Poor, poor Britain. Back in 1973, it was a shadow of its former self. It had handed back most of its colonies to the savages it sought so desperately to civilize and everyone was broke. We had lost our identity as a nation and there weren’t even TV-crack staples like BGT to get us through. Come to think of it, actual crack hadn’t been invented, either. Times were dark. We had to accept that we needed to give Europe another chance to let us in, and stop playing silly buggers, like the French had. Twice.
Initially, the Remain/Leave argument felt fairly binary. The remain camp argued that we’d be poorer out, the leave camp pushed the immigration issue (because TURKEY)! Now, even those of us with our feet firmly planted in either camp can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the facts, figures and anecdotes pouring across the media on any given day. It’s started to feel like the school debating society, where the goal wasn’t really to prove a point, just to make it well. I sometimes feel like my head is the recipient of a dodgy virus, its content scrambled by weird the EU email that got accidentally opened. Are straight bananas relevant? How do you work out the net income after rebates and allowances? And who are these ‘humans’ going on about their ‘rights’?
I could list many reasons we should stay in the EU, from the protection of women’s rights to the fact that we’ll lose credibility in the face of not only the West but also in emerging markets, and everything in between. But I would just be reinventing the wheel with all the data-flinging. The reason that I believe we should stay in the EU is that if there’s anything that keeps the ‘greatness’ in Britain these days, it’s our membership in Europe. It’s this that has allowed us to flourish, has provided us with (sometimes unlikely) allies and given us the power to bargain as a collective. Of course its flawed- its Kafkaesque bureaucracy has led at times to everything from industrial-scale food waste to terrorists enjoying the high life at the taxpayers expense. But no system is perfect, and it continues to evolve.
Brexiters seem to have this odd sense that we don’t need the EU, that in fact it’s the only thing standing between us and our former ‘glory’, if that’s what you even want to call it. They will argue that the financial recovery we enjoyed in the decades following our entry is in spite of the union, and not because of it. How can they make such a confident claim? We are part of a complex and vital system whose benefits aren’t always immediately quantifiable. It’s like a person claiming that they’d have read Paradise Lost even if they hadn’t gone to university or an alcoholic saying that they’d have got sober without a support group. It’s impossible to say with certainty what would have happened outside a system that you’re an intrinsic part of.
This piece was originally written for the Surrey-based Virtual PA service Magic Wand PA
By the time we joined the EU, we were experiencing several centuries worth of chickens coming home to roost. That moment of humility was the best course of action that we could have taken because it gave us a different place on a new world stage. In case no one has noticed, Britain on its own isn’t such a big deal these days. Even bits of Britain don’t really want to be in Britain anymore, and on a map of the world we’re about the size of a nostril, and a small one at that. By the time Turkey joins the EU, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ll be the ones worrying about the influx. The modern world needs to move towards unification, not separation. It’s about time people stopped living in the past.