There are all sorts of positive reasons why the UK shouldn’t leave the European Union: the freedoms afforded its citizens, the commitment to international co-operation, the environmental benefits it brings, the workers’ rights it requires, the international status membership affords the UK, and so on.
This month, a report from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) made the case for another significant benefit of EU membership: that it is good for business. The report – ‘Help or Hindrance? The value of EU membership to London Business’ – argues that restrictions on EU migration would result in a skills shortage in the capital, and that the majority of its members welcome continued membership of the EU.
More than a million Londoners were born in other EU countries – and mostly they have come here not just to enjoy their rights and freedoms to do so but to earn a decent living and, in doing that, contribute to the British economy. As this report from LCCI makes clear, many British firms just couldn’t function without access to EU markets and employees who were born outside the UK, in addition to their British staff. And yet, this very week, we have seen the unedifying spectacle of Tory (Conservative Party, the senior party in the UK’s coalition government) ministers fighting each other publicly to show who is more committed to a speedy exit from the EU.
Another report, ‘The EU referendum and the environment’, published today by Friends of the Earth Europe, argues that the environmental consequence of leaving the EU would be devastating: we’d lose our future commitments on improving air and water quality, on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and on cleaning up our waste.
Even the progress we’ve made in these areas would be at risk. The UK would be at risk of becoming ‘the dirty man of Europe’ again, and we’d all end up paying the price.
The report also argues that leaving the EU would be bad for Britain’s international standing: instead of being part of a global ‘bloc’ of some half a billion citizens, we’d be forced to negotiate as a medium-sized nation of some 60m – we’d be worse off in Treaty negotiations and our view on global matters just wouldn’t matter as much.
So, in short, these two reports make compelling cases to suggest leaving the EU would be bad for business, bad for our environment and bad for Britain’s standing in the world.
I can’t imagine why any politician would want to support an act that would be bad for all these things, so I can only imagine those Tory ministers who have this week added their names to calls for the UK to leave the EU haven’t read them. I hope they do soon.
When all the facts can be presented, we should have a referendum. Yes – the British people should have their say: that’s how democracy works after all. But there’s no need to have it this week!
It is crucial that we reject leaving the EU in any referendum (unless David Cameron negotiates away everything but the market) – and that we implement policies to ensure all migrants are treated fairly and are helped to access employment and healthcare when they arrive and to understand any other entitlement they have, just as British citizens would hope for should they move to another country in the EU: not just out of internationalism and solidarity with our fellow Europeans – but because it’s clearly in Britain’s interests to do so.
This article originally appeared in Huffington Post (UK).