Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Vote Remain for so much more

When I was young I lived in a dangerous world in which two superpowers threatened to destroy civilization. I thought that there must be something better than this. What must happen is for countries with economic and political power to come together in a union which could turn to the other superpowers and say no - enough - the world deserves better. Such a union could be more than just a partnership of commerce - it could combine resources to support great projects - to promote and spread human rights, to deal with poverty, to research and develop new technologies for the production of energy, to support initiatives to help its members live in a cleaner and safer world. I was happy to see us join the Common Market, and extremely pleased when it became the European Union, and I was proud to become a European citizen. So much could be achieved, and we could become a new form of political community, a European super-state within which each country maintained its identity and uniqueness, with government at the appropriate level, and with citizens being able to live and work without barriers from the Northernmost tip of Sweden to the warm shores of Sicily. That was my hope, and my vision.

Things are far from perfect in the EU. The situation regarding Greece has been a huge crisis, both financial and humanitarian. The EU has also expanded far too fast for my liking, with countries like Poland having a deeply unpleasant record on human rights. I would have hoped for a smaller and more stable EU, giving things time to evolve socially and politically.

But, so much of my vision has come to pass. The right to travel and work and live within the EU is wonderful and powerful. The income from membership of the EU has been hugely beneficial for the British economy. The work the EU does towards the environment is vitally important, as is its substantial organisational and financial support for science.

I want more. Much more. I don't fear a European super-state, I want it passionately. I want a European army. I want an alternative to NATO that isn't treading on the toes of Russia and always looking towards America. I want a Europe that has the financial power to compete with China, and to not 'catch a cold when Wall Street sneezes". I want the large economy of the UK to help build the engine of such a European state, not splutter in isolation.

So much of the discussion of the EU has been about finance, about counting the pennies of contributions and refunds. So much discussion has been about the fear of other Europeans, as if migrants are wolf packs coming to ravage our country, not people with families who work here, pay taxes, and contribute to our culture. (It's ironic that in towns where a night out is usually to an Indian restaurant, voters state their fear of immigration).

We are better than this. We should not be fearful penny-pinching accountants, hostile to change. We should be working together to change the world through our combined strength and wisdom, and goodness knows the world desperately needs us to do this.

Don't vote just for 'remain' - vote for a positive, progressive vision of a better, safer, saner world, a world where we don't talk any more about 'The West', but about 'Europe', a new power yet with deep roots, a place of exciting ideas based on thousands of years of history, the birthplace of the Enlightenment where science and reason have never been stronger, a place where freedoms and rights and secure. Vote 'remain' for a world that can be so much better, because we can make it better together.

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