June 22, 2016 by Andrew W M Smith
Let’s not retreat into the nostalgic past, nor forfeit our influence. Let’s not surrender to fear & doubt. Let’s strive to remain together.
Big organisations are messy by nature. The BBC has been described as more a warring federation than an organisation, bound by little but a collective commitment to its mission and its values; the NHS seems a vast, sprawling enterprise sometimes united only by the virtues of its mission and the immense hard-work of the people that staff it. And yet, I believe these institutions are at the heart of what the United Kingdom is, and ought to be. So too is the EU a sprawling thing. Like the BBC and the NHS, it is also our thing. We have as much of a say in improving the working of the EU as we do in the BBC and the NHS. If we realise our role, if we elect politicians to the Council that care about the institutions and don’t abuse them, and if we endorse the whole project in by voting remain in this referendum, we can continue to shape the fate of the continent.
When it was formed, the European Union was envisioned as a way to bind people together in peace. This was the vision espoused by Churchill, when he called for a ‘United States of Europe’, . This was what was spoken about in the pre-amble to the Treaty of Rome in 1957, when it set out “to substitute for age-old rivalries the merging of their essential interests; to create, by establishing an economic community, the bases of broader and deeper community among peoples long divided between bloody conflicts; and to lay the foundations for institutions which will give direction to a destiny henceforth shared.” As it developed, it became a way to ensure that Europeans were heard on the world stage between warring superpowers. De Gaulle, for one, envisioned a ‘third force’ in a bi-polar world, which could mediate between Cold War extremes. Whether functionalist or federalist, the connections forged between our democracies have inspired people to defeat fascism, to seek prosperity in openness and cooperation, and to step back from the brink of conflict. European Unity helped Spain transition to democracy. It helped Germany find a unified, peaceful, and productive identity. It has helped France and Britain find a fairer, better, and more just role than as exploitative imperialists. It has continued to inspire other states and nations towards positive, inclusive, and democratic identities.
Togetherness and unity on this island and beyond are virtues to be sought after. They are more imperilled by the outcome of this referendum than they have been by the poisonous way it has been fought. European unity has been a dream for some, a tonic for many, and a lifelong companion for my fortunate generation. Division, isolation, and poverty promise nothing but threadbare pageantry and empty rhetoric.
Immigration makes us stronger, more vibrant, and more diverse. That is moot, however, as this referendum will not address it. Our control of our own laws is important in shaping the society that we want to be. That is moot, however, as this referendum will not increase that control. It is vital that we spend our collective revenue on the most vulnerable in our society, and give opportunities to those that need them. That is moot, however, as this referendum will not free up money to do this. This whole referendum seems like a storm within the Tory party which threatens us all. Security, prosperity, solidarity: none of these are worth giving up for a pop at playing Trafalgar. We have more in common than divides us, and we are better together.
Remaining in Europe means freedom: freedom to travel, to work, and to come together. If you are supporting the Leave campaign, I beg you to think carefully before you give up the freedoms that Europe protects for the scant promises of a few former journalists and far-right rabble rousers. Let’s not surrender to that small mindedness, let’s not cut our connections. Let’s have the ambition to play a leading role in one of the most important institutions ever created. We can remain a big part of something bigger than ourselves. It might be a messy organisation, but within it we can magnify our voice on the world stage and pool our strength to help those that need it most. Remaining part of Europe is the courageous choice in the face of meek surrender to the worst elements of our politics, and a diminishing of our national stature.