EU Referendum: We are all the Ever Closer Union

On 18 April 1951, in Paris, the Foreign Ministers of Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands expressed their common resolve, in words we are not reminded of often enough, “to substitute for historic rivalries a fusion of their essential interests; to establish, by creating an economic community, the foundation of a broad and independent communiong peoples long divided by bloody conflicts; and to lay the bases of institutions capable of giving direction to their future common destiny”. Having thus justified the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, on 25 March 1957 the heads of state of those same six countries created the European Economic Community, the basis for today’s European Union, out of a determination “to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.”

This objective has been repeated ever since in the EU’s foundational treaties but despite their sixty year history, it is easier to state what those words do not mean than what they do. Notwithstanding the constant mantra by the Eurosceptic movement that the EU treaties enshrine a goal of “ever closer union”, these words do not amount to a legally enforceable mandate to create the United States of Europe of the right-wing’s collective hysteria. However rhetorically convenient it may be only to quote the three words, this cynical stunting of the Treaty text does put into stark contrast what the words do mean and, critically, illustrates the essence of the EU. Quite simply, the “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe” is us; we who think there should be no borders to commerce, learning, friendship and love on our continent. We who know that the free flow of human endeavour, of ideas, and of empathy is not a state of nature but that, in fact, European history – and we do not have to go back 70 years – is a crisp illustration of the opposite.

It has taken a political act of will to lay the foundations of the Europe of today where we, the peoples of Europe, live, work, and interact in ways which were unimaginable to our grandparents and, in some parts of our continent, even our parents. That act of will is the EU; as imperfect as the peoples that compose it but as vitally necessary precisely because of our imperfections.

We who have signed this letter come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some of us are Europeans of non-British origins. Some of us are Europeans of British origin whose lives have been interlaced with Europeans from elsewhere. Yet others are UK residents for whom Europe simply matters. We live in the UK for a wide variety of reasons but we all have in common that we choose to live here because the UK is an incredible place, full of exciting opportunities.

However, we all know that what created this UK which we call home is inextricably linked to its membership of the EU. We know that membership to be a symbol of the continuing and ever-necessary effort to break down barriers between people and peoples that brought us all to where we are today. It would be sad beyond belief if a cynical misinterpretation of the aspirational treaty language of “ever closer union” contributed to the UK excluding itself from this aspiration.

As long as the UK is a member, with every cross-border transaction, with every student who goes on an Erasmus-term, with every child born to parents who only met because of free movement, we who live here will continue to build our own ever closer union. And that is what the referendum of the UK’s membership of the EU is about: Do the people of the UK want to be a part of this collective act of will to break down barriers between peoples, part of a project which does not only improve people’s lives but whose very essence is to widen the scope of what those lives can be?

Voting to remain is to vote in favour of curiosity, openness and tolerance; quite simply a vote to give our better selves a chance.

Robin Lööf SW9
Kerry Lööf SW9
Alexander McKinnon E3
Jenna Broome BH14
Alexandra Felix W5
Matthew Getz NW3
Hal Watson HG4
Amy Watson HG4
William Broome DT4
Shirley Broome DT4
Edward Henry W4
Marketa Henry W4
James Mark N16
Alex Parker SE13
Anthony Jones DT4
William Parker SE13
John LynchVW6
Philip McGhee SW12
Clare Tyler TR9
Nick Hopkinson CR8
Alison Kelnar EH12
Christopher Kelnar EH12
Morag Ofili SE15
Robert Maddox N1
Florence Eavis NW6
Winston Eavis NW6