From empire building to empire biscuits: Why the UK’s future lies with Europe

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On June 23rd the UK will go to the polls and vote on the issue of EU membership.

At the back of David Cameron’s mind must be a sound akin to a broken underwater car alarm. In his attempt to placate UKIP, he may very well have handed them the keys to the UK; by striving to cement his legacy, Cameron may have finally knocked loose the very foundations of the United Kingdom.

Scotland and Ireland watch with bated breath – their suitcases are all but packed, waiting.

I’ll be voting Remain, reluctantly but resolutely.

Not out of love for an organisation drowning in bloated bureaucracy, or for one that coordinates arm-in-arm with the IMF to inflict harmful economic policy upon its smaller members.

Not out of respect or admiration at the disastrous, poorly coordinated and shockingly executed response to one of the largest refugee crises of our time.

Certainly not out of any loyalty to the train-wreck that is the Remain campaign, re-heating the same tired tactics we saw in the Scottish independence referendum.

I’ll be voting remain for the pragmatic, realistic and idealistic notion of a continent co-coordinating and co-operating to take on the challenges of the 21st century. Climate change, terrorism, global financial regulation – these kinds of issues do not recognise national borders, and only together through a common struggle can we exercise our collective clout to take on these generational struggles.

The largest single-market in the world; visa-free travel; neighbours helping neighbours – this is the union we may choose to leave.

I completely sympathise with Leave voters. Many are angry, frustrated and determined to reject a status-quo that has relegated them as ‘racists and swivel-eyed loons’. Some of the dearest people I know are on the opposite side of this debate, and such vitriol, on both sides, undermines the common goal we all share – living happier lives.

What use is freedom of movement to someone who can’t take advantage of it? Who didn’t learn a second language in school, or cannot afford to literally move their life to a different country?

I recognise the power of feeling directed towards immigrants, and immigration policy in general, by many of the British people. They by and large do not subscribe to the notion of the multi-culturalism often taken for granted – the cheap holidays, good food, new experiences.

It’s understandable that immigration is feared – it has been associated with negative change, crowded trains and hospitals. Rather than turn their ire towards the swingeing cuts to public services driven by an agenda of austerity though, these rational people have focused on immigration as the source of society’s woes, which is honestly a sad day for the British public, and democratic discourse.

The European Union is just one step in humanity’s development – mutual cooperation for mutual gain. The question really isn’t one of if the UK could survive outside the EU (of course it could); rather, we should be asking ourselves ‘what isn’t working, why isn’t it working, how can we make it work better?’

Touching on the Scottish dimension of this briefly; it has been hard to reconcile my support for Scottish independence with that of continued EU membership. The way I see it, the UK has had 300 years to reform its democracy – at least in the EU we get a seat at the table to argue our corner alongside our fellow nations of Europe, whilst the EU itself is still very much open to some degree of change.

The contrast of feeling between the 2014 referendum, and the one this year is astounding. Scots watch with detached amusement as Gordon Brown polishes his Frankenstein tribute act once more.

To conclude my rambling thoughts, I think Remain should be arguing the positive case for remaining in the EU, selling the carrot. Instead, gimmicky pirate flotillas in the Thames and personal attacks, threats of economic self-flagellation and petty politics from both sides have only emphasised the stick waiting in the shadows.

by Jamie Grant


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