August 29, 2012
I attended a debate at the London School of Economics last month, which had a panel debating whether Britain should stay within the EU. The panel members consisted of Sir Stephen Wall, George Eustice MP, Roger Helmer MEP, Mark Reckless MP, Dr Helen Szamuely and Evan Davis as chair. It made for an interesting albeit that the panel was skewed in a negative way towards the EU with only Sir Stephen Wall a former adviser to Tony Blair making valid arguments for Britain to stay within the EU, whereas the other panel members were against this. It was interesting to note that Roger Helmer MEP was a former Tory turned UKIP, which may give an indication of how similar their views are.
The debate began with Sir Stephen Wall outlining how the EU successfully manages the conflicting interests of 27 neighbouring counties in an effort to unite value systems. This has resulted in peaceful, prosperous, stability within the EU. New countries that wish to join the EU need to have high standards of democracy.
As Britain is one of the larger member states, we have one of the most powerful voices. Many of the legislative changes that the EU has brought, has benefitted the UK.
The other panel members outlined their arguments stating that no one under the age of 55 has voted on this issue as it has been 37 years since the last referendum. Current opinion polls show a majority of the British public may want to come out.
So should Britain stay within the EU? I believe so. Despite the comments from UKIP that Britain should go it alone, being in the EU has many benefits for us including:
Safer and Cheaper Flights
The EU has provided us with not only safer flights but also cheaper flights and increased competition between carriers registered in the Member States. Cheaper flights are the knock-on effect of a huge improvement in air traffic management and increased competition.
Student Exchange Programmes
Within the last 10 years the EU has created different education programmes in order to give students the possibility to experience different national cultures and broaden their personal horizon. Up to now 1.2 million students have benefited from the ERASMUS Programme and many more are expected to experience it in the future.
The Single Market
The Single Market is one of a kind as it guarantees ‘free movement’ of people, goods, services and capital. At a practical level, it provides the possibility for EU citizens to live, work, study and do business throughout the EU, as well as enjoy a wide choice of competitively priced goods and services.
Peace in Europe was first created when an alliance was made between Germany and France and the European Coal and Steel Community was founded. Europe has come a long way since with a lasting peace amongst its Member States. International security is now a major issue for the EU: with increasing threats to a peaceful society in different areas of the world, the EU has put in place many policies to combat such problems.
Cheaper and Better Phone calls
The liberalisation of the telecommunication markets in 1998 and the on-going development in the field of technology have resulted in a steady decrease in prices within the EU. This means that it is cheaper to call your friends and family and choose between different operators.
Consumer protection and the safety of food in the European Union are two issues that have always gone hand in hand. The Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General’s main responsibility is to provide laws and regulations on the safety of food and consumer rights.A Healthier EuropeThe public health issues dealt with by the EU are numerous and cover a number of different areas. They concern both men and women, young and old. The EU has also introduced the European health insurance card that is your guarantee if you should fall ill when going abroad.
In the EU, environmental issues including initiatives concerning protection have been underlined as some of the most important points not only for discussion but also for action. For instance, the EU is leading the “Kyoto” drive to reduce the air pollution that causes global warming.
The promotion of equal opportunities and the fight against Discrimination are considered some of the most important issues within Europe and many directives have been put in place to combat inequalities that occur in the Member States.
Better working conditions
EU legislation has brought workers in the UK a 48 hour working week (with opt out clauses), a minimum of 28 days annual leave per year, maternity and paternity leave and enhanced pension rights.
The benefits of the European Union need to be publicised more as relinquishing these would have far reaching implications for us as a nation. Perhaps Hollande’s idea of a multi-speed Europe will come more into fruition as something that is more acceptable to the British public. The question is do we want to be at the table, or outsiders seeking friend and allies to represent our views for us. As for the arguments about the EU’s democratic deficit, there is just as low voter turnout in UK elections as there are in the European elections. The EU currently makes up half of UK overseas investment and we have full access and influence within the single market. For all of its flaws, Britain should stay within the EU.