(Peace plant, Europe House, London)
There is a good deal to be said for sharing living costs and expenses with friends. Many of us realise this when we live on a restricted income. You may have split the bill for a meal out, shared a round of drinks or pitched in to buy the shopping for a party. It’s an everyday matter where trust and shared need ensure that everyone is happy with the result. We all know the individuals who prefer to pay their own way, afraid they might end up paying in part for someone else’s dining experience. We also have probably been in situations where we feel we have been taken for a ride by others who are too self-centred to share in a fair way. That can be a very embarrassing scenario and can easily end friendships.
This is how I am understanding our relationship with Europe in the run up to the referendum. Mr Gove is worried “they” may have too much control, Mr Farage thinks “they” just want to pinch “our” jobs, Boris the Bimbo just sees the debate as an opportunity to get more media coverage, always eager for another 15 minutes of fame (and maybe a job as PM). This band of opportunists seize the soundbites in order to advance their careers.
The European Union was created during the post war period in order to help create a stable, fair co-operative which could bring greater prosperity and security to the population and provide a trading block which could stand a chance when faced with large competitive markets such as those of China and the USA. In order to reap the benefits of this co-operative union, every nation state contributes to the pot and has a say in how this money is used. The poorer, weaker nations are helped to improve. Expertise is shared and the multilingual, multicultural dimensions of this union bring greater mutual understanding. Of course, that’s the ideal which all involved have to work towards.
Much has been achieved. So let’s get some things straight:
The European Parliament is made up of elected delegates (MEPs) from each of the nation states. A democratic process which UK citizens are so disengaged with they have sent UKIP MEPs as our representatives and they have done a predictably poor job but we are in part to blame for this.
Our rights are protected by the work of the European Council of Human Rights. Ever wondered how you would manage if illness or injury prevented you from working, if your employer was unfair? How you could get help if our national legal system let you down? The EU has produced rules that ensure that its citizens are treated fairly, whatever their gender, sexual orientation, disability or political preference!
The knowledge creation that happens as a result of European funded projects in Higher Education ensures that we hold our own in the world, helping to solve major societal challenges in everything from research into illness such as cancer, global warming and climate change, food security and space exploration. Collaborative working saves resources and improves the quality of the findings.
There are many more good reasons for remaining in the EU. For those struggling to see through the media circus, I ask you consider the nature of soundbites you are hearing from the Leave campaign. Do they sound like the voices of people who could live co-operatively and fairly with others?