The European Union (EU) referendum is a debate about influence and relationships. I’m in. The UK is one of the leading powers within the EU, a globally influential organisation.
The numbers tell the story: the UK with its population of 64 million people faces significant challenges competing in a world with a population of 7.4 billion people.
The internet and travel have eroded geographical borders. The EU gives us a significant platform of international influence.
The democracy of the EU has been frequently called out during the Referendum debates, however it isn’t overseen by an unelected bunch of bureaucrats. It’s governed by the 28 national governments, and a European Parliament made up of elected members.
Each European Member of Parliament is elected every five years. Wikipedia lists the UK members. You had a chance to vote for yours in 2014.
Facts are hard to find around the referendum debate.
Fear and uncertainty make for better headlines and media make use of strong rhetoric. It’s no wonder members of the public feel uncertain and anxious about the outcome and distrust politicians more than ever.
In fact the government scrutinised the UK’s relationship with the EU in a balance of competencies review between 2012 and 2014.
This review was an audit of what the EU does and how it affects the UK’s national interest. It was one of the largest research exercises ever undertaken by the Civil Service in the UK.
The EU Balance of Competencies consists of 32 reports and drew on nearly 2,300 pieces of written evidence.
It covered economic and monetary policy; police and criminal justice; information rights; education, vocational training and youth; enlargement; voting, consular and statistics; and subsidiarity and proportionality.
The UK government buried the report because it didn’t suit its political agenda but on almost every piece of evidence the Balance of Competencies pointed to the benefits of EU membership.
There were issues of course with reporting and transparency and the report urged for change in these areas.
It’s not perfect. The relationship is 40 years old. But it’s far easier to negotiate from within the EU than from outside. As a leading member our influence is significant and we shouldn’t give this up.
Voice of reason
I’ve been inspired to write this blog post by Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law at the University of Liverpool. He’s studied the EU and its relationship with member states since 2004.
Professor Dougan is voting remain. He says that his 20 years of professional research has led him to recognise the benefits of EU membership.
“I’ve watched with increasing dismay as this referendum debate has unfolded. [...] The Leave campaign has degenerated into dishonesty on an industrial scale,” said Professor Dougan.
Laws, trade and labour
In the event of a vote to exit the EU there will need to be a fundamental review of the legal system. UK legislation has been entwined in the EU for the last 40 years.
We’ll have two years to divorce from the EU. In this time we’d need to renegotiate employment rights for Europeans working in the UK, and UK nationals working in Europe.
We’ll also need to negotiate trade deals with EU members and other markets. The EU has created a single market and brokered trading agreements with other major markets such as China and the US.
No one can second guess the financial markets however last week’s fall in sterling and the FTSE 100 drop of two percent are indicative.
Back to the numbers
The UK is a tiny island. By any measure it has influence and authority in the world beyond its size. Much of this is thanks to the EU.
We cannot isolate ourselves from globalisation and international markets. Pulling up a drawbridge is a medieval notion of protectionism.
Voting leave isn’t in the spirit of open mindedness and collaboration of the people that I call friends and colleagues.
It’s not an attitude I recognise whenever I travel in Europe or further afield, for work or on holiday. It isn’t a world that I want my children to grow up in.
It’s also contrary to Labour MP Jo Cox’s mantra that we have more in common than we do differences.
She was right. I’m in.