Before you go to the polls on Thursday, ask yourself: What country do I want to be part of in the world?
A scared, isolationist and nationalist Britain, or a bold, internationalist, social Britain?
The European Union was founded as an international project for peace and common prosperity achieved through a single market and freedom of movement. It was a brave but broadly successful project, with this year marking the 70th anniversary of our peace in Europe. I am proud to be part of a organisation which is founded on peace-building and social principles, that pursues progressive policies through consensus, avoids cheap party-political strategies and aims to benefit the citizen of every single member state.
Like any major international organisation, it has its faults. To many of my left wing comrades, it’s faults seem deep and structural. With the Commission promoting neo-liberal legislation, undermining the socialist governments of member states, and consistently prioritising capital growth over social welfare, there seems little to celebrate. I don’t dispute that the EU’s strategy clashes a lot with my ideology, but being part of an international organisation will always have a call for compromise. The benefits it brings to our country are far too great to abandon, and with recent EU laws cracking down on banks and tax avoidance, there is also a case for optimism.
Britain is far better off tackling issues like financial security and tax avoidance on an international level – as united with 27 other countries we have a much stronger force and strategic advantage. Not only these, as issues like human rights and the environment also beg for international co-operation. Environmental pollution and climate change pay no respects to national borders, and the actions of our neighbours will inevitably affect us. The UK has had a long standing appalling record of caring for the environment, and it was EU directives which brought us out of the label “dirty man of Europe”. Additionally, with our own government’s increasing crack down on rights such as the Trade Union Bill diminishing our rights to protest, and the unnecessary (and inherently racist) level of state surveillance in initiatives like Prevent, we should be able to look to real protections from international bodies in the case that our government fails.
Being part of the EU is also crucial for our economy, as access to the single market allows British businesses to sell freely to a consumer market of half a billion people, which is why 81% of small businesses and the Federation of Small Businesses back Remain. Spending £190bn a week for this advantage makes complete fiscal sense for Britain. No, we may not plunge into a deep recession immediately after leaving the EU, but the uncertain affect on British businesses is already driving investment away and has cost us £100bn in just 4 days. The overwhelming evidence from leading academic economists and international finance and trade organisations such as the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, say that a Brexit would have an overall negative impact on our economy. This means real jobs and real lives will take the brunt of this decision – and ironically with little “control”.
The search for sovereignty in this debate has been ultimately fallacious. In an increasingly globalised and integrated planet, the idea of sovereignty is becoming a vague and irrelevant concept. The UK has signed hundreds of international treaties that diminish its “sovereignty” in some way, in order to achieve a beneficial goal on an international scale. The argument shouldn’t be about achieving sovereignty – but about achieving the best for our country. The UK plays a major and active role in the decision making within the EU, as due to the proportional representation election system and having the third biggest population, we have a disproportional influence in EU Parliament compared to other member states. Decision making in the EU is also in the vast majority of cases done by consensus, and Britain is on the winning side of 97% of EU legislation – so it seems misinformed to believe that the Britain is the one being controlled by the EU. Besides, with half of our exports being sold to the EU, we would have no control on the regulations that would affect those exports in the event of a Brexit, which plays against our sovereignty.
Furthermore, the EU has a structure even more democratic than our own – with all of Parliament being elected and being able to propose laws to the Commision (who are appointed by your elected representatives), and the European Council being made up of the leaders of each member state. Of course, the mandates of British MEPs are shockingly low – with voter turnouts for European elections being at around 33%. But this has nothing to do with the EU – in fact, other EU countries such as Belgium make voting compulsory, so their turnouts and engagement are naturally a lot higher. It is the responsibility of our government and politicians to get us informed and engaged in the politics of the EU – as complex and tedious as it may seem.
Unlike what the Leave camp will insist, the threat of immigration is non-existent. Other than according to the right wing pressure group Migrant Watch UK, overwhelming evidence points to migrants bringing a net economic and fiscal benefit to the UK. Migrants from the EU come here to work and be productive, and since they tend to be younger and healthier, their taxes pay for our aging population’s pensions and NHS. Besides, the freedom of movement between countries creates social and cultural integration, and the ability to work and study abroad – which is inherently enriching to our lives and incredibly valuable.
If you want radical change, whether its tackling the housing crisis, funding the NHS, or investing in our education – the answer isn’t to leave the EU. Organise and take action against our government – as the problem lies within Westminster. To Brexit would create a false sense of hope for this country – as our current government won’t fix the problems the Leave camp claims the EU creates. For those who wish for a Lexit, the idea of our country suddenly being exempt from neoliberal globalisation seems naive and impractical.
Even if you have major criticisms of the EU, like myself, I urge you to think about what kind of country you want Britain to be. Leaving the European Union will brand us as a toxic, uncompromising and nationalist state – whereas staying, we get to be part of a proud project that benefits us and unites us in solidarity with half a billion people.