Wednesday, 2 March 2016

What's good about the European Union?

Ignoring for the moment the negative reasons to vote remain, is there any reason to stay?  

I find it an easy question to answer.

The European Union was born shortly after the Second World War when a 

These are Winston Churchill’s words. One of the “victors”, who saw that the myriad of rival nations and states had come perilously close to bringing back the Dark Ages “in all their cruelty and squalor”.  Churchill’s remedy for this situation was simple, and shared by many others: stop being a myriad of rival nations and states. Become a community, in Churchill’s words “a kind of United States of Europe”.

Since then, a full seventy years, there has been no armed conflict (plenty of bickering, but no armed conflict) between any members of the European Union or its predecessors. That was not the case in the previous seventy years. Or the seventy years before that. Or before that. As we go back and back trying to find a comparable period of peace in Europe we find we run out of recorded history.

We have for seventy years lived together. We have welcomed into our union former fascist dictatorships, Portugal, Spain, Greece and kept them democratic. We have converted the former communist economies to the free market, their dictatorships to democracies and we have kept them that way. Our lives, commerce and societies are so intertwined that the dictatorships, wars and grinding poverty of previous generations have become utterly inconceivable.

In doing so we have dismantled barriers to trade, both in goods and services. You used to have to clear customs to sell abroad, there used to be tariffs on the import and export of goods, there used to be out and out bans on the export of services. Regulations varied from state to state; what one could quite legally sell in France could not be sold in Germany, what could be sold in Germany was against the law in Spain.

We co-operate. The Costa del Sol used to be known as the Costa del Crime; criminals could retire to Spain and be entirely safe from the British Police. Now there is the European Arrest Warrant. If a dangerous criminal flees to Spain, Plod simply ‘phones el Plod and el Plod picks up the criminal for us. The Large Hadron Collider is just the most famous example of a European scientific project. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that scientific research is not now a national but a European endeavour. Many environmental projects are nigh on impossible without co-operation: pollution and global warming does not acknowledge borders.

Employment law requires co-ordination over the Union. All must provide holiday, sick pay, maternity pay lest a “race to the bottom” begins where one jurisdiction sees and advantage in screwing over its workforce leaving the others to follow suit or become “uncompetitive”.
Peace, prosperity, democracy, liberty, security, progress and a decent life for the citizens.

Do I want my children and grandchildren to be citizens of that?

Damn right I do.

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