So, we have less than two weeks to go before polling day for the EU referendum. In many ways it’s been an annoying debate and I am sure, like me, most people had hoped for a calmer and more fact based discussion.
One positive thing, however, is that it has definitely got many more people interested in the topic and so our understanding as a nation of the good and the bad of the EU has risen.
I agree with many I speak to, when they say it has been difficult to trust the competing claims that have been thrown at us. In the absence of that, everyone voting will be using their own judgement on which source of information, opinion or ‘expert’ they trust most.
The big questions to reflect on include:
Can we spend much more money on the NHS if we Brexit, or will the loss of economic activity mean we end up investing less.
Will staying in the EU mean an even greater flow of migrants that are clogging up our public services, or are EU migrants an essential part of our successful and growing economy that allow us to invest more in public services and indeed to work in them.
And can we go it alone on Free Trade agreements, like we are told Switzerland, Albania and others have, or will us leaving the Single Market take us backwards and see reduced trade and economic activity.
I’m pretty sure the next few days won’t add any new killer arguments to the above, but I would like to challenge us to think more about one very fundamental question:
What sort of a country do we want to be?
One with self interest at heart, where our aim is to leave favourable trading arrangements with the EU and trade more independently with the world and try to become richer on our own.
Where we let others deal with the refugee crisis, because we are lucky that we are an island and somewhat more remote from the shores of Greece and Italy.
Where we go it on our own on matters of workers’ rights and equality as we don’t care about that further a field.
And where we close our borders to our neighbours, but expect us to continue to live, travel and work in their countries as before.
Now, even if you believe all or any of the above ‘self interest’ arguments are achievable, it certainly isn’t the Britain that made me adopt it as my home. When I travel around the World, I am proud of the UK as the positive contributor to peace and prosperity within the EU we have always been.
I don’t want to live in a Britain that is frowned at for having gone it alone and leaving others to sort difficult times on their own.
And even more fundamentally, I am convinced that such an isolationist approach does not work anyway. When I came to Britain in 1974 and the economy here was labelled the ‘sick man of Europe’, the solution was to open our markets and outlook more. It wasn’t to become more isolationist. Our closer integration of trade with the EU was then, and is today, a key reason for our strong economic success since the 1970’s, despite some of the challenges that always come with working in a larger union.xposed modules 2017
Moreover, collaborating in that larger union is the best way to resolve 21st century cross border issues; crime, refugees, environmental concerns, political instability and conflict. These require common regional solutions and if we leave the EU we will weaken the UK’s capacity to respond.
And we should remember that times will get better, also within the EU, and they will pay back the countries that helped most in working together to get through the tougher times. Sure, Britain can win some new friends, and try to trade more independently with countries like China. Our exports to China are however only 3% of our total, with 44% of our exports going to the EU. And speaking from personal experience trading with such economies, as interesting as they are, will not be the new honeymoon we had hoped for, and we would soon be missing the strong partnership we divorced should we Brexit.