“World Peace”. Those are the opening words of the Schumann Declaration – the founding document of what is now the European Union. So that is what it is all about. Peace between member states. And peace in the face of external threat by offering political support to the NATO military alliance.
The EU has helped member states make the transition from dictatorship to democracy – and it keeps established democracies up to the mark.
So it is not about the single market or the customs union – important though these boosts to our economic prosperity are.
I wish to Remain in the EU because I wish the UK to be part of the great European peace project.
Peace between States is Rooted in Understanding between Individuals
Freedom of movement is not some add-on, an economic tool to get workers to factories. It is a central part of breaking down the barriers between the peoples of Europe.
We all share a common history, a common culture. Go into a museum in London or in Kiev, in Madrid or in Stockholm, and you see how similar art, culture, technology, thought have always flowed across Europe. You also see the local variations that make this Continent so fascinatingly diverse.
I support freedom of movement. I am glad that three million of our EU fellow citizens have made their homes here and that one million UK citizens have made their homes in the EU. To those of us who can perceive the EU’s Unity in Diversity that seems as natural as people from Yorkshire retiring to Bournemouth.
A Referendum on the Terms
In June the country voted to leave the EU. The result should be respected. The government is right now to prepare a plan to leave the EU, send in the Article 50 notification and negotiate a framework for future relations with the EU.
That is the end of the June mandate. There was no plan in the Leave campaign, so there can be no mandate to implement any plan. Instead, as is normal with any project, there needs to be a review. Having gone down the referendum route, only a referendum has the political authority to confirm or change course.
So there should be a referendum 20 months after the Article 50 notification has gone in, offering the British electorate a choice: Brexit on the agreed terms, or Remain.
Uniting to Win
We are happy to work with any body that wishes to Remain and that sees the referendum on the terms as the democratic vehicle for obtaining that choice. Whoever leads, the time has come to work together for the greater good.
Deserving to Win
Problems with Brexit will lead some to vote Remain. That might take us over 50%. But our aim should be to settle the question – and to heal the country.
June’s Leave voters will only vote Remain in 2018 if they think that it is in their own interests to do so. So we need to come up with a policy offer that will make them believe that Remain Britain is the best hope for themselves and for Britain.
That means addressing the grievances that Leave voters had – though we do not need to adopt their solutions. “Nobody listens to us” – we can promote proportional representation. “Left behind communities” – better schools and colleges. “Too many immigrants” – emphasise how immigrants assimilate, and make that a reality.
We Need to Get on with it
Two dates matter – and they are coming up fast.
To obtain a referendum on the terms means amending the Government’s Brexit legislation in the first half of 2017.
The referendum on the terms would take place in about November 2018. So we need to get our policies sorted and adopted by political parties by the end of 2017.
Michael is a retired senior civil servant and a member of the European Movement. He runs the Facebook page: Campaign for the Real Referendum – on the Terms of Brexit