and Britain, France, Germany, and Spain were warring together in the French Revolutionary Wars.  A generation before that, and Austria, Germany, Russia, France and England were at war in the War of the Austrian Succession.  A generation before that, and Austria, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, France, Holland and Spain were at war in the War of the Spanish Succession.  I think you get the picture.  In fact, to find 70 years of peace in continental Europe we need to go back to the second century in the Roman Empire.
3.       Co-operation with other powers in Europe is the best way to preserve European peace.  Most European wars have been caused by nationalist strife.  Working together suppresses the harmful form of nationalism, while still allowing national pride and distinctiveness to come through.  Churchill himself advocated greater co-operation in Europe as the price for peace.
4.       Leaving the EU could in fact de-stabilise it, and might make other nations consider leaving, leading to factions and, perhaps, a division between the first members of the EU and later members.  It is not inconceivable that this could lead to war.
5.       Vladimir Putin wants the UK to leave the EU.  Why is this, do you think?  Does he believe it is the best thing for the UK?  No – it seems clear he wants to extend Russia and is bearing down on the former Soviet republics, and opposes Ukraine joining the EU.  An EU that is unstable and liable to fracture suits his purposes well.
6.       Britain is not an isolationist country.  Closing ourselves off from other nations will do us no good at all.  Britain has links with Europe, and, through the Commonwealth, much of the world with more influence than one would expect for a nation her size.  To withdraw into an introspective mono-cultural stance would harm Britain, and rob the world of our influence.
7.       Donald Trump wants Britain to leave the EU.  Why is this, do you think?  Does he believe it is the best thing for the UK?  Or does this xenophobic laissez-faire character believe that Britain is best controlled by big business, with fewer regulations.
8.       Boris Johnson wants Britain to leave the EU.  When he became Mayor of London he wanted Britain to remain in the EU.  Heading the EU Leave campaign is a career choice.
9.       Iain Duncan Smith wants Britain to leave the EU.  There is nothing new about this.  Have we seen any evidence from his miserable career that he can be trusted to put the well-being of normal citizens first?
10.   Every world leader who has expressed an opinion, has, with the exception of Putin (see above) and Robert Mugabe (himself no friend of free people) said that they believe Britain is better off in the EU.  Barak Obama put it quite strongly, which, coming from such a powerful man, and one of our closest allies, ought not be ignored.
11.   If we leave the EU, we will not only need to negotiate trading rights with the EU, but with other nations too.  And that will take time.  They will be less interested in trading with a separate nation from the EU and we will have less trading influence.
12.   The EU is best placed to deal with environmental issues.  The EU, as a collection of 28 states, has great influence in passing environmental regulations, rather than nations individually passing their own, perhaps conflicting laws. 
13.   Leaving the EU will not stop bureaucratic laws being passed.  The media has long blamed the EU for every unpopular and bureaucratic law.  Here is news – every nation has unpopular and bureaucratic laws.  The USA, the most bureaucratic nation on earth, is not part of the EU.
14.   Leaving the EU will not mean that all the laws passed while in the EU are cancelled.  Laws are rarely abolished, and, if any are, they will be replaced with new laws and regulations.
15.   The EU has championed workers’ rights, often in conflict with UK governments.  We can thank EU regulations for the minimum wage, maternity and paternity entitlements, sick pay entitlements, holiday entitlements.  The Conservatives who want to take us out of the EU all opposed these measures.
16.   Leaving the EU will cost us more in bureaucracy.   Much has been made by the Brexit campaign of the supposed £350 million a week we pay to the EU.  The National Statistics Authority has repeatedly said this is misleading, and it is, but it is, nonetheless, that we are net contributors to the EU.  If we leave the EU, the negotiation of new trading agreements, perhaps with tariffs, the negotiation of immigration and emigration processes with nations of the EU, the possible return of up to two million Brits living in the EU, will all cost us more. 
17.   The EU has brought down mobile telephone roaming prices, and obliged manufacturers to produce standard telephone chargers.
