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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Britain-EU referendum and why I'll be voting to remain

[Short link to this blog if you need it - http://goo.gl/VRk881 - or retweeet me!]

Personally, I'm going to be voting for the UK to remain in the EU. And here are my views on why. If you disagree that's up to you, but however you feel, do get out there and vote!

Laws and safety 


In part it's about scale. A lot of our laws around minimum levels of employment rights, safety standards, consumer rights etc. come from the EU. Without them, we'd have to devise our own. It's easy to criticise health and safety and consider it "red tape" and "the cost of EU legislation", but I think it's good for us overall. For the UK to be able to contribute to consistent widely agreed sensible policies in these areas has to be a good thing, and it would cost us to do it ourselves. And things like environmental laws "keeping us honest". Yes, we could devise ones ourselves, and perhaps we wouldn't even have come up with laws on banana curvature (Regulation 2257/94Only applicable to "Extra Class" bananas), or allowing 4kcal/100ml to be "energy free" or "zero calorie" (Page 14 of EC1924/2006), but why not make them consistent with other countries and get involvement from other cultures in our laws? And bear in mind we can make stupid laws without the EU, such as the requirement for BC3 light fittings in new home builds (Apparently part of BS 7671:2008 - I'm not sure "BS" really means "British Standard" in this case...)

Politicians, facts and scaremongering 


Both sides of the campaigning have got out of hand. Scaremongering and exaggeration to "ultimate worst case" scenarios on both sides on what would happen if the other side won. It's disappointing that the media and politicians haven't stuck to the facts. Boris refusing to discuss the misleading "fact" that we give £350M/week to the EU is a good example. And statements like "We'd give £100M/week to the NHS if we left" while making a good headline, seem overly simplistic to me, and that's hardly taken the form of a promise that the NHS would get everything that was available after leaving the EU (and it likely wouldn't be sensible)

The arguments aren't helped in the slightest by politicians taking extreme views of the opposing sides. In many cases it's led to video footage of them giving seemingly contradictory views in the past. If a bit of balance was shown then it would probably give them more respect, but may also be seen as a sign of weakness in their argument - and perhaps to a certain extent this has happened with Jeremy Corbyn.

Trade with the EU if we left 


We get money from the EU to support critical sectors like farming - when we're in trouble we can get help from our "friends" in the EU by being part of it, and our money can help others when they have problems. We can help each other out when times are hard.

If we were to leave, then yes we may be able to negotiate our way back to trade agreements with the rest of the EU, but to believe that such an agreement wouldn't have caveats and that we could just pick and choose the best bits from EU membership from outside is surely naive at best. Yes, Norway and Switzerland (for example) have agreements but still have to accept migrants, (some) EU laws, and pay a fee. And would all member countries really choose  to agree to trade with us as openly as before? The current Switzerland model is certainly one that I can't see the EU agreeing to again with another country.

Allowing the trade with the UK may be in the interest of a few of them (Germany for cars, France for wine/cheese) but that would have to be weighed up against the tide of people who'd like to keep us away if we choose to leave such as Marine La Pen who has quite a bit of support in France at the moment. The amount of effort required to sort out the agreements out would surely be very significant, and I find it hard to see what the benefit would ultimately be compared to what we have now. We currently have a pretty good deal inside the EU by

   (a) not being part of the Euro
   (b) being outside the Shenghen area
   (c) having a clause that lets us have a referendum on any extra powers being transferred away from us.

Why go? 


Many of the people I've personally spoken to who want to leave have said "I just think we need a change" or "We can do it better ourselves" - that's the "blind faith" approach in thinking we'll do it better. I'm not convinced. Would you want one of our political parties able to fully change things when they get in power, or have the "balance" we get by working with the EU? It's not like everyone is singing the praises of the current UK government at present ... Do we honestly believe our government - whichever party that may be at any given time - would always make better decisions than the EU would (even if they are not always directly elected by the public - and we have the House Of Lords in UK gorvernment ...)? Staying in the EU just feels more progressive and encompassing to me.

But what if you want to reduce trade (not something that Vote Leave seem to want to as they seem keen to set up new agreements - even they seem to consider that just being members of the World Trade Organisation would not be enough)? That could help UK suppliers, albeit potentially by increasing prices by reducing EU competition. then maybe leaving is the way to go, and maybe the supermarkets will be more inclined to buy British instead of importing all the time. And if you consider the EU legislation on employment and safety is just "red tape" then sure, choose to leave, but you'd be assuming that our government would not retain similar laws, like my BC3 bulb example.

Sure there are things that we do better in the UK than the EU overall. There are things where we fall short. You can pick and choose all the facts you want (and of course the politicians and media have done just that) but I think on balance that being able to learn from, co-operate with, and be consistent with, our EU counterparts is positive. And while the people making the rules may be appointed rather than elected, the countries still get to vote on them.

Immigration and freedom of movement


This has obviously been a hot topic, but the issue isn't purely down to us being in the EU. Despite the relatively open borders with the EU, over 50% of the people coming to this country are from outside the EU. So at best, shutting the doors to the EU would only reduce the perceived problem, not eliminate it.

The potential for increasing paperwork when travelling across Europe seems like a horribly regressive step, especially when we've made good strides recently on roaming mobile phone costs and the like too recently.

Summary


I struggle to think of anything that the EU has done that has had a direct negative impact on my life, but I feel safer being part of a larger community. I work with people globally each day. In the internet age the world is smaller - we're getting closer and we deal with more and more diverse cultures and I think that embracing the diversity of the EU adds to that. And I don't see the sense in trying to separate ourselves and believing "We can do it better than the others". And our current EU agreements are pretty good for a country inside the EU.

I didn't want Scotland to become independent and in the EU referendum I'll be voting for unity and co-operation. I plan to vote remain on the 23rd June. Whether you agree with me or not, please get out there and use your vote. It may be the most important one you ever make.

[EDIT: I made a follow-up  post on Facebook a day after the leave result was announced - you can read it at http://on.fb.me/28SvMMA]
[EDIT2: I used a temporary profile picture with a comment thread in the following week. It's at http://on.fb.me/29qEe3Q]