Why a vote for Remain is the only option

On the day of one of the biggest political, economic, social — but ultimately human — decisions this country has faced in my lifetime, as the debate rages more fractious and fractured than ever, it feels time to speak up. Today, Thursday 23rd June 2016, I will be voting Remain. I believe Britain truly is stronger in Europe.

I’ve included this as a human decision because ultimately what happens today, and indeed what has happened in its preamble, greatly affects our humanity. It is not just in our roles as partisan campaigners, economic forecasters or earnest political navel gazers; what happens today affects us on a profoundly human level.

Breaking away from an institution founded in the wake of unprecedented world war to broker lasting peace and unity in Europe, and having the decision to leave debated — we could argue most fiercely — on the shoulders of migrants and refugees, on a foundation of “us versus them”, is as divisive as it is contradictory. Surely this can’t help but speak to our humanity at a time when unrest and instability is beginning to bubble once again under Europe’s surface.

Don’t get me wrong, at times not just one but both sides of the argument have been characterised by effusing complex figures and using the words “truth” and “fact” with a liberty that can only be described as wild(ly inaccurate) abandon. Scaremongering, hyperbolic, racist, xenophobic, reductive, absurd — all can accurately describe parts of this Punch and Judy campaign. And it’s surely got to be a sense of shame for us as human beings that we have let ourselves be reduced to, and indeed drawn into, a fight like this?

With this in mind, my stance on today’s decision is not one that condones everything from the Remain campaign, nor one that condones everything that happens in Europe. It’s not one that believes there is a wholly right answer. In perhaps the greatest contradiction of the campaign, a referendum calls for a polarised opinion when, in actual fact, the nuances of this decision require nothing if not a balanced argument.

However, we do need to pick a side for the sake of the ballot. And my side simply couldn’t be clearer. The troubling idea that we need to “take our country back”, that somehow leaving the EU will give us “complete sovereignty” to push forward with Johnson, Gove and Farage at the helm is as frightful as it is idiotic.

But just as frightful is the idea that a vote for Remain approves the EU, and approves us continuing to accept our current lot while trying to forget some of the greater tragedies of the fight. Jo Cox paid the ultimate sacrifice for her campaign for a less insular politics, and her compassion towards those within and outwith our shores in equal measure must, if nothing else, remind us we are all human.

A vote for Remain is — for us — the first step in a new, more civilised, campaign for great change. Creating positive change simply cannot happen if we do not have a seat at the table, and we should use our influence and our vote to correct the frustrations that kicked off the referendum in the first place. The EU is not a perfect nor untouchable institution. But I feel safer in the knowledge of having a continued voice in the debate, than I’d feel if, for example, like Switzerland, any future EU agreements were subject to amendments with dynamic provisions that we would have to passively accept.

There is a distinct need to put aside once and for all the idea that our sovereignty is irrevocably compromised by EU membership, and therefore to be more insular is to command more power on the global stage. The UK needs European, and international, perspective, community and partnerships to continue to thrive. “No man is an island, entire of itself”, and while Britain’s geography may place us as separate from everyone else, our increasingly connected world and global market economy mean that our channel to Europe has never been so important for creating a sustainable future.

For example, the free movement of EU workers into the UK has sought to address the digital skills shortage that the recent Tech Nation 2016 report highlighted as one of our fastest growing sector’s “key challenges”. Thanks to this free movement, we have a multi-national, multi-cultural talent pool collaborating to drive innovation in the UK that has undoubtedly been a cornerstone of our success at the very forefront of the European tech economy.

Similarly, thanks to perpetuating shared infrastructure, talent exchange, and international collaboration, “the EU is now a community of scientific talent which can flow between countries without visas or points systems and which can assemble bespoke constellations of cutting-edge labs, industry and small businesses to tackle challenges local and global.” Collectively, the EU remains the world leader in terms of its global share of science researchers (22.2%), ahead of China (19.1%) and the US (16.7%). When this is considered alongside schemes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus, the EU is crucial for propelling research, discovery and fostering the brightest minds in the UK.

There are of course also the figures on trade with the EU, the future expansion of our economy and jobs created by the EU, and the crucial funding from the EU to farming, the private sector and Regional Development Agencies that make a compelling argument for our derived strength from the union. As ever, these are not sacrosanct, and issues of Brussels (and Whitehall) bureaucracy and the future of international trade, among others, need to be addressed as we hopefully transition into a new, more open era of European Union membership.

Ultimately we are, as Donne continues, “involved in mankind”. To divorce from Europe is setting a dangerous precedent that we don’t need anyone else, or that our fate is not irrevocably tied to that of others. In reality, we need to stand together to address problems that are not just those of the UK or Europe, but global issues. Concerns such as terrorism, global warming, and the refugee crisis among others affect our collective humanity, not just our economics or politics, in the same way that this referendum does.

The great strength of the EU is its potential to unite 28 sovereign states in the shared purpose of addressing these and other concerns, so as to build a connected community that creates common advantage far beyond the borders of our members. As we move forward into a world increasingly characterised by division and hate, this agenda of collaboration and cooperation has never been so important.

Britain quite simply is stronger in Europe. It’s now time to #VoteRemain and begin a renewed campaign for positive change, and the building a of a better future, together.