If you’re a resident of the United Kingdom, British, or a diehard follower of politics, you will undoubtedly be aware of the referendum on membership to be held on 23 June 2016.
In the General Election campaign of 2015, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced that the country would hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union if his party were returned to power. David Cameron was re-elected and, accordingly, has announced the date of the referendum following negotiations on what he has described as new, more favourable terms. Somewhat surprisingly, Cameron is still in favour of UK membership but now leads a very split Conservative Party with many leading figures backing the ‘no’ or ‘Brexit’ campaign.
The last few months have seen claims and counter claims emanating from both sides of the argument, and it’s fair to say that neither side is properly equipped with facts. Obviously, the ‘yes’ or ‘Remain’ group can offer more positives based upon the years that the UK has been a member of the EU whilst the Brexit campaign is simply spouting fairy tales as so many factors have yet to be experienced. In recent weeks, both sides have become virtual laughing stocks as they strive to influence their respective followers with their rhetoric and, frequently, nonsensical statements.
A stable point of the Brexit group is that leaving the EU would put the UK in a strong position to secure a free trade and cooperation deal, but with whom, exactly, it’s not known. The likelihood of the remaining EU members wanting to negotiate individually on trade deals with the UK seems highly improbable so that would mean the UK having to look much further afield, and trade deals take both considerable time and effort to finalise. Another scaremongering fact being touted by Brexit is that the UK would be safer outside the EU. They seem to forget that EU countries currently work closely together to help counteract terrorism, and once again, this level of cooperation would cease were the UK to abandon its close neighbours.
So what exactly has the European Union done for the UK? According to Brexit, the answer is very little apart from cost the country millions of pounds. However, the truth is somewhat different, and the list of benefits is considerable. Here are a few highlights …
- The EU has provided Britain with 57% of its trade
- Funding has been applied directly to areas hit by industrial decline
- Enforced legislation has resulted in cleaner air, beaches and rivers
- Unleaded fuel, lower exhaust emissions, enhanced safety for motor vehicles
- Enhanced social welfare and labour protection
- Equal pay, holiday entitlement and restricted working hours
- Smoke-free workplaces and other environments
- Cheaper mobile charges with roaming costs soon to be abolished
- Improved consumer protection and food standards
- Access to European healthcare
- Single market competition and customs-free trade within that market
Above all else, every citizen of the EU has the freedom to travel, work and live in any member state. Citizens of the EU benefit from cross-border policing to help combat human trafficking, drugs and arms smuggling as well as support for democracy and human rights. People are living in relatively safe environments as member countries exist within a climate of peace after centuries of war and uprising. In more recent years, following the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the EU has assisted in the political, social and economic changes of what were former dictatorships.
Of course, the EU is not without its faults. A prime criticism is its excessive bureaucracy and tendency to focus upon issues which trivialise its main purpose. It is right that countries such as the United Kingdom challenge some of this bureaucracy but change can only be implemented by being a part of the greater organisation. Those who support Brexit and think that the country will have a greater say in world events outside the union are sadly delusional, and are likely to find the UK without many allies in a world that depends upon greater collaboration for both financial and personal security. It has been suggested that, in the event of a Brexit victory, travellers from Britain into EU countries may need visas in the future so everyone who loves to holiday in Europe but doesn’t want to be a part of it should take note! As regular readers of my blog will know, I now reside in Spain, something that is technically only possible because of UK membership of the EU. I am shocked when I read that many British people living in Europe are actually supporting the ‘no’ campaign, despite the fact that they have benefited from EU legislation. To me, they are simply shooting themselves in the foot!