The UK and the EU: 10 reasons to vote Remain on 23 June

Alan Johnson, leader of Labour’s campaign to remain in the EU, has said that the 23 June referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU is more important to the UK than the 2015 general election. I agree with Alan. A clear majority of young people in the UK want us to remain in the EU, but many did not vote in the general election, and some were not even registered to vote. Unless they vote in the 23 June referendum, the UK is in danger of sleepwalking out of the EU, just as Labour sleepwalked to electoral defeat in 2015 after failing to address the challenge from UKIP.

That is why I offer the following 10 reasons why the UK must remain an active member of the EU:

[1] My maternal grandfather lies buried in a small British cemetery in Northern France, along with four of his comrades killed in a surprise enemy night-time attack in May 1918; in 1940, my father, returning home in South London from fire-watching one night during the Blitz, said ‘all London is ablaze’; in 1944, I was enjoying my fifth birthday party when we had to take cover under the dining table from one of the first wave of flying bombs. From these personal facts, I draw the first and principal reason why, on 23 June, I shall be voting to Remain in the EU: in all circumstances, in war as in peace, in prosperity as in ‘austerity’, our islands are inextricably involved in and affected by events in continental Europe. If we decide to stand aloof from the European project, we will be giving up our power to influence and shape events that affect our vital interests. Do we want to see ‘Europe’ as something that is done to us, or do we want to play our full part in responding to the challenges of the 21st century? Do we see ourselves as cantankerous, isolationist inhabitants of ‘Little England’, or as citizens secure in our British identity and confident in our country’s ability to shape the future of Europe for the better? Scotland and the rest of the UK are Better Together, and so are the UK and the rest of Europe.

[2] In 1992 the Major government secured an opt-out from the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty. This Europe-wide set of measures ensures significant protection for working hours and conditions, including: “promotion of employment, improving living and working conditions, proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and the combating of exclusion”. In 1997 the Blair government fulfilled a manifesto commitment and opted in to the Social Chapter. From 2010-15, the presence of the LibDems in the Coalition government offered some measure of assurance that these basic civilised human rights would continue to be upheld in the UK; now, our membership of the EU is all that protects UK citizens from the abrogation or dilution of these basic working rights by a Tory government ‘freed’ from any EU treaty obligations. I find it incomprehensible that anyone who calls him/herself a Labour supporter would even consider voting for the abolition of these protections. So this is my second reason for voting Remain on 23 June. Major’s opt-out from the Social Chapter in 1992 did not prevent 5 years of sniping and carping by a handful of MPs whom he, with characteristic understatement, called ‘bastards’. Since then, these Tory MPs, who included IDS of Universal Discredit fame, have added to their numbers, but have not gained a shred of legitimacy.

[3] Since the 1970s, the EU and its member countries have introduced laws to ensure the careful use of natural resources, to minimise adverse environmental impacts of production and consumption, and to protect biodiversity and natural habitats. EU environment law covers aspects as wide-ranging as waste management, air and water quality, greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals.(Wikipedia). I declare an interest as one of the million members of the RSPB, and offer these quotes from Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director: “The outcome of the referendum on EU membership could have significant implications for the RSPB’s ability to fulfil its charitable objects ie acting for nature for public benefit. […] Given that nature knows no boundaries and our primary interest has been birds (many of which migrate), the RSPB has always believed we need to act internationally especially as the threats (such as pollution) are often diffuse.  Comprehensive international agreements for nature conservation and the environment – together with a robust and enforceable governance framework – are therefore essential.  The RSPB will always promote the generic principle of effective international agreements, which ensure common environmental standards and protect our shared wildlife. […] UK environment policy has over the past 40 years evolved in parallel with European Union policy.  Evidence suggests that the EU has had a positive impact through some of its environment policies, most notably through the Birds and Habitats Directives but also in setting water quality, climate change, air quality and renewable energy targets.” Environmental protection affects us all, every day. I make no apologies for making this my 3rd reason for voting Remain on 23 June.