18.   The EU permits travel throughout Europe, often without border controls. 
19.   If we leave the EU, access to the UK for EU citizens will almost certainly be a condition of a trade agreement, as it is for other countries accessing the EU market.  EU immigration is unlikely to fall much as a result of leaving the EU.
20.   The immigration that seems to cause the most angst among the anti-immigration squad is actually that from outside the EU, mainly from the Middle East and areas where the UK has either participated in military action, or provides arms.  This immigration will be little effected if we leave the EU.  And these immigrants, who have very little, and whose homes are being destroyed, are the ones we need to take!
21.   Immigration has enriched the cultural life of the UK and not undermined it.   There can be no return to a mono-cultural Anglo-Saxon society (that never really existed) so beloved of the xenophobes.
22.   Two million UK citizens live in the EU.  They also enjoy free access to do so.  If, in the very worst case scenario, they return to the UK, they certainly out-number EU immigrants in the UK.
23.   If we leave the EU, we will remain part of the Council of Europe, and subject to the European Court of Human Rights.  That will not change.  Which is a Good Thing.
24.   Being in the EU is good for science and research.  Many of our top scientists and universities receive EU funding.  EU collaboration has led to important scientific advances.  The scientific community overwhelmingly supports remaining in the EU.
25.   In contrast, the Christian Right want the UK to leave the EU.  Often confused by the belief that the EU is the Ten Horned Beast of Revelaton, and always tainted by the xeonophobic dominionism of the fundamentalists, many Christian organisations are urging hapless believers to vote for an exit.  Not only is this a betrayal of basic biblical teaching, but it perpetuates fundamentalist desire for power to be held in the hands of a few white men.
26.   Being in the EU is good for national security.  We can share intelligence much more easily and work more closely with other nations.
27.   Being in the EU is good for business, and most large business, and about half of small businesses think so.
28.   The financial institutions such as the Bank of England also believe the UK is better off in the EU.
29.   Being in the EU is better for the NHS, and allows the NHS to employ EU workers.  Without these, the NHS would grind to a halt.
30.   This is not the time to have a referendum on the EU, and not a good time to leave the EU.  No major changes to EU policy or constitution have been made.  This referendum was promised by David Cameron in 2013, when he was running scared of a seemingly insurgent UKIP.  He did not think, for one minute, that he would defy expectations and win the 2015 election, obliging him to hold the referendum.  The deadline for the referendum is an artificial one from the Conservative Manifesto.  It would have been much better to have set a more advanced date, held negotiations with the EU, and then gone to the polls on manifesto promises on that basis.
31.   If you consider that David Cameron did not achieve much when he made negotiations for this referendum, with EU leaders who want the UK to remain, consider how much a UK Prime Minister will achieve when he has to parley with leaders for the Brexit agreement, when they are piqued at our departure, and have no interest in providing us with advantage.
32.   David Cameron must almost certainly leave Downing Street whatever the outcome of the Referendum.  Do not use the referendum to vote him out, or as a protest vote against the establishment.  He has made the mistake of saying he will not fight the 2020 election and is a lame duck who has stirred up the nasty elements in his party to a civil war.
33.   Leaving the EU will cause difficulties in the UK.  If Scotland (or, indeed, any of the other nations of the family) vote to remain, but the UK as a whole (by which we mean England) votes leave, then Scotland must surely be entitled to another independence referendum.
34.   The EU is culturally progressive, politically liberal, and has a great world influence.  These are all things we should be part of.
35.   Katie Hopkins.

These are not all my reasons and arguments, and they are not equal in importance.  For me, 1, 2, 12, 24, 26, and 34 are the most important.  Wanting does not mean I believe the EU to be perfect.  Wanting to remain does not mean I am always happy with the loss of sovereignty over some issues.  But it does mean that believe that, as a European nation, our best interests, and those of all our citizens, of the continent, and of the global community as a whole,  are best served by remaining.

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