British Prime Minister, David Cameron, yesterday gave an impassioned, personal speech for a pro-Union vote in the forthcoming referendum.
No, not the referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union, but this year’s referendum on whether Scotland should stay in the Union of the United Kingdom.
Most of the strong arguments presented by the Prime Minister on why Scotland should remain a member of the UK, could also be the strong arguments for the UK to remain a member of the European Union.
Wind the clock forward: David Cameron has won the General Election. It’s now February 2017. The Prime Minister has just made an impassioned, personal speech about this year’s referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union. He found that he only needed to make minor amendments to his speech of February 2014.
The date for the in-out European Union referendum has been fixed. The countdown was set. And today, we have just over 7 months until that vote. History hangs in the balance and a question mark hangs over the future of our United Kingdom. If people vote no in September, then the UK will leave the European Union. There will be no going back.
As I have made clear, this is a decision that is squarely and solely for those in the UK to make. I passionately believe it is in our interests for us to stay in the EU. That way the UK has the space to take decisions, while still having the security that comes with being part of something bigger.
From Westminster, we can decide what happens in every hospital, school and police station in the UK, and in the EU, Britain is part of a major global player. These are the arguments we will keep on putting until the EU referendum on September 21st 2017. It is our choice, our vote.
But my argument today is that while only 46 million people can vote in this referendum, all 505 million people across the EU will be affected. There are 5o5 million Europeans who could wake up on September 22nd without the UK as a member of the EU, with a different future ahead of it.
There are the ‘shoulder shruggers’: people who are ambivalent about the outcome, who think this doesn’t matter much to anyone on our side of the Channel. Their view is that if the UK left the EU then yes, that would be sad, but we could just wave the rest of Europe a wistful goodbye and carry on as normal.
And then there are those – a few – who think we’d be better off if the UK did leave the EU, that this marriage of nations has run its course and needs a divorce.
Today I want to take on all these views: the idea we’d be better off without the EU, the idea that this makes no difference to the rest of the UK.
All the above are wrong. We would be deeply diminished out of the European Union. This matters to all our futures. And everyone in the UK can have a voice in this debate.
I want to make this case by putting forward what, to me, are the 4 compelling reasons why the United Kingdom is stronger as part of the European Union.
The first is our connections with each other. Europeans live together, work together – and frankly we’ve got together getting married, having children, moving back and forwards across borders.
I am as proud to be European as I am proud to be British. The name Cameron might mean ‘crooked nose’ but the clan motto is “Let us unite” – and that’s exactly what we in this island have done by being a member of the European Union.
Today 2.2 million Britons live in other parts of the European Union and more than two million people who were born in other parts of the European Union now live in the UK. And there are millions of people who do business across the borders of Europe every single day.
That’s why, for millions of people, there is no contradiction in being proud of your Britishness and Europeaness – sometimes all at once.
Some say none of this would change with independence, that these connections would stay as strong as ever. But the fact is: all these connections – whether business or personal – are eased and strengthened by the institutional framework of the European Union.
Since the Communities Act was passed in 1972, enabling Britain’s membership of the European Union, we have grown together like the roots of great trees, fusing together under the foundations of our daily lives. We are free to live, work, study or retire across our continent and we can freely trade with each other without totally different standards and regulations.
Our human connections – our friendships, relationships, business partnerships – they are underpinned because we are all in the same European Union and that is reason number 1 we are stronger together.
The second is our prosperity. Some people look at the European Union only in terms of debit and credit columns, the EU budget and how that gets split between our 28 nations. But that completely misses the bigger picture. This is a world that has been through massive economic storms where economic competition is heating up as never before, where we have to work harder than ever just to make a living.
And in that world of uncertainty, we are quite simply stronger as a bigger entity – an open economy of over 500 million people who are part of the biggest, richest and most successful single market in the world.
This stability is hugely attractive for investors. Last year we were the top destination for foreign direct investment in Europe. That is a stamp of approval on our stability – and I would not want to jeopardise that.
But let me be clear: The central part of my economic argument for the UK is not about what we’d lose if we pulled apart – but what we could gain in this world if we stay in the EU. This government has set out a long-term economic plan for Britain: getting behind enterprise, dealing with our debts, a plan to give the people of this country peace of mind and security for the future.
