Three weeks ago I received my Senior Railcard. I have left middle age behind and can spend my remaining years travelling in cut-price comfort. This milestone was quickly followed by another. I was included as a signatory in a letter in the Times (read it here). There were an awful lot of us; I was signatory #165. Essentially, I think that leaving the European Union is a really bad idea. This places me on the same side of the argument as David Cameron and George Osborne, which is not my natural location.
It is hard to love the EU. Forget about Daily Mail fairy stories about irrational EU regulations. There have been serious mistakes. The process of setting up the Euro was seriously flawed. The EU has given Greece a very hard time. Nonetheless, a left wing Greek government has fought hard to stay in. I can understand why. There is no future for hermetically sealed nation states. The United Kingdom has done some really bad things, but I would not want that broken up either.
The main consequence of a ‘Brexit’ would be domestic and international economic chaos, and no one can say what the outcome would be. Quite possibly the EU would collapse if Britain left. I fail to see how anyone can argue that prosperity would increase or even remain static under these circumstances. As for security, well I think it is probably significant that terrorist groups appear to want us to leave.
I voted for the EEC in 1975 solely on the grounds of internationalism. I think many other people did too. Internationalism does not appear so popular with a section of British public opinion right now. In fact, xenophobia seems to be the main motivation for leaving as far as the more agitated campaigners are concerned. In a world of mass international travel, instant interconnectivity and a global economy, dislike for foreigners is not a good starting point for planning new economics and new politics.
Britain has never been self-sufficient for health staff since the Second World War, and consequently the NHS has always been dependent on migrants. At the present time, we are faring particularly badly in the world medical labour market. We are net exporters of doctors. If we exclude European migrant doctors, our serious medical staffing problems will become even worse. The same applies for other health professions.
One of the key arguments for ‘Brexit’ is that Britain would be more democratic outside of the EU. In fact, the main threat to democracy is global business, which evades taxation, threatens governments and demands increasing freedom of action. All the evidence tells us that business behaves badly unless properly regulated. Mrs Thatcher’s deregulation ‘Big Bang’ in 1986 led us directly to the global economic catastrophe of 2007-8. The EU is a structure that is big enough to withstand the worse excesses of international capital. Without it, ordinary people would have no possible protection and no realistic possibility of electing a government able to pursue economic policies that displease business.
The most important thing is to get people to get out to vote in the referendum. Those of us who think it is important to stay in need to say so. It may put us in uncomfortable company, but this issue really matters.