Vote for ‘Remain’

Being a British as well as a Canadian citizen, and having been resident in the United Kingdom within the last 15 years, I have a vote in the imminent referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union (EU). Today I received my postal ballot. I intend to put a cross in the box marked ‘Remain a member of the European Union’.

Arguments for and against the EU range from the rationalistically technocratic to the purely emotional. Left-wing opponents of the EU think that it is a bastion of neoliberalism. Right-wing opponents think that it is a source of socialist regulation. They can’t both be right. Perhaps leaving the EU will damage the British economy; perhaps it will strengthen it. We don’t actually know.

What we do know for sure is that by the standards of the rest of the world, Britain is a pretty prosperous and successful country. Whether this has anything to do with the EU, one cannot tell. But certainly the EU has not wrought untold damage upon the UK. Certainly, the EU is imperfect, perhaps even badly flawed. But so are all human institutions. The fact that something is imperfect is not per se a reason for abandoning it in favour of the unknown. Given Britain’s prosperity, the burden of proof lies upon those who would exit the EU to show that leaving would definitely be beneficial. That proof has not been provided.

What I can be sure of is that leaving the EU would deprive my family of benefits which it enjoys at the moment. Being a citizen of the EU allows one to live, study, and work anywhere in the Union without hindrance. This is a tremendous privilege. Members of my family may wish to go to university in Europe and make lives for themselves there. Brexit wouldn’t make this impossible for them, but it would certainly make it more difficult. From a purely person perspective, I would rather that my children had access to a union of 500 million people and an area of four million square kilometres than be limited to one small island near the far western edge of the Eurasian continent.

My stance is also a matter of identity and aesthetics. I am a citizen of two countries. I have lived and worked in various European countries – the UK, Switzerland, Belarus (more precisely the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic), Russia, Germany, Italy, and Belgium. I speak English, French and Russian, as well as some Italian and German. Simply put, I feel cosmopolitan rather than nationalist. Perhaps that’s just because as an anglophone born in Quebec and brought up in Wales, I have an innate dislike of separatists and nationalists, and have a sense of the value of belonging to a larger whole. But I think that there is more to it than that. Although the EU often fails to deliver on its promises, the basic ideals it stands for – free trade, open borders, and the like – are things I support and identify with. They are certainly better than the alternative of Little England.

Vote ‘Remain’!

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10 thoughts on “Vote for ‘Remain’”

  1. It is nice to know that you are motivated purely by self-interest in voting ‘Remain’; and when Britain becomes unbearably overcrowded you can bugger off back to Canada. Why don’t you just do so now.?

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  2. “What I can be sure of is that leaving the EU would deprive my family of benefits…”

    That is one of the greatest problems of any semi-democratic or pseudo-democratic system: people inevitably vote for whatever they think will lead to the greatest benefits for themselves. Since, obviously, more cannot be got out of government than is put in (in the form of taxes, etc.) – and in practice a great deal less is got out because government soaks up enormous resources itself – this creates a hopeless melee in which everyone hopes to get more than they give, while overall the reverse is the only possible outcome.

    The EU has gradually become quite intolerable. British citizens might consider Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, the presumption of innocence, freedom of speech, representative democracy, and all the lesser rights that we have enjoyed “from time immemorial”. None of the above are possible within the EU. Only if you subordinate all concern for freedom and dignity to an all-consuming focus on getting the most money can you even think about remaining in the EU. And even then the only guide you have is the wall of phony statistics emitted by politicians and bureaucrats who have proved themselves inveterate and cold-blooded liars.

    For what it’s worth I, too, consider myself a citizen of the world. I was born in Argentina and have also lived for periods in Portugal and Tunisia, as well as travelling widely in the USA and Europe. I am very far from being a British chauvinist or “little Englander” (in fact I am Scots-Irish); but I am also aware that Britain has developed the freest and best institutions and laws in the world, and I think it foolish to throw those away.

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  3. I’m of the opinion that it’s a neoliberal charade, with the main goal (and actual effect) of weakening national governments for the benefit of international (supranational, really) capital. The ‘open borders’ result in workers of unevenly developed states competing, average wages going down; race to the bottom. The benefits enjoyed by the educated class are coincidental.

    But I like it that you’re writing without any kind of righteous indignation, not calling the Leave people (the so-called ‘white working class’) ‘racist’ and all that. There’s a lot of that going around…

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  4. Can’t agree more. EU is routinely annoying but not many people realize that the most dumbest regulations are not result of some mythical “EU bureaucrats” but lobbying of concrete Member States – one time it’s France, another time it’s UK or Germany. This is how politics works and EU branded many failed regulations (e.g. biomass) but at the same time its institutions significantly contributed to disciplining the Member States in many areas that were traditionally ignored – like health or general public services quality, or biased, like law enforcement. For the citizens the EU membership has very practical consequences – e.g. ability to reach out to a ECHR as an ultimate authority in cases of injustice, but also as simple things as unrestricted movement of people and capital, trans-European services and commerce etc. Also Brexit is in no way protection against stupid laws, red tape or failure of public services – UK governments of all political origins have a very rich record on their own in these fields.

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  5. Paul, you mentioned that you’ve worked in Switzerland. Are you aware that Switzerland decided, after 24 years of first making an application to join the European Union, to withdraw that application after both houses of its parliament voted on whether to proceed or not?

    This comes more than a year after Iceland withdrew its application to join the EU.

    Norway is not currently a member of the EU.

    Are any of these three countries worse off for withdrawing their applications or not joining in the first place? All of them have economies much smaller than that of the UK. Their peoples enjoy a fairly high standard of living and it’s arguable that there is more socio-economic equality in these countries than there is in the UK.

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    1. I didn’t expect England to lose to Iceland either, although after years of watching England I have learnt that such things are always possible.

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