Matt Gillow looks beyond the numbers and sums to make a case for Britain staying in the EU.
We’ve all heard the facts. Both the “Vote Leave” campaign and the “Stronger In” side have been spouting them incessantly for months now – that for Britain to leave the EU would cause a dramatic fall in international jobs, cause the pound to spiral, decrease global investment in the British economy. To stay would force us to pay out billions in euro-bailouts, cost us ridiculous amounts in day-to-day membership, and – supposedly – do nothing but take from our comparatively flourishing economy.
The UK has been a member of the EU for years now, and we can pride ourselves on being one of the most influential countries involved. Throughout our continued membership, we’ve saved innocent lives, sent billions of pounds in essential aid to countries that need our help, and helped to establish Europe as arguably the most efficient, egalitarian and just continent in the world. Surely by now, people realise that the upcoming EU referendum is about more than just the economy?
Even skipping over the historical argument – that to jump ship now after so many prosperous years rather than lending our international weight to improving the bloc could almost be deemed cowardly – the idea of Britain as isolationist and withdrawn is quite frankly, terrifying and old fashioned. It may be hard to accept for some people, but the modern Britain is secular, internationalist, and culturally open. We are no longer the all-conquering, typically “British” nations of the colonialist 19th century. Whether refugees add to or hinder the economy, they undeniably make our societies more vibrant, more fulsome, and help to break down barriers between cultures that sadly still exist worldwide.
The questions on the lips of the politically apathetic are basic, and often non-economic: will I still be able to travel to Europe with ease? Will I need to pay for a visa to visit friends in Spain? Will universities still be part of the Erasmus study abroad programme? The answer is that nobody can really be sure; in that sense, though pessimistic, David Cameron’s claims that to Brexit would be a “leap in the dark” are remarkably poignant.
What many don’t consider, is that to tighten our borders so extremely, as many Brexit campaigners desire, doesn’t just work one-way. The massive, contented ex-pat pockets in Europe would shrink dramatically, and there’s the off-chance that Britain’s tourist hubs (Bath, London, Edinburgh) could be knocked by the changes to British border control.
America wants us in; G20 leaders want us in; Europe, unanimously, wants us in – Denmark, for example, joined the EU simply because the UK did – evidence of our pull and influence on the global stage. Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of a Brexit. Anything which Putin wants, but the west doesn’t, should send alarm bells ringing in the minds of the pro-Brexit camp.
From a humanitarian viewpoint, continued membership makes sense. As a member of the EU we will continue to provide for thousands of desperate refugees in need, as we provided aid to the Calais Migrant Jungle – as we, with other EU states, combined to rebuild Haiti shattered by the earthquake in 2010 and Sri Lanka crushed in the tsunami in 2004. Sure, there are economic drawbacks to essential foreign aid, but surely the necessity of providing help far outweighs the expenditure?
Britain is, by all intents and purposes – and contrary to the beliefs of the eurosceptics – still great. We are a nation that is internationalist, liberal, egalitarian and humanitarian. The world wants us in. Why not remain IN and make a difference?