Monday, 20 June 2016

A Few Rather Simple Thoughts on the EU Referendum

I don't think we should be having this referendum at all. We elect MPs to make these kinds of decisions because they have access to the crucial facts. The electorate can hold MPs accountable after an election but who will we hold accountable for the result of this referendum and by what means?

However, we are having a referendum, the outcome is of great importance, and therefore we should all vote.

I'll be voting remain. I cannot see how leaving one of the world's largest legislation-making bodies or one of its largest trading blocks can possibly be of benefit to the UK.
I want to see our government at the centre of Europe, able to influence decisions, policy, legislation, finance and membership from within. I believe that the relative stability  of Europe over the past 70 years has stemmed in part from the EU and that the EU is our best hope to avoid future bloodshed and to deal with humanitarian crises. I believe our membership of the EU strengthens our position with the USA, China and India and gives us a better platform from which to work with Middle Eastern countries.

I welcome the opportunities the EU brings for Britons to work in other countries and for citizens of other states to work in Britain. The place to deal with services and industries that survive by undercutting a living wage is centrally, across Europe; if there was a meaningful living wage operating in every country, that would deal with much of the angst about alleged job-snatching. I believe the current refugee crisis can better be addressed by the nations of Europe talking and formulating a shared response and I want Britain to continue to be part of the solution.

The present UK government has been to withdraw Britain from the Human Rights Act. To withdraw from the protections afforded in European law at the same time is madness. I think that many women, members of minority groups and many employees sometimes fail to realise the extent of the very basic protection they enjoy under European law.

We are facing huge ecological challenges and these can much better be addressed within the EU; the issues do not arrange themselves according to national boundaries.

There are regions within the UK that have benefitted hugely from European subsidies - South Wales, and parts of Scotland and the North East, for example. I have heard no plans for how the government expects to take on future demands for finance to support areas where the local economy is under threat.

If and where we do exit European controls (e.g. fishing quotas), I have heard no convincing plans about how the ensuing situation will be policed to ensure that other countries comply with British requirements.  

Britons are Europeans by global location. To opt out of a central role in governing and ordering our own continent is short-sighted in the extreme. It is always better to remain at the table and talk than to turn away. The majority of our political partners from other parts of the world want us to remain.

To vote to exit the EU will commit us to further years of uncertainty as terms of engagement with and beyond Europe have to be re-negotiated.

I don't think it's the function of religious leaders to tell people how to vote in a democratic election. They should encourage us to inform ourselves and to vote. But there is a difficult question which, worryingly, begins to raise itself in Britain today. Religious leaders should expose and name policies that harm groups or individuals on grounds of their gender, race or other personal, God-given characteristics, on grounds of poverty and exclusion from the resources needed for life, health, education and community cohesion, on grounds of belief and freedom of thought, and on grounds of dishonesty. At what point does exposing these things become allied with the need to speak out against certain specific political groups or movements? The ground is shifting in Britain and we should all be very very vigilant.

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