The question of whether or not to remain in the EU is not only dividing national opinion, but also opinion within political parties. The Conservatives, Labour and even the Greens have their own pro-EU and anti-EU factions debating the pros and cons of European Union membership. I am firmly in favour of remaining in the European Union, and reforming it to make it a more positive organisation not just for British citizens, but for the whole of Europe. Here’s a few reasons why I think we should vote to remain in the EU:
Tackling Climate Change
The mainstream parties in the UK have an abysmal record on tackling climate change. The Conservatives promised to be our greenest government ever yet they hack away at solar subsidies, give their backing to nuclear power, and give the go ahead for fracking in new locations. While I’m a big fan of Jeremy Corbyn and his goal of dragging Labour firmly back to the left of the political spectrum, he is oddly quiet on climate change. I don’t believe in guilt by association, but it’s hard not to note here that Jeremy’s older brother is a staunch denier of anthropogenic climate change. Only by signing up to international action, and committing to EU targets, can we expect our lazy national government to act on climate change. It’s clear that with our current broken electoral system in the UK, it’s going to be hard for the Greens to win seats in the House of Commons for many years to come. We need the EU to apply the right pressure to our national government to tackle climate change before it’s too late.
Like any person who identifies strongly with Green policy, I’m a great lover of wildlife. Not just because animals are cute and fluffy, but because they play an important role in our ecosystem. Without bees and other insects, much of our food crop would not be pollinated. If we let bird species be hunted to extinction, there is a knock-on effect on the whole food chain. Protecting our wildlife is key to our own survival, and the EU has taken a strong approach to this issue. To name just two policies, we have the ban on neonicotinoids, which protects bees, and the Birds Directive, which is (supposed to) stop EU Citizens from decimating important bird populations. With our own current government in support of culling badgers and repealing the hunting act, it’s clear that we can’t expect a compassionate or reasonable approach to wildlife if we leave the EU.
Protecting Workers’ Rights
The Leave campaign often talks about European migrants taking jobs in the UK economy, and the EU imposing various employment laws upon us, but what they don’t talk about are the fantastic laws the EU has put in place to protect workers (both British and European). The Working Time Directive, which David Cameron actually wanted to repeal as part of his EU reform negotiations, ensures that British workers don’t work dangerous hours, do get sufficient rest breaks and do get paid annual leave of 4 weeks or more. Our workers are better off in the European Union.
Freedom of Movement: For All
Free movement of people is seen as a bad thing by the British right, and by people who don’t really plan to leave the UK for reasons beyond leisure, but freedom of movement is actually a blessing to British Citizens who want to live, work, study or retire in another European country at some point in their lives. In fact, over 1.2 million British citizens are currently taking advantage of free movement and living in other EU member states. Their jobs and assets are at stake if we vote to leave the European Union, and future generations will not enjoy the same freedom of choice that others in the UK have been given for so many years.
True Democracy In Action
One of the main arguments touted by the various leave campaigns in favour of leaving the EU is that it is “undemocratic”. We don’t directly elect the Council or the Commission, and we have to listen to what the other member states want, therefore the EU is an undemocratic organisation. Actually, I’d say that depends heavily on your point of view and political persuasion back home. I would argue that the EU is more democratically representative of UK opinion than our own national government.
When we vote in European Parliament elections we get exactly what we voted for. UKIP got the most votes in the 2014 European Elections, and they got the most seats. The Green Party managed to grab 3 seats in the European Parliament in 2014, when there are only 73 seats available. Yet in the House of Commons, where there are 650 seats available, the Greens only have 1 MP elected despite winning 3.8% of the vote. That sounds like a small percentage, but in a fair system that could amount to 24 seats. UKIP’s situation is even worse. Thanks to our FPTP system in UK elections, UKIP has only 1 seat in Parliament despite coming away with 12.6% of the popular vote, the third highest in the country. If you ask me, EU elections are far more democratic than our own, and the EU Parliament does a better job of representing public opinion across the whole of Europe.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of good reasons to vote to stay in the EU, and there are also plenty of things the EU could be doing better. But for my taste the only safe, sensible option for our workers, our environment and the future of our country is to vote remain on June 23rd.