A postal vote for the EU

It came this morning and I’ve sent it straight in.

The arguments about trivial matters such as whether we’ll be 2% better or worse off for a few years are dismaying in their triviality. Even the major medium term issues – such as defeating neoliberal economics, fighting for fair trade rather than free trade – are not the ones to focus on.

The urgent major issues are climate change, biodiversity, population growth. If we can’t deal with these there is no hope for social prosperity or justice – for defeating Beveridge’s five giants: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease.

The idea that we can tackle these major issues by `taking back control of our country’ is laughable. We need to share our sovereignty with the rest of humanity.

The unique selling point of the EU is that it extends democracy beyond national borders. Of course its democracy is not perfect, but for what is pretty much a first in democratic international cooperation it’s pretty good. It’s better than what we have in the UK in many respects, with our disproportional adversarial system and unelected House of Lords.

And the cost is modest. Of UK tax expenditure, about 1.5 % each go to the European Union (net of the rebate) and to Overseas Aid; for comparison, about 5% each go to Defence and Debt Interest.

There are many things wrong with the way the European Union works, but starting again is not an option; we do not have the time. We should be getting stuck in and making it work – as the Liberal Democrats have done through the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe for many years. It is dismaying that success in our European elections goes to the anti-EU parties rather than those that want to engage with and improve the EU.

There are also many things that have gone right with the EU: freedom of movement, workers’ rights, environmental protection. [Perhaps if we renamed all those regulations that Brexiteers love to hate `green tape’ people would understand that most of them are good for us?]

At the emotional level, we need to get beyond narrow nationalism. John Muir wrote his address in his first field journal as `Earth-planet, Universe’. We need our local and national identities, but we also need to recognise that we are citizens of a wider world.

So I’ve voted to remain, and I hope you will too.

* Denis Mollison is Chair of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform, and has been a member of the party since joining the SDP in 1981. Here, he writes in a personal capacity.

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  • Well said, Denis. An excellent and eloquent summary of the positive case for Europe. Sent mine off this morning too – revving up in Haddington. Great to see your John Muir quote : “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

    For those down South there’s a warm welcome in Sunny Dunny to see the John Muir birthplace and to walk the John Muir Way.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Jun '16 - 11:44am

    Question Time on 2/6/2016 was from Cardiff. The usual two repeats will be broadcast, as well as the I-Player. There will be two extra programmes and an audience day in which members of the public can ask questions which will be answered by BBC journalists.
    The entire programme was about the EU referendum. The audience in the theatre was, as usual, balanced.
    A PC MP was generally pc, but she did manage to mention Assembly member(s) who do not live in Wales. Neil Hamilton (UKIP) had no answer. (A Labour MP from Delyn had made the same point in the debate on the Queen’s Speech in the Commons, arguing that this procedural loophole should be closed).
    She also said that Wales is a net beneficiary of EU regional aid and does not trust the government in London to replace it in the event of Brexit. (Strong audience reaction). She supports Remain.
    Guardian journalist Owen Jones made a similar point for workers rights for the UK generally, expressed passionately and therefore supports Remain.
    A Tory Minister had shared a platform with Ed Milliband on climate change, both for Remain..
    Frank Field MP was treated with the respect his experience deserves. He supports Leave. He commented on Jeremy Corbyn.
    Neil Hamilton did not try to defend continuing to live in Wiltshire. He said, immediately and predictably, that house prices are a consequence of immigration, a minority view among the panellist because of a number of other factors, including “migration” (into Wales from across the UK) and a general lack of housebuilding.
    Nigel Farage (UKIP UK leader) will be on next week. Neil Hamilton said ” He gets on with me as well as I get on with him” a politician’s soundbite that went down with the audience like a lead balloon.
    David Dimbleby said that he gets angry when panellist do not answer the question asked (carefully phrased and prioritised). He said the same when he was with Question Time in the USA to the surprise of the audience and an untruthful panellist. Should he stand for MP and Speaker? or should Mr. Bercow be empowered further?

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Jun '16 - 11:47am

    David Dimbleby had visited the Desk Officer at the State Department. The Question was about the Iraq war under George W Bush. The panellist was a Republican.

  • well said.

  • Yellow Submarine 7th Jun '16 - 1:56am

    An excellent piece. My own thoughts almost exactly. The official Remain campaign are right to focus on centrist pragmatists but I fear we need a fair bit more of this visionary stuff to energise the core.

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