The European Union is built on a set of ideals that we all value
What matters to Europeans? The rule of law. Freedom of expression. Property rights. Democracy. The opportunity to build profitable enterprises. Freedom of the Press. The right to live with security and dignity. A safe, clean environment. Humane treatment of animals. Scientific progress. Freedom of belief. Freedom.
Though other parts of the world share some of these ideals, the EU has been tireless in promoting them across our continent and beyond. It has given Germany a different path to follow that has transformed it from warmonger to model world citizen. It has linked Western Europe in a shared progress of economic development and prosperity that has kept the once belligerent region at peace for 70 years. So important is this set of ideals that most of the former Soviet Bloc countries of central and eastern Europe have now embraced them. The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its great contribution to European stability and democracy.
In Britain, we tend to see the negative side of these ideals: the administrative burden of legislation that keeps our air clean and protects our employment rights; the foreigners in our cities, who come to Britain because they share our love of freedom to travel and work; the loss of sovereignty that comes from agreeing to support each other and abide by shared rules, many of which British experts drafted. We forget that while we may lose a little control over our own affairs, we gain new control over the rest of Europe. We have a say on the treatment of orphans in Romania, on the regulation of banks in Italy, on the safety standards of nuclear power stations in Poland, on the laws governing journalists in Hungary. Our influence now extends further than at any time since the dissolution of the British Empire.
Shared European ideals are making all of Europe safer, kinder, stronger, better.
But the EU does not get everything right, and now its greatest achievements are under threat
Many complaints about the EU are justified. Its administrators have lost touch with the people they serve. It has occasionally tried to regulate beyond sensible limits. Its agricultural policies are wasteful and counterproductive. The association agreement with Ukraine may have contributed to that nation’s civil war. These are the understandable mistakes of a large and evolving organisation that is still learning its place in the world. They are not systemic faults. The EU needs experienced and pragmatic countries like the UK to help it avoid and overcome these mistakes.
More seriously, the EU is now facing some of the toughest challenges it has ever encountered. The euro seems to have been a grave error for several member states. Youth unemployment is dangerously high. Greece remains in a critical condition. Hundreds of thousands of migrants are testing not only the EU’s external borders but its internal solidarity. Russia is threatening the stability of the whole region and challenging EU and NATO unity. Extremist political parties are gaining support.
Consequently the European Union is, for the first time in its history, at risk of fragmentation and even collapse. Not only would this mean economic recession for the whole continent, bringing mass unemployment and widespread suffering, but it would also reverse the gains made in the ideals we all share. The rule of law, democracy, scientific progress, freedom – all would be diminished if the walls go up and the extremists take over.
The fastest way to precipitate such a fragmentation would be for Britain to leave the EU.
We are the straw that could break the camel’s back.
We are the catalyst for a new dark age.
We must support the EU and its ideals in every way we can
Yes, we should Vote to Remain on 23 June. We should vote to stay part of a worthy project that has underpinned a golden age of peace and prosperity for Europe.
But we should do more than that.
We should help steer the EU towards the future we desire.
That means talking to other Europeans about what we collectively want from the EU civil servants who work for us and the funds that are disbursed on our behalf.
It means getting to know our MEPs and challenging them to represent us properly and push for reform.
It means campaigning against the ideas we don’t like – whether closer political union or wider geographic expansion – and in favour of the ideas we do like, so that our representatives and civil servants understand what we expect from them.
It means looking for ways to work together on the big issues we all face, such as youth unemployment, refugees, ageing populations, terrorism and climate change.
It means being a good European as well as a great British citizen.
Let’s be hopeful. Let’s be constructive. Let’s dream a little…
We can make the EU the greatest coalition of sovereign nations ever seen
We’ve achieved seven decades of peace. Through the EU we can ensure many more.
We’ve rebuilt our own continent. We can find a way to support the Syrian people through their trauma, while keeping Europe secure against excessive economic migration.
We defeated fascism. We can stand firm in the face of Russian aggression, Islamic terrorism and political extremism, winning on the strength of the ideals we all share.
We invented the modern industrial world. We can reignite European creativity and prosperity, built on sustainable technologies and renewable fuels.
We inspired free trade, democracy and the rule of law around the globe. We can set an example for the rest of the world once again.
Be optimistic. Be collaborative. Be European.
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