Now here’s a thing, as Robert Peston might have said: I am one of those people who voted in the last referendum on Britain’s place in Europe. Yes, back in 1975 I voted, and voted Yes to keep Britain in what was then the EEC. That vote was made because I had concluded that, overall, being in the EEC was a beneficial proposition. That view has not changed in the intervening 41 years. Here’s why.
Peace. My paternal grandfather was at the Battle of the Somme, having joined up at the age of only 16 two years earlier. By the time he turned 18, he had seen things that no man should have to see again. Ever. By bringing all those former warring nations together, we make the chance of a recurrence vanishingly small. As Churchill so memorably put it, Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War.
Prosperity. Between the start of the Great War in 1914, and the end of World War 2 in 1945, Britain’s status in the world declined precipitously. Yet many in our governing class were simply in denial about it. It took the Suez débàcle in 1956 to wake politicians to the new reality. Joining with other member states in the EU has helped the UK not only arrest its decline, but make this country better off.
Travel. Those telling us how we could still travel around Europe without being an EU member state may not remember just what an ordeal the crossing of borders was like in what they tell us were The Good Old Days. Having to obtain visas, taking receipts for anything expensive to avoid being hit by customs duties while away, border guards stripping cars to their shells, ah, the fond memories. No thanks.
Work. Nowadays, as Barack Obama once said, yes you can. No need for work permits, no residency requirements, no language discrimination, if you can do the job, you can go there and get on with it - anywhere in any other EU member state.
Language. English has become the de facto first language of the EU. Yes, while Nigel Farage whines about someone talking foreign on the train, remember that English is the most widely spoken language across all those member states, and when information - like signage - is translated into a second language, it’s English. We’ve got the EU speaking our language.
Freedom. No more will we hear Churchill’s grave tone, telling us “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent”. Nor will the Greek Colonels, the Falangists in Spain, and the Estado Novo in Portugal be coming back any time soon. Many of those countries have been welcomed into the EU, their freedom underpinned by their participation in this Union, their people freed from dictatorship, no longer fenced in and treated as so many slaves.
Those are some of the reasons why I still believe that, on balance, the EU is still a beneficial proposition for Britain. And that’s why I am voting Remain today.
I urge everyone who can vote to do so, and to also vote Remain. Thank you for reading this message.