In 22 days, the adult population of the UK will be heading to the ballot box and making their views count as to whether we should be in. Or out.
Never before in my life has my future, our future, the future of our country, been so dependent on an election. General Elections are important, obviously, but if the powers-that-be cock it up or we don’t like what they’re doing then we can go back to the polls five years late and vote them back out again.
Only this time, whatever decision we make will be permanent. OK, it might take 20 years of intense negotiations between us and Europe before any actual decisions are made as to what our “new” relationship with the continent will look like (during which time our economy will falter, investment will be postponed and no one will know what the f**k is going on. But regardless of all that, once we make this decision, there will be no going back.
Putting aside the fact I think David Cameron is an idiot for putting a decision so huge in the hands of the British public – a public that is so easily swayed by what the Daily Mail says. Putting aside the fact that my future life in France hangs on a knife edge. Putting aside the fact that my business has European associates and European clients that I might lose if we vote for a Brexit. Putting all that aside, I think it’s a really terrible idea to leave. Here’s why….
1) Free trade – which means we don’t have to pay extra taxes on goods coming in and out of Europe, which means things like cars and wine are about 30% cheaper than they would be otherwise. And it means our goods and services are more competitive too which contributes to billions of pounds worth of business for UK companies (and therefore lots of people’s salaries – about 3.5m people’s salaries to be precise!)
2) The ability to live, work and travel freely around the EU – we can go wherever we please, whenever we please (pretty much). Leave the EU and we have to get visas to travel to France, Spain, Italy etc, which means doors closing and a whole load of extra expense – not least for those Brits who will have to return home and try and find work, housing etc. This includes about 400,000 pensioners who won’t be able to afford to buy a house and will be reliant on social housing, and will be placing considerable demand on our health and social services (instead of the fit young Europeans who work and pay taxes that we’ll have just kicked out – it makes no sense as to why we would want to do this!)
3) Our science and research institutions receive about £7bn in grants and funding. This is money that is used to do really cool stuff like develop new medicines and new technologies that make our world better. This money would disappear if we left the EU as we’d no longer meet one of the main criteria (being part of the EU)
4) Our charities receive millions of pounds of funding that is used to pay for things such as care for older people who live in isolation or for support for entrepreneurs who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These services ultimately end up saving our government millions and add to the economy through increased skills and productivity.
5) By working together as the EU we got a better deal with regards climate change. We’ve all seen the impact of floods on communities such as cumbria and somerset. We can only fight climate change if we stick together – and the EU has helped enormously in coming to deals such as Kyoto, recycling schemes, waste removal etc
6) If you have a job then you are protected by loads of workplace rights that were introduced by the EU. You enjoy a paid holiday, pension and safer conditions, maternity leave…? You have the EU to thank for that
7) EU labelling and standards means our food, drinking water, beaches etc are safer than ever
8) We receive millions each year in regional development funding which is directed at the poorest areas of the country, such as Wales, Cornwall and the north east. Cornwall has received more than £1bn of EU grants since the 1990s to compensate for loss of industries that have moved to eastern europe among other things
9) The EU was the first international organisation to explicitly recognise sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected grounds from discrimination.
10) International security has also been enhanced with the European arrest warrant – by Europol – and by cross-border policing to combat human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling, as well as counter-terrorism intelligence.
And finally…. For 60 years the EU has been the foundation of peace between European neighbours after centuries of bloodshed. It has assisted the political, social and economic transformation of 14 former dictatorships, and promotes human rights both within Europe and around the world.
This is only “fag packet” research so if any of it is wrong, or I’ve missed anything, please feel free to add to the debate.