Why do I think we should stay in the European Union?
This is long. But how the EU affects us now, and what the impact of leaving it would be, is complicated — and anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying to you. They’re also lying if they tell you they know what’s going to happen if we leave because, to state the obvious, no one knows what will happen if we leave the EU — because it hasn’t happened yet and there is no way of knowing exactly what will happen if we do.
Therefore, I think our decision on whether or not we want to stay in the EU comes down to two things — on the one hand, what you believe about the EU as it stands. And on the other on, the risks we face if we decide to leave.
I believe that being part of the European Union has many benefits to everyone in the UK. Below I have a go at explaining what I think these benefits are.
However, I also believe that even if you don’t believe that these benefits exist, the most likely scenarios that we will face if we leave will be very damaging for ordinary people like us, and our families and friends, that’s the subject of the post that follows this one.
Why do I think we should stay in the European Union?
No one is saying the EU is perfect. It needs reform and I would like it to be more democratic — the same is true of the UK (take a look, for example, at The House of Lords).
But I think the benefits of being part of the EU significantly outweigh its problems.
There are some nice simple benefits — cheap phone calls on holiday for example — though they’re more of a nice add on than a reason to stay in itself.
The core reasons I believe we should stay in the UK are about Britain and our position in the world, and the protection the European Union offers to us all.
A lot of these are ‘big picture’ rather than day-to-day reasons — if you’re more interested in the nuts and bolts of the reasons why we should leave or stay then the post that follows this one— “Why do I think we should not leave the European Union?” — talks more about that.
If we look to the future, I believe that the biggest problems we face as a country are global ones. How do we get international companies to pay their fair share of tax. How do we address the fact that if we don’t stop polluting our planet then our climate will change irreversibly. How do we work to defeat international terrorism. How do we make sure that we have a strong global economy which gives us all good jobs and the possibility of leading good lives.
We cannot solve these problems alone. Every single one of them will only have a chance of being solved if we work with the other countries of our world, working alongside the other people, the other humans, who share this planet with us. The European Union has been a positive voice on all of these fronts, and being part of the EU gives us in the United Kingdom a stronger voice on each and everyone one of these crucial issues than we would have if we decided to shout alone.
The EU also protects our rights as workers — it guarantees our rights to paid holiday, to maternity and paternity leave, and our right to be treated fairly and safely at work. Europe also gives us rights as citizens, which British law has never done. It funds our universities to find a cure for cancer and create the jobs of the future. EU pressure has improved our environment, our beaches, and the quality of the air we breathe. Financially, we get a lot more out of being in the EU than we put in.
A lesson from history is that if the interests of neighbouring countries are not aligned they slide towards confrontation, and very often — eventually — to war. If you want to see that happening before your very eyes have a look at what happened in Europe between World War One and World War Two (and, while you’re at it, take a look at America too).
The biggest achievement of the European Union has been the longest period of peace in Europe’s history. It is easy to dismiss this peace as something natural, always going to happen, and nothing to do with the EU. As a generation that has never seen war on our doorstep that is the easy assumption for us to make. It is not the case — peace is something we have to work at.
The European Union has aligned our country’s interests with the interests of other countries in Europe, has built the amount of trade that happens between us and has created through that trade not only jobs, but also a shared interest in working together rather than confronting each other.
When countries pull apart, when their economies start to look inwards rather than outwards, when politicians tell us that we are better off putting up walls and tariffs rather than trading with others, it ends badly — not overnight, but bit by bit, as the years pass — trade falls, the economy suffers, then we raise trade tarrifs, then trade falls further, then further… This isn’t some abstract theory, or something from a textbook, this is what history shows happens in real life.
Britain led Europe out of tyranny, into a place where there is freedom across our continent, where decisions are made with arguments not armaments. That is a road we do not want to take a single step back down.
For me, even if you’re not interested in any of the other reasons, this reason alone is enough to want to stay in the EU.