EU: I’m voting to Remain, but not for those reasons

In case it escaped your notice, there’s a referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union on 23rd June.

The biggest campaigns on either side are Stronger In and Leave.EU.1 I’d like to tell you why I don’t support either of these campaigns and why I’m voting to Remain.

It’s true that the EU is a mess. The multiple interlocking levels of government are confusing even to the people who work there. Many of the power and decision-making is made by unelected or indirectly elected bodies. And there’s a huge transparency crisis where secret negotiation of treaties like TTIP threatens public services in every member state without accountability to their populations. Awful.

Here’s the thing about the Leave campaign: if we left the EU, we’d still have all of that. Why? Because we are the EU bureaucrats. The UK is one of the loudest voices in the EU already. Lots of the decisions made are made because we insist. Even the referendum itself was a way for David Cameron to secure an even louder voice within the EU and various special privileges in the event of a Remain vote. Don’t think that TTIP goes away if we leave the EU – we just hand it to our current Tory government to decide all the terms by themselves.

But I also have a problem with the Stronger In campaign. It talks very heavily about how much better off the UK and British people are by being members of the EU. That may be true, but it’s beside the point. Even if the UK were “weaker in”, I’d still want to stay. That’s the point of a union. We’re all human beings. We’re all citizens of this planet. If one country is doing better than another, it’s our duty to help the other out, not to whinge about how we’re not getting our fair share. Any politics that promotes “our nation is stronger” mentality is promoting jingoism – the idea that you need to protect your own interests and screw everyone else’s.

As lefties, we should be working towards a world where national borders are meaningless – a world which is economically balanced enough that people can live wherever they like. I know we’re centuries away, but any step that strengthens borders or promotes nationalism is a step in the wrong direction.

People keep talking about the EU as though it’s purely about economics. It’s not. From the very beginning it’s been about preventing war in Western Europe. By forcing countries to rely on each other, they cannot go to war with each other. This is a really good thing, and it’s worked. The EU has successfully achieved its primary aim – countries that were warring with each other for centuries beforehand have never gone to war against each other again.

Yes, the EU is a broken mess. But we’re a part of that broken mess, and by staying in we can help to fix it. If we leave, we’re admitting that we think our interests and our humanity are more important – more valuable – than the interests and humanity of those we share this planet with. Is that the kind of country you want to live in?

  1. The hilariousness of their site using a top-level domain that, according to its owners, “tells your customers that you are […] subject to EU law and other relevant trading standards” has not gone unnoticed []


  1. Michael B Heath
    May 9, 2016

    Dear Rich

    Thanks for your email. Your essay is interesting reading.
    It’s important not to confuse the European Union with the United Nations. Unlike the UN the EU isn’t principally a humanitarian organisation though it has preserved a model of social capitalism more humane than that in the USA or The People’s Republic of China.
    The EU is an economic/financial bloc . It’s main purpose is to defend the interests of it’s constituent member nation states and the big businesses that run its economy.
    It isn’t always beneficial for outside local interests. For instance heavily subsidised EU agricultural products exported to Africa have driven local farmers out of business as they can’t compete with the subsidised imports and EU fishing boats exploit fish stocks off the Western coast of Africa to the detriment of local fishers. The EU isn’t green. Time and again environmental protection measures have been either abandoned entirely or watered down under pressure from vested national interests or big business interests. Poland isn’t going to be phasing out its coal fired power stations any time soon.
    There has been peace in Europe since the end of the Cold War in 1991, which is when the EU in its present form began to take shape. Of course there was the war in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia when one constituent republic tried to dominate the rest and resorted to brutal military force when the other republics voted in referendum to accede from the federation. Do you seriously believe France is going to invade Britain if Brexit win? I’m sure that even if there is a split , which I very much doubt the ties that bind Europe will continue because it’s in everyone’s mutual interest that they should do so.
    My problem with the referendum is the fundamental dishonesty of the men who decided to call it and that it should be in the form it’s in. The referendum is actually about a split in the Conservative Party and the rise of UKIP. It’s highly irresponsible for Cameron to have put our relationship with our major allies and trading partners at risk so he can see down his party’s right wing. This referendum is also about Cameron and Osborn’s renegotiated terms of UK membership of the bloc. Withholding benefits from EU migrant workers and further entrenching the autonomy of London’s financial industry. Vote remain and that is what you are actually supporting.
    This is why I urge people to abstain from voting . To abstain simply return the ballot paper unmarked. The more people who abstain either by not voting at all or returning their unmarked ballot paper the less valid the referendum becomes. If more than 50%of eligible voters abstain it will be hard to argue that the outcome is a valid representation of the people’s will.
    Best wishes.
    Michael B Heath

  2. Rich
    May 9, 2016

    Thanks for your comments. I agree with you about the current nature of the EU, but the original purpose of economic ties was to stop wars.

    The EU is a terrible mess, but that’s in large part due to the exact same kinds of corrupting influences that influence the Tory and Labour parties. Leaving the EU won’t fix any of this for us (those influences can more easily influence our Tory majority government than a bloc of 28 nations) and the withdrawal of economic interdependence could be disastrous for many of the other nations in the EU, whose voices are never represented in this referendum debate.

    • Michael Barry Heath
      May 10, 2016

      Hi Rich, Maybe it would be better to completely straight forward about the reason to vote Remain.
      It makes it less likely that IDS or some other right wing zealot will become British prime minister. It’s purely tactical .
      Thanks for your guidance.

      • Rich
        May 10, 2016

        In my case, it’s not tactical. My reasons are above: it’s primarily about being considerate to the other 27 countries, who are all just as important as the UK.

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