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2016 could prove to be an important year for Britain, both politically and economically, as the threat of Brexit looms large as we head into a new year. Although no date has officially been chosen, it is widely assumed that Britain’s EU referendum will take place next year, most likely June or September. The choice will simply be to Remain or to Leave, but the consequence of either decisions cannot be taken too lightly.
David Cameron has traveled the length of Europe visiting EU sister-states in the last few weeks in the hope of securing agreement amongst European leaders regrading his much maligned renegotiation package. There was once a brief notion that the PM held a strong hand in any potential new EU deal; a deal that could and would suit the interests of the British people, both Europhiles and Eurosceptics alike. But his hand has weakened significantly, not through an early show of face, but as result of a cack-handed approach to negotiations and as Europe and the world united in the aftermath of the Paris attacks and military action in Syria. It has shown that David Cameron certainly believes that we are better in the Union. Whilst some will disagree and present a case for the Leave campaign, the Paris attacks and soon-to-be-agreed TTIP (USA) and EPA (Japan) trade deals will be signed by the EU are too important to simply cast aside. To me it is a no-brainer to remain within the Union, yes it may need reform, but that can be achieved with Britain at the helm, playing her historic role as a leader.
Now the Leave camp will predictably play on the fears of the general public; showcasing the EU as a dictatorial Union that beats all member states into submission. They will tell us how a meddling EU has become grossly bureaucratic, that they preside over our lawmaking, that they are to blame for your garbage only being collected fortnightly and that the EU is to blame for … In fact, the EU has brought peace and security to our continent, once ravished by war; the EU has helped to enhanced British-European trade, where European exports in 1970 accounted for 30% in of our overall trade, it now accounts for 50% in the space of 40 years. Yes Parliament is directed by the EU on some laws, but not all…only some 10-14%. So the Leave camps argument that our national sovereignty is slowly being eroded thanks to a overarching and overzealous European project, is false.
So what exactly has the EU done for Britain? Britain is safer, more secure and better equipped to deal with international crime and terrorism. The Europe Union is a our biggest trading partner, as stated above, UK exports to EU member states account for 15% of our GDP. Free trade and lower tariffs amongst member states allow the UK to buy and sell goods more efficiently, allow British business to thrive, create jobs here in the UK and reduces the cost of important goods bought by families here in the UK. 61% of small businesses sell to the EU which highlights that it is not just large corporations that benefit from the cheaper tariffs. The EU has helped to improve the cooperation amongst EU nations with important research on science and technology, has helped to tackle inequality, brought about international debate on climate change and the environment, whilst also championing humanitarian issues, civil liberties, anti-discrimination laws and social mobility.
I agree that there are many important issues that must be addressed by our leaders before we take part in a referendum. It is not overtly helpful to simplify and dilute the case for Leave or Remain. But from a personal perspective, I strongly believe that the EU can be a force for good. Yes, it does need to change; those in Brussels need to learn a few homes truths and establish trust amongst Brits and civilians across Europe. I do not agree in an ever-greater Union, I believe each nation must create their own laws and be in control of their sovereignty. However, I also believe that if Britain wants to be respected in Europe and to reform the Euro-dream, we must do it from within.
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By James Metcalfe, Editor of Daily Political View.