[4] Despite Osborne’s numerous announcements since 2010 of imminent ‘crackdowns’ on tax dodging, he has in fact fought long and hard to block meaningful Europe-wide measures to curb corporate tax evasion and executive pay. Far from being a threat to our sovereignty, membership of the EU is our best hope for reasserting the collective sovereignty of elected governments – including a future Labour government in the UK – over corporate greed. I don’t want the City of London to be the world’s number one tax haven, so this is my 4th reason for voting Remain on 23 June.

[5] Here is a tale of 5 Eurosceptics. You know who they are: Cameron, Osborne, Hague, Hammond, May. A few years ago, none of them had a good word to say about the EU – and quite a few bad words. Now, one by one, after the experience of working for years alongside their continental counterparts, they have realised that it is in the UK’s interests, as well as the interests of Europe as a whole, for the UK to be fully involved with the various EU/EC institutions. To his credit, Cameron has even admitted this, publicly. So it’s OK to be a Eurosceptic (as many or all of the Famous Five still are) and vote Remain: we all know that the way in which the EU and its institutions operate today is far from perfect, and requires urgent and serious reform. Let’s get on with it! Which brings us to my 6th reason.

[6] UK MEPs can and should be working with other countries’ MEPs in their parliamentary groups to strengthen the powers of the European Parliament to hold to account the executive institutions of the EU/EC. As members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Labour MEPs are well placed to do this. But the same is not true of Tory MEPs who, as a result of a shoddy deal in 2005 by which Cameron secured the party leadership, sit in the European Parliament with a motley crew of hard-right MEPs (largely from the Polish right-wing national-conservative Law and Justice Party), instead of rubbing shoulders daily with French, German, Spanish and other members of the main centre-right group (to which the party of Merkel belongs). In this sense, the Tory party has already excluded itself from Europe. A Remain vote on 23 June is a vote for a strong Labour voice in Europe.

[7] Much of what drives anti-European feeling in the Tory party and elsewhere is a fear of losing influence on the world stage – and a fear of losing our ‘British identity’. Influence’ first: the ‘special relationship’ UK-US is far more special to some people in the UK that it is to the US. Successive US presidents say that when they want to speak to ‘Europe’, they want to make one phone call, not 28. Within the EU, the UK is listened to as a valued partner whose weight, pragmatism and presence strengthen Europe’s voice in the world. As for loss of identity’: please! We all have multi-layered identities, and have the right and the duty to be proud of each layer. Asserting one’s local, regional, national, supranational and universal human identities enriches us all –town halls in southern Spain fly 4 or even 5 flags, each representing one of these levels of identity. Our ‘national identity’ is being threatened and eroded by the language and practices of mega-corporations [see Reason 4], not by participation in the institutions of Europe.

[8] George Gallopaway wants to leave an organisation that can only function on a basis of stability, mutual respect and give-and-take. No surprise there.

[9] Nigel Farridge, former commodity broker, managed in May 2015 to persuade 3,881,099 turkeys to vote for a UKIP Christmas. Alan Johnson recently reminded us what national ‘independence’ UKIP-style would consist of: “The people who back the Leave campaign, many of them want Britain as a kind of offshore, free-market, race-to-the-bottom, anything-goes country. They have a problem with rights and protections for workers. But they don’t say it.”

[10] Boris Yo-Yo is a bully masquerading as a clown. I’ve put him at number 10 because getting to number 10 is all that interests him, so he’s ready to say anything and the opposite from one day to the next.

This is a nationwide referendum, so every vote really counts. Don’t let others decide for you!

If you are not already registered to vote in the UK, you can register online now:

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

If you think you might be away on 23 June, you can apply for a postal vote here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-a-postal-vote

Get a postal vote, and go to Glasto with a clear conscience!

Author: David Nott