Today is perhaps the most significant moment in this country’s recent history. Today, Britain goes to the polls to decide on its membership of the European Union. Today, Britain decides its future.
The campaign has been a long and tough one and the end is finally in sight. Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen the momentum shift towards the Leave campaign. However, in light of the tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, there seems to have been a slight shift in opinion back towards Remain. Despite this, either side could still win. General elections are generally somewhat easy to predict – this referendum is not; the latest poll of polls puts Remain on 51% and Leave on 49%. It is on a knife edge. This means that every single vote will count.
The standard of debate from both sides has been lacklustre; Vote Leave have not provided any explanations for what exactly would happen in the event of a vote to leave, whilst Britain Stronger In Europe have at times failed to get their message across effectively. This campaign has also been too negative; full of awful insults, vile propaganda (in the form of Nigel Farage’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster) and a lack of a positive message from either side. Furthermore, Vote Leave have completely mislead the public on several occasions, most notably with their false claim that our contribution to the EU budget is £350m a week.
However, despite some of the Remain campaign’s shortcomings, it is in our best interests to vote to remain in the European Union. Britain succeeds when Europe succeeds and it is this unity we should cherish greatly in a world of uncertainty. The Vote Leave campaign says that by leaving the EU, we can ‘take back control’ of the UK. Far from from diminishing our control, the EU actually increases it. The EU allows us to take action on the important issues that cannot be tackled by individual governments alone. Take, for example, the issue of climate change and the environment. Schemes like the Emissions Trading Scheme have recognised that certain issues require continental action. The EU has brought meaningful change on the global stage, too, through the Iranian nuclear deal. Being a part of this Union allows us to have an influence in these key events, making us stronger and more important.
Furthermore, the European Union has delivered greatly on matters of trade. The existence of a single trading/customs bloc with no tariffs on imports is, put simply, a triumph. We currently export 44% of our goods and services to the EU and import 52%. This economic interdependence is key to a peaceful and prosperous Britain. It is what was dreamed off at the end of the Second World War when people were exhausted of conflict and hoped of something better. The Leave campaign suggests that if we were to leave, we would be able to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world. This would simply provide too much uncertainty at a time when the British economy is still recovering from the recession of 2008. The Governor of the Bank of England and the head of the International Monetary Fund are amongst many others that suggest a withdrawal from the European Union would cause a recession. I fail to see how we could risk this. As well, it is more than likely that the EU would place tariffs on British exports, harming our ability to trade with the world further. Vote Leave suggest we could negotiate trade deals with the EU and whilst this may be the case, we would not have the same, tariff-free access to the single market. We would also have to follow EU regulation without being able to influence its creation. That is a loss of control.
Social policy has also been greatly enhanced through the EU. The Working Time Directive guarantees a maximum number of working hours per week, safeguarding us from business abuse of power. Thanks to the EU, 28 days holiday pay has been guaranteed. And as from next year, roaming charges will be abolished within the EU.
Gordon Brown was correct when he called the European Union the ‘height of civilisation’. It is truly a triumph that 28 nations have been brought together in a display of unity that is more than symbolic. It has brought peace to a continent that has been so historically divided and with it, delivered noticeable change to citizens throughout the continent. Institutions are not perfect and the EU is no exception. But it is a beacon of hope in times of fear and division. Co-operation works. Tonight, I urge you, if you haven’t voted already, to vote to remain in the European Union and keep our European dream alive.