Both World Wars started in Europe, the battle lines for one of the longest wars of modern times, the cold war, spit our continent in half. War, destruction and suffering have been shown to find its roots easiest in our continent. Not only does it find fertile land here it also shows a great propensity to engulf the rest of our planet. Such has been the success of the EU in this arena that we now take our current security for granted. It is now unthinkable that former bitter enemies France and Germany could ever be engaged in conflict against one other. Constant dialogue, through a range of multi lateral institutions mean that disagreements are nipped in the bud early.
History would look back on us as fools if we believed that because we have had 60 years of peace in Western Europe, that had broken the trend to 2000 years of war. Peace is not humanities natural state. it must be tended, built and developed. We must be ever vigilant to threats to the stability that allows us to moan about Eurocrats and bloated administrations.
Look across at Eastern Europe! Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, The Baltic states. In 1989 they were another world. They had never in their history been fully democratic under a capitalist, free market government. Now look at them. Just of 20 years down the line they are truly democratic countries. They have fair judicial systems and are playing a proactive role in the world. We cannot overstate the uniqueness of this achievement. Or should I say our achievement. For that is what it is. It was the European Union that has facilitated this transformation. Through a combination of aid, technical assistance and the lure of membership the EU has played the key role in this change. And that is us. We are the EU. We are one of the three big countries. We have a tendency in Britain to act like we are separate, to act like the EUs failing are nothing to do with us, and to even distance ourselves from its successes. We are a team. Think of Treble winning Manchester United team. Are there achievements sullied or diminished by the fact that it was a team the won not one outstanding individual? NO!!! It was the combined skills of Giggs, Scholes, Keane, Beckham (not Neville) that allowed it to happen. We should be reveling in our achievements on the world stage. Letting the Iron curtain rust as we expand our values across our continent is something the EU did, something we did, and we should be proud of that.
The economic reasons for remaining within the European Union are so wide ranging that it is necessary for me to pass only a cursory glance but I hope that you will take the time to research it yourself.
Firstly, the Eu is our biggest trading partner. 30% of the UKs Gross Domestic Product is through exports. Of that 45% of our exports go to EU countries. This means that 14% of our GDP is through EU exports. Think of that. George Osbourne acts like is he is the fucking messiah because he almost gets us to 1% growth!! 14% of our entire economy is linked directly to EU exports.
So many jobs in our green and pleasant land are directly linked to the fact we are EU members. Do you really believe that the corporate decision makers in Nissan and Toyota have decided to locate in the UK because they are massive Beatles fans and like the cuisine? No they have located here so that they can ship goods to a huge market without tariffs. Make no mistake if we leave, this large scale investment will also go.
The free movement of labour is one of the key reasons we are out of recession. The ability to bring over skilled workers from other European countries allows UK business’s to bridge skills gaps. If a large business want to build a factory tomorrow it wont be held up because there aren’t enough plasterers around. They have a labour market of half a billion to call upon. This utilisation of resources allows us to grow and respond to changes in the market.
The European Social Fund provides funding directly to the most deprived parts of our country. In South Wales, an area severely hit but the closure of long established industry, schemes like Jobs Growth Wales have allowed for thousands of young people to find their way into work. That is just one example.
The biggest economic reason for remaining in the EU is China. China has a population of 1.35 Billion. Imagine the EU. Now imagine the USA. Now add both their populations together. Now double it. That’s still less than China. You really think that alone we could negotiate with the likes of China and India? Don’t be so naive. Alone we are economically irrelevant. There is only so long we can stand on the fact we were one of the first economies to industrialise. Only as part of the EU do we have a chance of a seat at the economic table for the future.
3- Power and global challenges.
When we think of traditional definitions of Power we think of military strength and economic might, we are in terminal decline. Military power basically comes down to money. We have less money to throw at our armed forces than many other countries therefore we can no longer exercise such military reach on a global scale. To exercise economic power over a country you need to be able to pump money into them. This also we can no longer sustain.
And why would we want to sustain it? Military and economic power are inefficient as they are only useful when they are in play. Military power is only effective when you are ready to, or actually deployed within another country. Economic power only hold sway while the money is flowing. When that stops, so does your influence.
However within the EU we can exercise a far great power. When The EU sets standards for products these standards are adopted throughout the world. If we say that computers, hairdryers or washing machines must have certain safety standards they invariably get adopted throughout the world. Such is the size of the European market that it makes economic sense for the standards and norms used there to be adopted by manufactures. even those who’s production is the other side of the world.
