Clearly one of the biggest topics in the UK currently is that of the EU Referendum. For those of you who perhaps live State side, when the Conservative Party (‘Tories’) were trying to convince people to vote for them in the 2015 General Election, one of the key points in their manifesto was that a referendum/vote would be held to decide on if the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Union. The Tories won the General Election and so the referendum was arranged. The vote will take place on 23 June 2016 and voters will have two options presented to them: Stay or Leave. (Please read this BBC article if you are not yet registered to vote in the referendum.)
As is often the way in modern politics, supporters of both sides have largely resorted to calling the other side liars and spouting that the end of the world will be upon us should you vote the wrong way. Finding any kind of legitimate information is difficult as pretty much every news source reporting on the issue has some kind of political interest and so everything should be taken with a pinch of salt. Yes, even this post that you’re reading now, and I definitely do not class myself as a news source.
In terms of the economical stuff, the in-nies will report facts like “around 3.5 million British jobs are directly linked to British membership of the European Union’s single market (1 in 10 British jobs)” and that “the EU is the world’s largest market, a UK outside the EU would not be a high priority for other counties to negotiate a trade deal”. On the other hands, out-ties will state that of course we can sort out trade deals. We did before we joined the EU and the UK is still a big player on the international scene, even if we’re not part of the EU.
Both are true, I suspect. We had a large empire and, for the most part, we are still friendly with the countries that we used to own and I suspect we can get some deals in place.
Another big argument surrounds Britain’s borders, both in terms of safety and immigration. I often feel ashamed when looking at the arguments out-ties through around here, as some (definitely not all) are essentially those you would associate with closet racists. From the information I have found, Britain already has better control over it’s borders than much of Europe (we are an island, after all) and being part of the EU means we are able to share information with other EU countries via Interpol, keeping us in the loop of information discovered way before a threat gets towards the UK.
Immigration wise, I have always been in the camp that immigration is generally a good thing for countries and whilst there are in all likelihood some people who will come here and play the system, having both signed on and worked at the Jobcentre Plus myself, 99 times out of 100, the person playing the system was a British national who had been here long enough to learn the intricacies of the benefits system.
I do not intend to address every point in this post, though I would be happy to engage in conversations with people individually, but I do also want to touch on things which are largely intangible factors associated with being a member of the EU. The EU existing is often credited as having contributed to peace between warring countries, such as following the Balkans War and playing a massive part in the Irish Peace Treaties. Certain areas of the government like to state that having to follow the European Convention on Human Rights is detrimental to Britain, but fail to realise the ECHR has directly contributed to many of things we take for granted these days, such as equal pay and non-discrimination in the work place.
Gove’s suggestion that a British Bill of Human Rights would be the right step is at best flawed and misguided and at worst an indication of the Tories wanting to further increase the gap between the poor and the rich. The Tories are already doing everything they can to limit access to legal representation for those who cannot otherwise afford it and removing the protections offered by the ECHR will ultimately mean that those who can afford to pay lawyers through private client agreements (i.e. the richest) will have free rein over those that cannot access legal representation (i.e. everyone else). And if you are thinking to yourself “I might not be rich, but I am sure I could pay a lawyer if I really needed to” consider that the cheapest qualified lawyers in the country are able to charge at least £147 an hour for their work and the cost of issuing a claim in the Civil Courts can be up to £10,000.
In bringing this post to a close, I want to leave one last thought for you to consider: never accept the world as it appears to be. Dare to see it for what it could be. Leaving the EU could well be a good thing for who wish to concentrate on them and theirs. Unfortunately, it seems like Britain is largely many people who concentrate on themselves and their immediate families when voting in key elections and referendums. By all accounts, I should probably have voted Conservative in the last election because as things stand, I am slightly better off a year financially with a Tory government. But I didn’t because this is about more than me. This referendum is about more than Britain.
As a member of the European Union we are in a position to make positive changes to Europe as a whole and perhaps even beyond that. Europe is 28 democratic countries and sure, every so often one of them needs assistance, but if we can all pull in the same direction, think of the impact we can then have on the world. Because after all, we all come from the same place.