I love Europe. That’s my reason for hoping Britain will vote, on June 23, to stay in the European Union.
So I leave to John Major. former Conservative prime minister, the benefits for Britain itself. In a forcefully worded recent statement for the Stronger In campaign, he showed that the arguments of the Leave campaign are “unforgivable fraud.” He essentially exposed them as deliberate lies, though he didn’t want to apply quite those words to politicians who had been colleagues of his. Britain by leaving would lose money on a huge scale. It would have to renegotiate more than fifty treaties. Immigrants contribute far more value in services and taxes than they cost in benefits. And more.
Many other major points have been made – that the young are in favor of staying in because they can so easily travel and study in the other countries; that three million jobs depend on exports to the EU; that the United Kingdom could well break up (Scots want to stay in the EU); that the European Police. European arrest warrant, and other forms of cooperation are vital against terrorism and cross-border crime; that 78% of British businesses say that leaving the EU would be bad for them; that everyone would be £3,500 a year worse off; that the EU forced multinational credit card companies to cut extortionate fees charged to shops and passed on to customers; that it broke up the monopoly of two airline companies on transatlantic flights; that it enables citizens of Britain (for instance) to get treatment in the health systems of other countries if they wish to do so because it is better or quicker.
I have to transfer my dollars to pounds, and the number of pounds per dollar rose sharply at the mere announcing of the referendum and the possibility that Britain may cripple itself.
Even the defenders of the EU tend to talk about staying in a “reformed” EU. What they mean is that opponents may be mollified if the EU lets Britain opt out of more of the rules. The British political system needs reform more than the EU’s does. Its parliament is a shouting-match. Its electoral system is unfair (leaving millions unrepresented if their MP is not of their party, and leaving elections to be decided by the few “swing” constituencies); it needs the proportional system used by the EU.
But these are the kinds of things that appeal to me:
The EU sets standards in environmental matters, building codes, job safety and the like that are usually higher than Britain’s. Hence much of the grumbling about being “told what to do by Brussels.” Britain’s air quality has been improved almost entirely because of having to comply with EU directives. Many of Britain’s beaches, such as the one close to where I lived, had failing grades for sanitation till they had to be brought up to EU standards. EU directives on wildlife habitat have enabled the recovery of many endangered species – birds, butterflies, orchids, dolphins. The Natura 2000 network of protected sites covers 18% of Europe’s land, increasing the area of sensitive habitats in Britain.
The EU is working toward an end of the use of apes and monkeys in invasive experiments. It banned the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, and promotes research into alternatives to animal testing.
The EU is the world’s largest aid donor. It leads the fight against the poverty that breeds rebellions and terrorism, against malaria and AIDS. It paid for the inoculation of two and a half million children against polio when that reappeared in Syria.
In Madagascar, we learned that many children are fated to a life on garbage heaps because they never went to school, which was because the authorities didn’t know of their existence: their parents never registered them. The EU has funded mass drives to register children.
A friend, who was studying Germanic languages while I was studying Arabic and Persian, said to me: “I think Europe is unique, don’t you?” I replied flippantly: “Yes, it’s the only continent that doesn’t begin with ‘A’!”
The eu-niqueness of Europe can be over-eulogized. It isn’t yet a eu-topia. (And its name doesn’t really begin with the Greek word for “good”: the “eur” part probably meant “broad.”) It is really only a peninsula of a larger continent, Eurasia. Still, the idea of continents was a European idea: for the Greeks, the world seemed to be divided into Europe on one side of the central sea and Asia on the other.
Europe is a richly diverse tapestry of cultures. Still, what continent or subcontinent isn’t? Europe spread its languages and its ideas far around the world. But it was Africa that originally sent humanity itself around the world. What matters for us is our own time and trends.
I see the European Union as the most beneficent of the superpowers, the foundation for a new and better era in world history.
Europe was the devil of the twentieth century. Its many nations had fought each other for millennia. Out from Europe flared the only two World Wars. The first was followed by vindictiveness and the worst of all hatreds yet. The second was followed by reconciliation and cooperation: the Marshall Plan and the European Union. The countries thus bonding in friendship have never fought each other in the seven decades since and it has become inconceivable that they ever will. Who should be more proud of this than Britain?