Naked Politics Blogger
With the EU referendum debate, dominated by Tory-infighting lurching onwards, it seems like a day hasn’t passed by without someone promising an armageddon and God sending a plague of locusts (or Turks depending on who’s speaking) to wipe out all remnants of Britain, whilst at the same time stealing your job, if we vote against them. Personally, I would expect to see this from the Leave side whose campaign has almost been solely comprised of the unchanging arguments of sovereignty, immigration and ‘£350 Million a week to Brussels’; but to see the same scaremongering tactics being used by the Remain camp both disheartens and angers me as I am certain that those aren’t the arguments we should be focusing on and that we shouldn’t be stooping to that level.
If you haven’t already guessed, I firmly believe that this country should remain in the EU, but the way in which the campaign should be run should be as positive as possible, so we can once and for all combat the scaremongers and naysayers.
Arguably the biggest argument would be the benefits to workers. Being in the EU has given working people vital protections such as paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, equal pay, anti-discrimination legislation, health and safety in the workplace, workforce protection when companies change ownership and set periods of rest; some protections that our own Government, both Tory and Labour, fought to prevent. When the Brexiters refer to EU ‘red tape’ harming British business, they actually mean fundamental worker’s rights, and I hope I’m not in a minority in saying I’d rather keep these rights than let them potentially be manipulated by a Government that has tried to slash child tax credits and put the biggest budgetary squeeze on the NHS in its history. It’s probably fair to say we wouldn’t be enjoying the same level of workers’ rights if we weren’t EU members.
It’s not just workers who benefit. Consumers are also at an advantage from EU membership as being part of the community helps reduce down on everything from passenger airfares to mobile phone roaming charges (which will be abolished within the EU from 2017). According to European Commission statistics, families save on average £450 a year due to lower prices as a result of being in the world’s largest single market. Some may argue that we are too much of an integral trading partner within the EU for them to completely dismiss us if we leave, and this may be true; but do we really want to risk being knocked from the high perch we enjoy sitting on today?
As well as benefitting consumers, EU trade benefits the wider economy, from providing us with over 3 million EU trade-linked jobs. Half of all UK exports go to the EU, injecting over £220 billion a year into our economy. The majority of these exports come from large multi-national corporations like Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover have based themselves in the UK predominantly because of their ease of access to a single market of 500 million people, not just the 64 million in the UK; providing job, apprenticeship, investment and training opportunities in regions across the country in the process. Again, it won’t be the case that on the 24th June if we wake up to find we have left the EU there will have been a mass exodus of corporations across the English Channel, but when the time comes for these corporations to look at long-term future investments, we should no longer expect to be in the advantageous position we presently hold.
Now, as a third-generation immigrant I admit my view on immigration isn’t as tough as the Trump’s and the Farage’s in the world, but no matter what your stance on immigration you can’t argue with the cold, hard facts that EU migrants contribute billions of pounds more into the economy than they consume as the vast majority are hardworking, taxpaying citizens, much like the vast majority of Brits.
The Out campaign’s claims that all of Turkey is about to move to Britain if we remain (I may be slightly exaggerating here) is a xenophobic deceit of the British public. As Turkish-backed separatists have occupied a very large portion of Cyprus, an EU member, for the last 40 years, meaning the Cypriots will undoubtedly use their veto given to every EU nation to prevent Turkey from joining until relations will be normalised, as well as countless other reasons preventing this from being a possibility.
Overall, I believe it is integral for the UK to remain a part of the European Union, not just because of the safeguarding benefits enjoyed by consumers and employees alike, but because of the overwhelming benefits membership brings us in terms of trade, skills, freedom of movement and even peace in our country from coexistence with our only land neighbour, the Republic of Ireland. I cannot shy away from the undeniable problems with the EU in terms of democratisation, the shambolic handling of the refugee crisis and the precarious situation in the Eurozone. Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh the problems and the only way in which we can combat these problems, which will not disappear if we do leave, is to be part of the solution; to be part of the EU.