Tomorrow, millions of people across the United Kingdom will visit the ballot box, only a year after the General Election, to cast their vote as to whether the UK should remain a member of the EU, or leave. Politicians, commentators and experts have said that this is the biggest political decision for a generation, and they’re right. But for something that has been deemed to be so important, the campaigns for both remain and leave have been woeful. They have been negative, hateful and often dishonest. The remain camp have been guilty of using “project risk” at every step of their campaign and hoping people’s fear of change will win them the outcome they want. The leave camp have been guilty of using “project fear”; fear of a shortage of jobs, school places and longer GP waiting times because of immigration.
What I have yet to hear, especially from the remain side, is the overwhelmingly positive case for continued membership of the European Union. So here let me present what I feel to be, a positive argument for why you should vote REMAIN tomorrow. For this to work, I think we should pretend that this referendum is not about whether we should leave or stay, but whether we should join.
The European Union is the single largest trading block in the world and has a client market of over 500 million people; the free market allows countries within the EU to trade with each other and that 500 million client base without expensive tariffs being imposed on imports and exports. Think about it: if we sign up to that, businesses will save money through the absence of trade tariffs and will ultimately lead to higher profits! Not to mention that businesses will be more attractive to investors because of the UK’s membership of the EU and because of its membership of the common market.
With the free market also comes the free movement of people. This gives employers a much larger pool of people from which to choose when staffing their businesses, schools and hospitals. Many of these migrants would have to go through a lengthy process to be granted permission to live and work here, ultimately making it more difficult for people to hire the staff they need. Not only can people come to work, they can also come and study in our world renowned universities. We know that universities have struggled for funding recently, hence the coalition government’s controversial decision to increase tuition fees six years ago. With access to more students, universities will receive more payments from tuition fees and will ultimately keep smaller institutions from closing.
The free movement of people doesn’t just apply to EU citizens moving to the UK, but it also applies to British citizens. By signing up to the free market and the free movement of people, we will have the opportunity to live, work, travel and study in 27 other countries without the need for lengthy immigration processes and without the need for an expensive visa. Think about the opportunities this opens up for you, your friends and your families.
The EU is a successful collaboration of countries that at several points throughout history, have been in conflict with each other. The EU has been a successful peace project and through the cooperation of its members, has established common rights pertaining to workers and indeed humanity as a whole. Our government has established rights protecting workers and parental leave and introduced legislation in the 1960s to bridge the gap between men and women’s pay. Whilst it was not the European Union that introduced these rights, whilst ever we are a member they will be protected under European law, meaning that should a government wish to change/abolish established rights, they would be blocked from doing so. What a great thing! To have our human rights and our workers’ rights guaranteed absolutely and more than that, to share the same rights which ensure the same standard of living for 500 million people is a step in the right direction for a truly integrated, liberal world. If ever you were to work, live or study in another EU country, you would be protected by the same rights as you are granted here in the UK.
Fighting international crime is also made a lot easier by being a member of the European Union. Being a member gives us access to the European Arrest Warrant, meaning we would no longer have to follow lengthy extradition procedures when bringing criminals to justice who have fled to other EU countries. Being a member of the EU also makes sharing information a lot easier so international crime and terrorism can be fought more effectively. Yes we can do it without being a member, but surely taking the opportunity to make the process quicker and easier is something to be taken?
Like with most clubs there is a membership fee, but think about what we get in return! We have the opportunity to elect Members of the European Parliament every five years who represent the UK and its interests in Brussels, meaning we can be part of the discussion when new EU laws or regulations are being drafted. Also, our government has an input in the appointment of the European Commissioners: those who have the most legislative power in the EU.
Our country can survive without the EU, but think of all the benefits membership brings. It is better for the UK to be a member in order to take advantage of the free market, free movement of people, protected workers’ and human rights, international cooperation in fighting crime, terrorism and climate change, than to go it alone.
Tomorrow we have the chance to make a decision that will affect our country’s future forever. The things I’ve listed above? We already have access to every single one of those without the drawbacks of being part of the Euro single currency or Schengen. Is the EU perfect? No, of course it’s not. But I believe the benefits of membership far outweigh the benefits of withdrawing from the EU. Tomorrow, be proud of a Britain that can lead in Europe, that can affect change and reform in Europe. Be proud of being a member of a group of countries that share cultures and that allows people to move freely between states in order make a better life for themselves. Be proud to be British; be proud to be European.
Be part of something great; be part of the European Union.