Why I am going to vote to remain a member of the EU.
I was born in the UK, but received my secondary and university education in Eire. I gained a view of British history from an Irish perspective. I don’t know that I ever felt any patriotism towards Britain. Primarily, I feel appalled by its former imperial dominance. How could the exploitation of people, land and natural resources be anything to be proud of? In addition to other imperial powers, Britain paved the way for capitalism, the concept of the right to private property, the destruction of valuable cultural practices and natural resources.
Britain’s former imperialism has given rise to the myth of its ‘greatness’. It is the 5th largest economy in the world, but the importance of a good economy is only relative to the ideological perspective within which it was assigned importance. This thing called ‘economy’ is fiction. It’s an artificial creation and, therefore, it can and NEEDS to be destroyed. The only beneficiaries of a good economy are those who control it.
When I was at school, I learned that the identities of many mainland Europeans was ‘European’, but us islanders retained a more nationalistic perspective. I’m sure that was a gross over-generalisation, but it did have an impact on my confused cultural identity. I chose then to be ‘European’.
On the basis of identity, I choose to now remain a member of Europe.
Besides France and Germany, two rival economies, Britain commands a strong presence in Europe. Due to this, it also pays a significant contribution to the EU. While this might seem that other countries within the EU gain at Britain’s expense, this isn’t necessarily the case. Britain commands a strong bargaining position and does benefit from European funding.
Firstly, Britain has a population of 63 million which is a large percentage given that the estimated population of the EU is approximately 500 million. This is effectively more votes in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers. Britain exists in a global community within which it and the EU play a vital role. It will still continue to be affected by global and European forces, but will lose its voice in determining the course of those processes.
As citizens, the European voice is stronger than a whispering British one. Already the European voice is gaining ground in the prevention of insidious economic interests from impacting the community – for example, the campaign to restrict Monsanto’s sphere of influence. Britain will become open to pressures that its people will have little power to resist.
Remember? The invasion of Iraq was NOT in my name.
Secondly, there is a large gap between Britain’s richest and poorest. This stratification is somewhat regional. So whilst the financial centre may not be reaping the rewards, less empowered citizens are gaining some regional development benefits from membership.
This benefit extends to the rights of British citizens also. Employment law, equality issues and basic human rights are profoundly more protected as members of the EU than they will be as an autonomous country. Discussion over the nature of the looming Bill of Rights act to replace the Human Rights Act could mean that citizens would again only have recourse in the Strasbourg court. The EU, in effect, provides citizens with protection from an abuse of power by their own government. Without it, this protection is lost. Commentators have been concerned about a democratic deficit within the EU, but fail to acknowledge the lack of it internally.
Moreover, Britain’s role within the global economy has already created uncertainty. The pound has devalued and a Brexit could trigger an already unstable global market into collapse. The issue of Syrian refugees is volatile and with lack of resolution, the very reason why the union was created could be under threat – peace.
Those who vote to remain in the EU demonstrate a great deal of trust in their government. However, it is far from representative of Britain’s social structure. Although there have been some changes in the social composition of parliament, it remains highly privileged group, with little, if no understanding of the experience of the majority of its citizens. This can be readily witnessed in a session of Prime Minister’s Question time. It is a glorious display of private school boy one upmanship chicanery rather than a logical consideration of the welfare of the citizens it purports to represent.
Furthermore, the government fails to trust its people. There is surveillance camera for every 32 people according to the Guardian, and for every 11 according to the Telegraph. Its people need to be controlled through a culture of fear, necessitating the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act with the subsequent erosion of civil liberty. Folk devils and moral panics come to mind.
In any Brexit vs Bremain debate, the issue of immigration needs to be addressed.
Primarily, I have an issue with the concept of a bordered nation-state. Land and its resources belong to no person. When people only used the resources they needed, the human population remained proportionate to that which the planet could support. When land was claimed in order to produce a surplus, the population rose exponentially and competition for resources ensued. As competition for land (territory) became bloody, governments were held to be needed to protect the ownership of property. And now we are where we are – albeit a simplification.
However, the concerns about remaining in the EU aren’t explicitly territorial. The arguments revolve around pressure on the NHS, accessing state benefits and social housing, for which British people pay.
According to the iAS, there are many overlooked benefits to immigration. The NHS relies on immigrants for staffing, particularly in nursing. Immigrants fill skills shortages that would otherwise require costly education to fill. Most come to work and not access benefits, being 47% less likely to make use of them. One estimate suggests that immigrants have contributed £20 bn to the UK economy over a ten year period. As to social housing – whatever happened to that?
Additionally, migrants from the UK to the EU have stimulated local economies and also bring wanted skills – there is a mutual benefit. If my partner and I relocate on the mainland, we would bring two first degrees, a masters degree, a post-graduate qualification, half a PhD, several other academic and skills certificates as well as over 50 years employment experience between us. We hope to stimulate a local economy rather than deprive it (yes, there is some self-interest in how I will vote). I have no doubt that this is a two-way exchange. My extraordinarily clever and multi-talented German daughter-in-law, is a case in point.
This brings the argument of a ‘brain drain’, where the most talented leave the UK. However, university subsidies from the tax vault have significantly reduced, so less of a financial investment is lost than previously. Secondly, why isn’t the UK able to suitably employ its wealth of unemployed graduates?
Alternatives to the EU
If the UK began a discussion about the problem of the centralisation of power and to consider the value of local economies, local and fully participatory democracies, then I might consider a Brexit vote. The vote doesn’t bring a choice of a real alternative to how the UK could be. For me it would be a stamped imprint of the status quo with reduced means for doing anything about it.
A final word
How long will it take the UK to renegotiate trade, business, labour, visa, intelligence and information exchanges with each of its neighbours? In short, how long will it take to renegotiate what it’s already got? And to what cost? Will the Kingdom become less United? How friendly will Britain’s neighbours feel?
I think Britain will start to realise that it is not so great anymore and that it is a vulnerable island and 6 counties, in the middle of a very large pond with an elite shiver of sharks waiting to swallow it whole.
Featured image: Christopher Furlong