You’re sick to death of hearing about the god damn EU referendum.
I get it. But, it’s like a super important once in a lifetime – maybe once ever – thing, so please just suck it up and stick with me.
When this all started a few months ago, I was unsure but leaning towards In. I was unsure because the EU is centralised power (which I don’t like) and I highly disproved of the way it dealt with the Greek crisis – but I liked the way it kept a check on crazy Tory zeal. I was leaning towards In, mainly for the emotional reason that I like European culture and my grandfathers were Bulgarian and Italian. But I wasn’t too sure.
As the debate wore on and I did more and more research, I became more and more sure that In was the right choice for me. I still wasn’t too passionate though, as I felt we would definitely vote to stay In anyway. Recently I’ve become very passionate about the case for Remain and become very worried that we may in fact opt for Brexit. I’ve also been quite surprised to see that so many people that I know are still undecided – less than a week before the big day. I really feel I should be out on the streets campaigning like I did before the 2015 general election, but I’m working 3/4 jobs and I’ve left it rather late to realise how much I care.
So instead, here’s my top 6 reason’s for staying In, in blog form.
- 1. Environment
I put this one first because I think it’s had far too little coverage in the debate. Working together with other nations is the only way to tackle environmental issues, which are by their nature cross-boundary. Nature doesn’t recognise national borders. Half our air pollution comes from the continent. Recently I attended a great debate organised by Friends of the Earth on the EU from an environmental perspective, and a sharp audience member commented that whether we leave or stay, we still have a ‘common market in air pollution’. Climate change legislation is much more ambitious than it would be otherwise because the EU as a block can influence other parts of the world. At the Friends of the Earth event, Debbie Tann of the Hertfordshire Wildlife Trust spoke about how as a practitioner, EU environment directives are so much stronger than domestic laws. They take the precautionary principle and the combination effect into account, and more importantly they take a long term view. Environment ministers change every couple of years, and each one tears up their predecessor’s work and starts afresh to make their mark. It’s incredibly hard to get anything done when the policy framework is that disjointed. Finally, EU laws have secured environmental outcomes that our own governments (of both major parties) have historically dragged their feet on – for example cleaning up our beaches.
- 2. Peace
Let’s not forget why the EU was created. It wasn’t to control people with ”red tape”, or to make life easier for backpacking youngsters, or even to improve business. It was set up after the horror of WW2 to make sure we never had a war in the region again. And we haven’t. (Well, except Ukraine – but we haven’t had two EU nations at war with each other). It’s the most successful peace project in history. Before WW2, the European countries had been tearing each other apart constantly for centuries. Of course, I’m not suggesting that if we go for Brexit we would have a conflict with one of the other nations. I really can’t see that happening any time in the foreseeable future. But in these uncertain times, why would we even provide the possibility? More worryingly, if we leave, it could encourage the euro-sceptic movements in other nations and down the line other countries could possibly split off – especially if somehow in the case of Brexit we get a favourable trade deal. In such a future, it’s possible to imagine the whole thing disintegrating – and then who know’s what? Let’s not take for granted that we use politics and trade to communicate with our neighbours instead of bullets and bombs. The modern condition has not yet moved beyond violence, but in the EU we have.
- 3. Workers’ Rights
The EU guarantees us certain unalienable rights that cannot be revoked, no matter how right-wing or authoritarian a government our fellow citizens decide to vote in to Westminster. Some say that’s ‘undemocratic’ – I say it’s a crucial protection against our own ruling class. I would like to think that our own government will always keep things like gender-equality laws. Even the Tories are pro women’s rights. But worker’s rights are not safe in their hands. They are always on the employers’ side, and hard-won rights our own social movements campaigned for over the 20th century are ”red tape” to them. Things like paid holiday, family leave, no unfair dismissal and employment rights for part-time and temp workers could all potentially be scrapped. They would likely be reinstated as key election promises by Labour governments, and then scrapped again by Conservatives and so on. No thanks. Plus, the reason the Tory government is so keen to throw out the EU Bill of Human Rights is because several of their policies had to be scrapped because it rendered them illegal – such as ”workfare” – forcing people to work 40+ hours per week for their unemployment benefit of £70.
