If Britain wants to break free from the EU at a time of maximal fiduciary power, then that is the primary reason why it must stay, and lead.
Those of us who live and love outside the stifling mantle of oppressive and dictatorial governments should realise the importance of the essential freedoms that being in the European Union bloc of member countries represents. What is at stake with the “Brexit” (Britain voting to leave the European Union) is more than the fate of a country’s future economic wellbeing. Britain’s economy was stagnant when it joined the then-European Economic Community in 1973, needing membership of the club that helped it to thrive. Now Britain’s economy is outperforming most of its members, and abandoning them to their fate could hinder its future prospects. But that is not the point.
The danger lies in weakening the integration of a continent that through its size and determination upholds the core values that much of the rest of the world is missing. To share with 500 million others a fundamental commitment to equal justice, the rule of law and political accountability, is to no longer be forced to shout in the dark, but to feel a kinship of strength and empowerment on a scale that deserves nurturing. We have struggled for rights over the last 150 years as women, children, and animals, employers and employees, conscientious objectors, the religious, the handicapped and the persecuted, gays and the ethnically diverse – with unstinting bravery and perseverance among much personal sacrifice and suffering. And this much longed-for charter for humanity depends, for its continued implementation, on an articulate critical mass that is the EU.
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Vacuums of good governance create favourable conditions for militancy of political thought and violent action; Belgium is a clear example, but also a reminder that the EU needs to be sustained more than ever. Risk is the price we pay to live in an open society, and pulling up the drawbridge on those who fight for the same value system would further expose the frailty that Islamist fanatics and a recovering Cold War despot are targeting. An uncertain future for the EU is an uncertain future for Britain.
“We have different histories,” commented Brexiteer MP Philip Davies on those countries wishing to remain in the EU. “If France and Germany want to do that, good luck to them. But that wasn’t our history.” Our histories may indeed have been different, but our position today, between a Middle East in flames and a rising authoritarianism, means new histories are in the making, and EU members are interconnected in ways that are often poorly understood. EU leaders will continue to make mistakes; “Mutti” Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das” unpreparedness is sharpening immigration phobia in Germany as took place in Britain when Britain opened its labour market after the EU expansion into Eastern Europe in 2004. Resolving ensuing spill-over within the solidarity of the EU is preferable to relying on China for one’s future. #Port Talbot #British steel industry #Chinese 40% import tariffs
Britain should rise above its self-perception as plucky island nation of clever clogs, with good music and telly, and punch above its landmass by remaining inside the European Union, as a leader and protector of humanity’s core values.
Britain cannot prevail behind its English moat, having stirred up the competing wish lists of Europe’s political leaders and amplifying every other country’s vulnerabilities. We need an EU that is complicit in its freedom in equal measure to those hell-bent on destroying it. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexiteer MP, asserts, “it’s also a long time since we have, off our own bat, wanted to fight anyone in Europe.” To dismiss the escalation of the seething undercurrent of anger in the average citizen, which is fuelling European extremism and Trump cretinism in America, is to misunderstand the fragility with which we make decisions today. War has been a chronic dirty game since 2003, morphing into hybrid varieties, drone-fought on foreign soil with foreign casualties, and weaponised into migrant crises feeding domestic outrage. Weighing anchor on troubled democracies in reaction is what philosopher Jean Baudrillard calls, “the logic of seduction,” by which we sail into the jaws of what we are trying to escape.
To trip and fall on a street and have everyone instinctively reach out to help is a rare thing in many parts of the world. Britain should rise above its self-perception as plucky island nation of clever clogs, with good music and telly, and punch above its landmass by remaining inside the European Union, as a leader and protector of humanity’s core values. Like humanity, the EU might be imperfect, but better for British politicians “to engage in the diplomatic leg work and hard graft that would help the EU to live up to its potential”, as Chatham House Director, Robin Niblett argues, than to further enable ungoverned powers to compete with the essential freedoms we all take for granted.