Saturday, March 26, 2016

Weve already long since taken a decision - we are European as well as British.

The arguments on both sides of the EU Referendum debate are strident and will no doubt be increasingly so as June 23rd approaches. Part of the reason for this is that actually it is a very complex matter so there is no doubt a perceived need for the protagonists to indulge in reductio ad absurdum. Soundbites and ever more extreme claims to try and grab the attention of a (so far) largely indifferent electorate.

During the Scottish Independence Referendum I thought that in the ballot box the Scots would vote more with emotion than anything else. Did they believe that they would be happier personally living in an independent Scotland or did they want to stay British as well as Scots? In fact it seems that many were swayed to vote “No” not by emotion but by reason. Issues like the Currency and the fate of North Sea Oil were at least as important as the emotional case – for many anyway. This may also be true for the EU Referendum

I'll leave it to others to make the rational case for staying in the European Union. It is strong and it needs to be made forcefully and clearly. The “Remain” campaigners haven't done this yet and they need to get their act together quickly. The “Leave” campaign has the easier task as I wrote here. The rational case for Brexit is dodgy at the very least and I suspect they know it. So they go for the emotions and the soundbites. And above all they focus shamelessly on immigration and the “migrant threat”. We saw this only minutes after the terrorist attack in Brussels – Brexiters (or some of them) were quick to use this terrible event as a reason to support “Leave” – and once they had made this claim trying to deny it became a tit-for-tat which is just what “Leave” wanted! 

The reality of the modern world is that we are all far more mobile than our parents generation (and before) could ever be. Look at this extraordinary map of Brits living outside the UK in mainland Europe:
Add the fact that we are a great nation of travellers – most European resorts have Brits as their main visitor nationality – and you see that we have already effectively become Europeans as well as British. In the same way that a majority of Scots is happy to be British as well as Scottish.

If we are integrated members of Europe by choice as well as by Treaty this leads to what I think may be a clinching argument for “Remain” – if they can find a way to present it. The argument starts with a question. “Given our geography and given our predisposition as individuals to be an active part of Europe would you agree that Europe is important to the United Kingdom?” . That's a slightly leading question I admit but not a dishonest one. If the answer is overwhelmingly “Yes” then the clincher follow up question can be posed. “Given that Europe is important to the UK do you think that we could better influence what happens in Europe from the inside or from the outside?” And there you have it. Europe is going to carry on being together as  the EU whether the UK is in it or not. They are going to carry on as 27 united nations even if we pick up our ball and run away. They are going to carry on taking decisions that will impact upon British citizens - and not just the nearly two million Brits who live there! As a member of the EU we can take part in discussions and decisions about all the changes. As a non-member that would be far more problematic.

As a member of the EU we are a major player in the process of moulding the European future and in influencing the detail. With members in the European Parliament we take take part in debates. With officials in the Commission we participate in steering the management of the Union. Despite our semi-detached attitude at times we have generally  been good Europeans most of the time. And proudly so. The Anglo-Saxon Europeanism may be less romantic than that of the French and less hard-nosed than that of the Germans but it is no less valid. Europe needs it. And we need Europe. 


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home