Friday, 17 June 2016

I have a feeling about the EU...

I am neither a Eurosceptic, nor a committed Europhile. There are things about the EU that I don't like such as the unelected nature of EU commissioners, and it’s pretty unheard of for me to be on the same side as Cameron and Osborne, but I will be voting to remain part of the EU. There are 5 reasons for my decision.

1.       Rights at work

While it is true that voting to leave the EU won’t change the terms and conditions of people’s employment overnight voting to leave could have very serious long term consequences for rights at work.

EU laws set a bottom line, they are the minimum we should expect from an employer on issues such as maximum working time, paid annual holidays, rights to parental leave, rights to time off work for urgent family reasons, equal treatment of part-time, fixed-term and agency workers.

Workers and their unions have fought hard for policies that go beyond these minimum requirements but all too often, National governments push back workers’ rights, as we have seen recently with the introduction of charges for employment tribunals and the reduction of redundancy consultation from 90 to 45 days. The Conservative governments of the 1980s went even further. Remaining part of the EU offers some long term protection of basic rights at work.

2.       The Economy

Growth in business depends on many things, a skilled workforce, investment in infrastructure and access to both UK and export markets. One thing that is sure to stifle growth and investment is uncertainty; a vote to leave would fire the staring pistol on at least two decades of uncertainty. While the benefits of economic growth are not shared equally the problems associated with an economic downturn fall disproportionately on ordinary people in the form of fewer services, lower wages and job insecurity.

We can learn from the past; the impact of the banking crisis was felt by millions of people who did nothing to cause the economic crash, the economic impact of leaving the EU would fall squarely on the shoulders of those least well placed to deal with the effects.

      3.       Investment in our Region

The North East of England is a net beneficiary of EU funding. We get out more than we put in. Two local examples of large scale projects are Consett Business park and Northumberland’s Rural Growth Network, there are many smaller projects that receive EU funding.

The best thing about the EU funding mechanism is that it effectively redistributes funds from the rich to the poor; a greater proportion of funding is spent in less well-off areas. We have heard a lot about the Northern powerhouse but National governments have consistently underinvested in our region and our EU membership goes some way to redressing the balance.

4.       Security

The EU referendum debate has been dominated by the issue of immigration, I can understand why. There are genuine concerns that immigration drives down wages and puts pressure on public services. It is true that migrant workers from both inside and outside of the EU are employed illegally and paid far less than the minimum wage, it is the job of the nation government to stamp out this practice.

Migration does put pressure on public services but the biggest current threat NHS and local services is not immigration, it’s political views of people like Gove, Boris and Farage who don’t think the rich should have to pay the taxes that fund our public services.

A lot has been said about illegal immigration and foreign criminals entering our country, this is matter of huge public concern which cannot be dismissed. Leaving the EU could make reduce our security in the long term as we could risk the loss of UK border controls on the EU mainland and the first UK border control could end up in Dover rather than Calais.

The UK police force should be proud of their record in enacting European arrest warrants. The UK  should lead the Europe wide fight against terrorism and human trafficking. We are best placed to take a lead role in tackling these problems from inside the EU rather than trying to hide from the world by leaving.

5.       The main reason
All of these are massively important issues but this vote is about more than workers’ rights or economic benefits, it's about more than security and it's about more the European investment in our region.

For me it comes down to this:

I'm voting to remain part of something bigger than the UK. It's not an argument based on the facts and logic outlined above, it's just a feeling that we are better off in than out. I feel that what unites people across European countries is greater than that which divides us, that's why I'm voting in.

Note: I must mention the tragic killing of Jo Cox MP. She is such a great loss. My thoughts are with her young family and those who knew her best.

1 comment:

Nyomi said...

Good points, well made