- 4. Economy
I’m not going to say much on the economy because it’s been rather done to death in my opinion. The Remain camp has all the ammunition on this point, and the Brexiteers know it, which is why they gave up talking about it and retreated to their obsession with immigration. The economy is obviously a hugely important argument for staying In though. 500 million people in a single market with no tariffs on selling our goods and services, blah blah blah. International companies choosing to do business here in large part because we are part of the EU, etc. The pound has already toppled in value and something like £30 billion has disappeared from our stock market in the last few days, just because of the uncertainty. All the economic big boys like the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, the Bank of England, the CBI and etc are all saying we are better off in the EU and leaving would cause a recession. The Brexit camp do actually make a valid point in that these organisations didn’t warn us about the 2008 global crash so we can’t necessarily trust them. However, the fact that they can’t name one single internationally respected organisation that says Brexit will be good or even ‘okay’ for our economy is very telling. Just because you shouldn’t take these ”experts” as gospel doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely.
- 5. Opportunities
Less important but still quite compelling – we all have a fantastic opportunity to easily travel around and move to another of the 27 EU countries and work or study there without pissing around with visas. As most of Europe recognises the public value of education, we even get the chance of a free university education in many countries. Not bad!
- 6. It’s a Scapegoat
My last reason is not exactly a reason to stay but more a lack of any convincing reason to leave. I don’t feel the EU has any negative effect on my personal life, and in terms of national issues (of which we have many) I really think they are caused by two things: a) our own government and their unjust and uneconomic austerity agenda, and b) global challenges like climate change, corporate tax avoidance, the refugee crisis and terrorism – all things that need to be tackled in collaboration and which would still be problems if we left the EU.
I recently read a fantastic Facebook post by a friend of a friend of a friend (!) who makes a crucial point about this referendum: the astonishingly broad nature of the In camp. When else – EVER – have we had an issue that the IMF, Greenpeace, the Church of England, the trade unions, NATO, the CEO of Asda, David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and Natalie Bennett – has agreed on? The theory of gravity – right? Or perhaps that slavery is wrong? I’m just going to quote part of that post which lists a ridiculous array of diverse voices from every side of the political spectrum – barring only UKIP – which think we’re better off in the EU.
• Governor of the Bank of England
• International Monetary Fund
• Institute for Fiscal Studies
• Confederation of British Industry
• Leaders/heads of state of every single other member of the EU
• President of the United States of America
• Eight former US Treasury Secretaries
• President of China
• Prime Minister of India
• Prime Minister of Canada
• Prime Minister of Australia
• Prime Minister of Japan
• Prime Minister of New Zealand
• The chief executives of most of the top 100 companies in the UK including Marks and Spencer, BT, Asda, Vodafone, Virgin, IBM, BMW etc.
• Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations
• All living former Prime Ministers of the UK (from both parties)
• Virtually all reputable and recognised economists
• The Prime Minister of the UK
• The leader of the Labour Party
• The Leader of the Liberal Democrats
• The Leader of the Green Party
• The Leader of the Scottish National Party
• The leader of Plaid Cymru
• Leader of Sinn Fein
• Martin Lewis, that money saving dude off the telly
• The Secretary General of the TUC
• National Union of Students
• National Union of Farmers
• Stephen Hawking
• Chief Executive of the NHS
• 300 of the most prominent international historians
• Director of Europol
• David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation
• Former Directors of GCHQ
• Secretary General of Nato
• Church of England
• Church in Scotland
• Church in Wales
• Friends of the Earth
• Director General of the World Trade Organisation
• World Bank
I didn’t make this one of my 6 points because I think it’s better to go to source and use the arguments these well-known people and organisations will be basing their views on rather than just following their lead blindly. But it is very interesting – because they have different motives and interests yet on this point they agree. Like I said I’ve never seen political consensus of this scale from so many diverse voices. (Also more to the point I only came across the post after I published this. Shh!).
So there you go. I have much more to say – particularly on how unconvincing I find the main reasons for leaving – but I’m tired and I need to go to bed. This whole thing is exhausting.
But feel free to leave me a comment on your view!