The lure of enlargement is another kind of power. I have already spoken to you about the effect it had on democratisation of Eastern Europe but the effect it has also had on Turkey is also stunning.
These powers are ongoing. values cost nothing. standards cost nothing. But it gives us a global reach that doesn’t require billions of pounds been pumped into it.
I have so far failed to mention one of the key players on the globals stage which is multi national corporations. The European parliament and the European Court of Justice have the clout to go after these companies and hold them to account in a way that the UK parliament never could. They couldn’t even hold a Australian news mogul to account.
The challenges that will effect us in the future like people trafficking, organised crime, terrorism and most importantly global warming are problems for the the planet. Only as a continent can we hope to have the power to face them.
4. It works.
Let make one thing perfectly clear! The EU works as an administrative body as well as any large organisation and better than most!!
The EU is fundamentally a good thing for normal people. Rights! Somehow this has become a dirty word when it was one of the single greatest developments that humanity has made. Workers rights have been championed by the EU. Working conditions for instance, under EU labour law part time workers have to have the same rights as full time workers such as been allowed to take public holidays. Also young workers, pregnant workers and mothers of young children have special protection. This is not a sign of weakness in our society but a sign of strength. Information and consultation of workers means that the company must keep workers informed on prospective changes in the company structure. On top of that if a company acquires another the workers in the acquired company must keep the same conditions as they had under the previous company.
Consumer rights are also championed and protected under EU law. Just recently aviation legislation is an area where the EU has recently built in safeguards to protect consumers who have been affected by late flights.
This brings me to Human Rights. So often spoken of as something terrible. Standing in the way of justice. How quickly we forget our history. As a nation we have fought for the right to vote, freedom of speech, equality, education. We will find no better partner in this never ending fight than the EU. The EU and the rights of humans (that’s us remember) are so intrinsically linked that they are indivisible. We must never underestimate how lucky we are that the our principal governing apparatus works tirelessly to defend human rights.
5. The Future
My final point is less of a point and more of a vision. That is because I am not really arguing for the status quo. Why would I? We are currently straddling EU membership. Like the guy who has come to a party because he has no other option and is determined not to enjoy it or get anything from it. If we continue to engage with the EU how we have been we will get far less out of it than we should.
Imagine if we, the UK, decided that we were going to “go for it” with EU membership. Imagine if we were going to engage with the EU. Become proactive members of the EU. We could dominate. Look at our unique selling points. Our language. We are the only member (except Malta who’s population is less 1% of ours) who have English as a first language. English is the international language of business!! It also gives our film, tv and music industry huge scope. We have international links through the commonwealth that other countries can only dream of. We have the BBC! Along side France we have the strongest military. We champion free market economics in a way that makes us a natural ally of the Scandinavian and Benelux countries. We have shown time and again throughout our history that we are unmatchable when it comes to operating in diversity. Eurosceptics bring up the British Empire as a time when we showed our merit on a global stage but what I propose is more challenging but all the more rewarding for it. It is easy to influence other countries when we were the only ones with access to guns. But now it will be the strength of our principles, values and convictions that will bring others to our point of view. not our armed forces. Imagine an EU with Britain as its beating heart. Embodying the rich tapestry of culture that crosses our continent.
A time is coming when history will count for nothing. We have a permanent seat and therefore a veto on the UN Security Council due to the fact we were on the winning side in the Second World War. When the UN is eventually reformed we will have a much diminished role. The time to act is now. To use our influence and unique selling points to put ourselves at the head of a potential economic and cultural juggernaut.
Eurosceptics argue it shows a lack of British pride to partner with Europe. Like somehow it will water down our national identity. To those people I say this. Do you really have so little faith in our national identity, in the British people and their values that you think that it would be swallowed by Europe. Look at Scotland, look at Wales. For hundreds of years they have been part of an English dominated United Kingdom. Can you really look me in the eye and tell that their national pride, identity and values have been watered down? Go and watch the 6 nations. Even Cornwall, which lets face it is not a separate country in any sense and has a dead language still agitates in some corners for independence.
Due to its past, Germany is hesitant to truly lead Europe. A self confident but accommodating UK could be the leader of an entire continent. Others will follow. not out of fear, not because of our military might. but because we have shown time and again that we have courage, principles and the ability to look to the future not the past.
If not, well here’s to being a small, insignificant rock on the edge of the Atlantic.