The date for the EU referendum has not yet been set, but the Leave and Remain campaigns are well and truly underway. The problem is that so far, mainstream media coverage and aspects of the campaigns themselves have wavered between being misleading and lacklustre. So, here are ten of my reasons for voting to stay in.
1) Long-standing peace
When I toured the EU parliamentary buildings in Brussels, there was a fascinating section showing the circumstances in which the original European Coal and Steel Community (ECSE) was formed. It was first proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman in 1950 as a means of securing long-standing peace between France and Germany.
What do coal and steel have to do with it? They were hugely important exports at the time, particularly in the Ruhr region, and Schuman reckoned that establishing a common market for coal and steel would help prevent violent conflict over natural resources. In 1951, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg joined this common market by signing the Treaty of Paris.
Over time, the ECSE evolved into the wider European Economic Community (EEC), and then the European Union (EU). The founding principle of keeping trade routes and diplomatic channels open to prevent war is just as vital today, and has resulted in long-standing peace between the western European nations. This was recognised in 2012 when the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
2) Ease of travel
This covers everything from the small-scale advantage of being able to travel in mainland Europe without a passport check every time you cross a national border to the huge advantage of being able to study, work and live in a different country with ease.
As well as making travel easier, it is also cheaper. The airline Easyjet has said it would not exist without deregulation of the European market, and estimates that flights are on average 40% cheaper to customers because of the levels of competition generated.
3) Different languages and cultures
One of the huge benefits of EU membership is the ease with which people can learn the languages and understand the cultures of the other member states. The Erasmus scheme encourages young people to embrace this opportunity through its EU-wide exchange programme. This linguistic and cultural immersion is a life-enriching experience, and it is fantastic to grow up in a country in which this is not only possible but actively encouraged.
4) Human rights and civil liberties
There is a distinction to be made here: the European Convention on Human Rights, which established the European Court of Human Rights, is a separate entity from the European Union. However, the EU is itself a champion of human rights, democracy and civil liberties. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has been binding on all EU member states since 2009 and protects human rights, democratic rights, workers’ rights, equality and personal freedoms. In addition, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights aims to combat issues such as torture, the death penalty and discrimination against minority groups in non-EU countries.
5) Scientific research
Scientific breakthroughs are only possible through continued support, and the European Research Council provides a crucial source of funding, as well as promoting innovation and collaboration within each discipline. The ERC has received over 50,000 scientific research proposals and since 2007 it has allocated grants to 5,000 projects. Here is an example of one of the projects the ERC has backed.
6) Exports and imports
45% of the UK’s exports are made to the rest of the EU, and 53% of UK imports are from the rest of the EU. Everyone in the UK benefits from the free movement of goods within the single market. It helps both small and large businesses thrive, resulting in a competitive market with more jobs, vast levels of choice and lower prices for consumers.
7) Combating climate change
The EU sets targets for tackling climate change, including cutting carbon emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This is currently looking ambitious but achievable: in 2013, levels of carbon emissions were 19% below 1990 levels across the member states. The EU also advocates investment in green technologies and less reliance on oil and gas supplies. As well as creating jobs and lowering air pollution, this may bring the additional benefit of reducing violent conflict over these resources.
8) Criminal justice
Tackling cross-border crime has been made easier within the EU by measures such as establishing joint investigation teams and implementation of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Under the EAW, extradition of criminals from one member state to another is a much faster and simpler process, with the average time cut from one year to 48 days. Member states collaborate on issues including terrorism, abduction, drug smuggling and cybercrime. Sir Hugh Orde, former president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has said “We will keep citizens in our countries far safer by remaining within Europe.”
9) A strong and relevant voice
The EU is one of the biggest trading blocs in the world and when it speaks with a unified voice, everyone listens. If the UK feels its voice must be heard, the best way to do it is by working together with European partners and agreeing on a common agenda which can then be furthered at a global level. The UK’s voice is at its best when it is strong and relevant, working together with other nations to tackle the issues of the day.
10) Value for money
The myths in the Brexit camp reach dizzying new heights when it comes to how much the EU costs and how much we would save by leaving.
My latest receipt from HMRC shows that 0.75% of my taxes were spent on the UK contribution to the EU budget. To put this in perspective, it is the smallest area of contribution detailed on the tax receipt, and compares with 7% on repaying the interest on the UK national debt.
Norway is not an EU member state and has no EU representation, but still has to contribute to its budget and abide by the majority of its legislation. If the UK leaves it will no longer have its say but will still have to pay for trading rights.
For all of the benefits we receive, I consider our current EU membership to be very good value for money.
And finally …
This referendum is not the time to be woolly. It is a chance to look at the facts and figures, to think about how we want our money to be spent and to think about what we value.
I value a country in which there is long-standing peace, without which nothing else can be securely constructed. I value a country that is outwards-looking, collaborative, democratic and socially progressive, standing up for the minority voices in society. I value a country that invests in the future by using greener resources and backing essential scientific advances. For all of these reasons, I value the UK’s continued membership of the EU.
Thanks for reading. If you agree with me, please share this post! 🙂