And this isn’t just a plan, it’s a vision.
The UK as the big European success story of this century moving from an island sinking under too much debt, too much borrowing and too much taxation to a country that’s dynamic, exporting, innovating, creating.
Europe is right at the heart of that vision. Why? I could give you a list of the European strengths –from food processing to financial services, from car-building to science. But it’s not about Europe’s strengths as some sort of bolt-on extra.
It’s about what we, the constituent parts of Europe, can achieve together. The power of collaboration: intellectual endeavour and commercial might combining to shape global economic ideas.
And that power of collaboration is there today. Together we’re stronger at getting out there and selling our products to the world, facilitated through our trade agreements won through the European Union. The clout we have being part of the European Union gives us a much better chance of getting around the right tables, bashing down trade barriers, getting deals signed.
This is what happens when we collaborate. We’ve come through the great recession together. Our deficit down by a third. Our economy growing. Our exports to China doubled. And I believe we stand a much, much better chance of building a more prosperous future together, as part of the EU.
The third reason we’re stronger together is our place in the world. We have real clout in Europe as a member of the Union.
Now to some, all this might sound like vanity. It’s the view that if the UK split from the EU, and our role in the world shrank, it wouldn’t matter so much. But this is a country that earns its living through international ties with millions of our citizens living across Europe.
When ships are ambushed on lawless seas – that hits our trade. When the middle class in China is set to grow by millions a year – that presents huge opportunities for jobs back home in the EU. This world shapes us – so our place in the world matters.
And make no mistake: we matter more as a member of the European Union – politically, militarily, diplomatically – and culturally too. The EU is a brand – a powerful brand. Separating the UK out of that brand would be like separating the waters of the English Channel and the North Sea. If we left the EU, we would rip the rug from under our own reputation.
The plain fact is we matter more in the world together.
These are all compelling practical reasons for the UK to stick together with the European Union. And this, really, is why I’m standing here today: Our shared values. Freedom. Solidarity. Compassion.
In Europe, we don’t walk on by when people are sick, when people lose work, when people get old. When you talk about a British man, a French man and a Dutch man, it might sound like the beginning of a bad joke but here it’s how we started commitment to human rights, to free trade across our continent, and the free movement of people. And these values aren’t trapped in the pages of a history book – they are alive.
Our European values are not just a source of pride for us, they are a source of hope for the world. They are of value to the world.
If our family of European nations broke up, something very powerful and precious would go out forever. So there is a moral, economic, geopolitical, diplomatic and yes – let’s say it proudly – an emotional case for keeping the United Kingdom within the European Union.
But still, however strongly we feel – we are a reticent nation. To some, it can seem vulgar to fly the flags of the Union Jack and the European Union together. Some people have even advised me to stay out of this issue – and not to get too sentimental about the European Union.
But frankly, I care far too much to stay out of this debate. This is personal.
And I passionately hope that my children will be able to teach their children that the European Union stamp on their passport is a mark of pride that together, the member states of the European Union do stand for something more than the sum of our parts, they stand for bigger ideals, nobler causes, greater values. Our great European Union: brave, brilliant, buccaneering, generous, tolerant, proud – this is our continent.
And we helped to build the EU, country by country, brick by brick. Europe is our home – and I could not bear to see that home torn apart.
I love Europe and I love the United Kingdom and all it stands for. And I will fight with all I have to keep us together. And so I want to be clear to everyone listening. There can be no complacency about the result of this referendum. The outcome is still up in the air and we have just 7 months to go.
7 months to do all we can to keep our United Kingdom in the EU. 7 months to save the most extraordinary continent in history. And we must do whatever it takes.
Get on the phone, get together, email, tweet, speak. Let the message ring out from Manchester to Motherwell, from Pembrokeshire to Perth, from Belfast to Bute, from us to all those who can vote in this referendum– let the message be this: We want the UK to stay in the EU. Think of what we’ve done together – what we can do together – what we stand for together. Team EU. The winning team in world history. Let us stick together for a winning future too.
— Jon Danzig (@Jon_Danzig) February 8, 2014
Other articles by Jon Danzig:
- Letter from Europe: Why I’m a Union man
- The free movement of people – it works both ways
- My vote for Europe