Three at a time - a dozen to choose from
London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg writes that we need at any one time to present a small number of key messages for the Remain campaign. They should last for a couple of months. We should focus on sovereignty, democracy, community, identity. That is, we should make our arguments on what Leavers think is their ground; but actually it’s ours. A previous blog had set out the approach; a companion blog suggests messages to avoid.
Here are a dozen messages. We could run with three of them at a time for a few months and then switch to others for another extended run.
Some are factual. Some are about personal benefits of membership. Some are infrastructural, addressing deep-seated attitudes that underpin Brexit. Some are about process issues. We need a mix.
The European project is about peace, international co-operation and solidarity
Peace, co-operation, friendship, ever-closer union of people (not governments/ states). These are noble ideals. Trade is just a means to an end. We knew that at the time we joined. NATO does something different (defends Europe from external aggression). EU helps reduce border tensions: Irish border is just one of many such remnant disputes across Europe that EU smoothes over. Irish terrorism had been Europe’s longest-running and bloodiest terrorist insurgency – a massive failure of British statecraft which the EU helped to bring to an end. The EU promotes economic integration which underpins peace
The EU is democratic both for individual citizens and for countries
Directly elected Parliament, council of ministers from member states (so no law made by unelected bureaucrats). The President of the European Commision and the full membership of the EU Commission needs to be approved by Parliament. EU can only tell us what to do when we have signed a treaty giving it that power because it is in our interests to have some policies handled at the pan-European rather than national level.
We all have multiple identities, including European – that enriches us as individuals
Even if you feel English not British you surely still have other identities in your county, or town, or football club, or profession, or … or … Multiple identities enhance, do not detract. A confident sense of identity sees a Polish supermarket on the High Street as an opportunity to try something new – not as a threat to sense of self. Diversity and tolerance allow everyone to lead their life freely: all of us are in a minority for something; all of us annoy someone with something we think or do.
We obtain more use out of our sovereignty if we pool it with like-minded countries in addressing common problems
Some activities are done better at continental level. Pollution crosses borders. EU countries have similar values and policies. So we all wish for a cleaner environment and higher animal welfare. But we worry about the costs harming industry and jobs if we are undercut by rivals; an EU-level agreement ensures a level playing field. Setting product standards at EU level – including classifying bananas by bendiness – substitutes for 28 sets of rules and reduces costs. The EU is big enough to stand up to the tech giants – a country is not.
Britain Stronger IN Europe
Yes, OK, we’ll need to phrase it differently, but: when we co-operate with our neighbours we benefit: common defence procurement reduces costs; EU membership offers another way to show solidarity in difficult international relations, eg sanctions against Russia; co-operation between police forces ensures we can extradite criminals for trial and receive warning of attacks. Third countries value us for the ability to influence the EU.
Britain is special – but so is everyone else. The EU lets us work together while retaining our identities
Our history is different – but so is every other country’s, from Albania to the Vatican State. The EU’s motto is “United in diversity”. If you go to Spain – they are still Spanish (as well as European). The British Empire is no more. We are alike in status to all the other European powers. For most indicators of performance we are in line with other EU countries; we have something to offer and much to learn.
We share Europe’s history, culture and values
Read the history of other European countries or look into their museums and it is clear how much we have in common. The same trends in art, the same movement from agriculture and craft to industrialisation, the same development from autocratic monarchy to democracy. The values we care about – fair play, freedom of speech, lack of corruption – these are shared across Europe. Our attitudes about the rôle of the state in society have more in common with EU countries (the NHS is similar to European compulsory social health insurance) than with the USA (pay as you go funded by individual private insurance).
Freedom of movement is good for us – it gives us rights across this large and diverse continent
We have the freedom to live, work, study, retire, trade anywhere in the EU. We may marry an EU citizen and live together. All that without asking an immigration officer for permission. It’s similar to the freedom that a US citizen has to live work and study in any of the 50 states of the USA. That freedom is for everyone. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was about British builders. Erasmus is for students, apprentices and teachers in universities and FE colleges. Even if you do not wish to make use of it you have a valuable option to do so if your wishes or circumstances change.
Freedom of movement is good for us – people come from all over Europe to enrich our culture
There have always been people who came from abroad. It was the Romans who founded Londinium – and the Angles and Saxons (Germans) who re-founded it. The Normans were Norwegians who had settled in France. The last successful invasion was by the Dutch in 1688.
Now peaceful, the inflow brings benefits: new ideas, new ways of thinking, new people to meet: our friends, colleagues, lovers. Since Europeans share our values – they are people like us - they can easily form part of our communities. People who move country are likely to be more enterprising and interesting.
EU citizens are younger on average. The two biggest public services are the NHS and pensions - largely used by older people. So EU citizens pay more towards public services than they consume. EU citizens bring public funds into local communities: schools, NHS etc are often funded per capita so another child/ patient means another cheque.
The EU supports UK prosperity through our membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union
Trade is good for the economy. Being in the single market and customs union means that selling to Germany is similar to selling within the UK. A free trade agreement offers a much more problematic and costly access to EU consumers. FTAs do little for services, which is where the UK is strong. The great economic story of the last 50 years is not globalisation but regionalisation with integrated supply chains. Many of the high quality manufacturing jobs in Britain are not good British jobs, but good European jobs located in Britain. They will go to where the supply chain faces fewer obstacles. Almost all economists think Brexit will make us worse off. That is because distance matters for trade: so trade with far away countries will not compensate for trade with EU. Why would we be able to sign good trade agreements with third countries when the EU did not? And what is it about being in the EU that stops us trading with China anyway? It does not stop Germany exporting four times as much to China as we do.
The 2020 referendum is legitimate. 2016 was a vote on an idea; that vote was implemented – there is now a plan; so let’s vote on the plan
We will have to keep on arguing this point. And we have to win because it is better that Leavers show up and vote Leave than that they do not vote. We need a high turnout to legitimate the vote and ensure we can heal afterwards. So: 2016 was a vote on an idea. Voters were promised their decision would be “implemented” and it has been: Government has spent the years since doing little other than trying to develop a Brexit plan. Now there is a plan, we need to decide whether to go ahead with it or not. That is how decisions are made. No-one goes from idea to implementation without a review of the plan.
Alas, we can’t “just get Brexit over with”. All we can do is move forward in the least damaging way.
There is no option for making the Brexit debate go away. We will still be arguing about it and will still be divided. The difference is that if Brexit happens – whether with a deal or under No-Deal - we will spend five to ten years in negotiation with the EU about what sort of Brexit we want. The Withdrawal Agreement has settled almost nothing about the future relationship. So the negotiations and the need to make Brexit work will still take up most of the Government’s and Parliament’s time. They will not be able to deal with any domestic issues that matter.
The London4Europe blogs page is edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.