Archive for June, 2016

“Stronger in”: how many reasons do you need?

June 19, 2016

I have spent a few days now campaigning for Britain to remain in Europe, on the street and on doorsteps. Like nearly everyone, I have also heard the arguments rehearsed pretty much ad infinitem in the mainstream media and in some online backwaters too. I have listened to a lot of reasons – and here are a few of my own.

I voted in 1975 to remain in the EEC. At that point we had already seen a post-war economic miracle in mainland Europe, with wholesale rebuilding of infrastructure. This had brought Germany, France and Italy into positions of relative prosperity very swiftly. Meanwhile Britain was struggling with a three-day week, and what seemed like perpetual swings between hyper-inflation and stagnation. Since that time for the most part inflation has been low, and growth steady across this period. Coincidental? I doubt it.

It’s a pity we have not been able to share this bounty more equitably, but the EU has helped us to put funds where they are most needed, re-building deprived inner city areas in our industrial heartlands, and supporting our rural communities too. Looking back at the various UK governments of the last several decades, would you bet on them producing a fairer society than we have now, had they not been supported by the EU? Personally, I would not.

The ‘brexiteers’ are fond of reminding us that the EU is undemocratic. Yet we are represented directly in the European parliament, which passes the laws, and indirectly in the Commission, which drafts these laws. This isn’t worse than Westminster, where the government of the day is typically supported by fewer than 35% of the electorate, and where the civil service does most of the law-drafting. Let’s work on some better democratic systems by all means – and proportional representation would be a start – but can we please do that from within the EU rather than trying to cobble together something at speed after a ‘brexit’, against the background of a downward-spiralling economy? (That last point is contended, but most serious observers see it that way).

All of these things are important, but they pale into insignificance relative to the key reason for remaining in the EU.  These are to do with peace, justice and humanity. For over 40 years now we have worked closely with our neighbours to resolve conflict and poverty. We have raised standards for services to people with disabilities. We have developed regulatory powers to protect rare species and habitats. We are working together on climate change. We have supported minority languages, bringing the Welsh language to a point where its speakers could not have hoped to arrive back in the 1970s. To achieve these things, we have allowed free movement of labour, and this hasn’t been so terrible, has it? We have a stronger economy and a more diverse society as a result. Personally, I value that.

Significantly, it’s not just the economists that are warning us to say in. It’s also the unions in the public services, including health and social care, science, and education. These are people who have served the public for years, often against a background of severe cuts in funding. I choose to hear their collective voice.

Please vote with me to remain in the EU on June 23rd! Whether or not you intend to that, any polite and honest comments on my thoughts would be welcome.

#eureferendum #strongerin #EUref #VoteRemain