Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs tells AG why he thinks the UK should stay in the EU…
The request by AG to write a short commentary on why I think we are better off in the EU was more challenging than you might think. It’s nearly impossible to cover all the important ways I believe we are stronger, safer and better off in the EU in less than a thousand words. Despite this, I’ve briefly covered four areas I consider to be critical in this debate. The four areas are peace, prosperity, opportunity, and security. Unfortunately, some on the Vote Leave side have attempted to turn this entire campaign into a referendum on sovereignty, while I could write an entire article on that subject myself, Chatham House’s demystification of this argument serves as a reliable independent fact checker.
While it is true that NATO significantly contributes to stability in Europe; to suggest that through decades of diplomatic, trading and cultural links, the EU hasn’t enhanced continental security is a dishonest argument. Today, nations like Germany, France, Italy and the UK all sit around the same table. We now work together to tackle the major issues, while just 70 years ago, we waged war against one another. The fact is, the EU is the greatest peace project in modern human history. Perhaps best described by Boris Johnson, who said in 2014, “Together with Nato the European Community, now Union, has helped deliver a period of peace and prosperity for its people as long as any since the days of the Antonine emperors.” The Antonine emperors ruled from 138 to 192 AD!
Nearly half of all goods and services exported out of the UK go to the EU. As HM Treasury has analysed, Brexit would cause a recession with massive job losses. Brexiters want us to believe that our priority should be focusing trade with other major non-EU countries like the USA, India and so on. While I don’t disagree with expanding our horizons, we now have world leaders from those same countries (Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, New Zealand, Japan and the USA) saying that we are better off in the EU.
If you apply for a job in another EU country, and you’re the most qualified candidate, you should get that job. If you want to study in one of the other 27 countries, you can do that, visa-free, with the support of the EU. For example, through the Erasmus programme, you can receive funding to study or be trained abroad. With a 40% reduction in the cost of airfares since 2006, visa-free European travel is cheap and hassle-free. If you want to retire or live in a EU country, as 1.2 million Britons do, you will receive the same benefits as you would at home, including free healthcare with the EHIC.
Brexiters often say that if we came out of the EU, we’d be able to secure our borders. What Brexiters conveniently forget to mention, is that we control our borders now. If you leave the UK on holiday, you will have to show your passport upon return—that is border control. Furthermore, a shared EU-wide database ensures that we keep serious criminals out. If you don’t believe me that our security is better as part of the EU, consider that five former home secretaries and the current one, the former head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, and 12 former senior members of The British Armed Forces—all say, we are safer in the EU. The expert consensus is overwhelming. Where we don’t control our borders, and I accept this entirely, is that if someone within the EU wants to live and work here, they can do that, just as we can elsewhere in the EU. What Brexiters also forget to mention is that EU nationals contribute significantly to our economy, the net positive contribution of EU migrants arriving since 2001 is a massive £20bn.
At the end of the day, I want what is best for Britain. I am a passionate pro-European, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fanatic for the EU. Is the EU perfect? Certainly not, no union is. But as the globe becomes evermore interconnected, we have an opportunity to remain at the forefront of innovation and growth, tackle the major issues that are facing humankind in unison with our neighbours, and move forward, not backward.
Tom Brake MP
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs