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EU membership has made Britain a better country

It has made Britain more open and tolerant, and increased Britain's influence in the wider world, as well as making Britain richer.


Posted 16 December 2018

For some time, I have been a small donor to Best for Britain, an organisation which fights to keep the UK open to the idea of EU membership and finding a democratic way to stop Brexit.

In late November, the organisation asked if I would write an op-ed piece for them, with a particular focus on "openness and tolerance but with a focus on Global Britain - if we are to maintain our global influence and reach we need to go with the best deal that is on the table, remaining as a member of the EU and ensuring we set the rules, not simply take them."

I was happy to write this piece.

Most of the arguments for continued EU membership are put in economic terms. HM Treasury is quite clear that all forms of Brexit will leave the UK poorer than it would be remaining in the EU. See its report "EU Exit Long-term economic analysis November 2018" and in particular page 6 using the report's page numbering.

However the non-financial arguments for continued EU membership are, in my view, even stronger than the financial arguments.

At its simplest, being inside the EU has made Britain a better country. Bringing European countries together within an entity where the way forward is decided co-operatively by qualified majority voting, with special protection for vital national interests, is far better than inter-state conflict. I also believe that supporters of Britain's EU membership need to say loud and clear that freedom of movement (which from the very beginning has been one of the EU's four fundamental freedoms) has been good for the UK.

I was asked for 400-500 words, which I submitted to Best for Britain, who were responsible for finding a publication outlet. It became my first ever piece on the Huffington Post UK website. You can read it below.

EU Membership Has Made Britain More Open, Tolerant And Influential – We Mustn't Throw It All Away

For centuries the vital goal of British foreign policy was to avoid having Europe united against us – sadly, that is where the ardent Brexiteers are leading us

Having lived in Manchester since 1952, I have seen Britain change enormously for the better.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Britain felt gloomy and backward looking, obsessed with the end of the British Empire and national decline. Attitudes were very insular; even Roman Catholics were regarded as a bit strange, let alone Jews or Muslims like me. Foreigners such as French or German people were incredibly alien. 

Since the early 1970s, Britain has been transformed. Far more Britons travel to continental Europe and over a million live there. Millions of continental Europeans live and work in the UK, strengthening our businesses and universities. Polish immigrants have revitalised the Roman Catholic church. Intermarriage increases every year.

None of this is an accident. The founding fathers of the European Community’s institutions planned it from the very beginning, with the famous four freedoms. The key goal was to integrate France, Germany and the other member countries so much that another European war would be impossible. They succeeded. Furthermore, faced with two behemoths in the world in the form of the USA and the USSR, they recognised that European countries could only have weight when they stood together, since separately even the largest were dwarfed by those giants.

The European Union has been a great success for all its member countries including the UK. That is why other countries still aspire to join. As a deliberately trivial example, when American movie studios tried to segment Europe into individual DVD regions, it was straightforward for the EU to insist that the whole of the EU would be a single combined Region 2. More importantly, the EU has been able to levy anti-trust fines on American companies running into the billions of dollars. No individual European country would have dared to do this, given the power of the USA to bully individual countries.

The UK has been a big winner from EU membership. So many French people live in London that London would count as the sixth largest city in France. Their presence makes all of us richer as well as making London a better place to live for everyone. With about 12% of the voting power in the EU, with the English language, with our diplomatic connections, the UK was well on the way to becoming the most influential country in the EU, which in turn magnifies our influence in the wider world. 

Leaving the EU would throw all of this away.

And for what? Most polls now show Brits want to retain their EU membership, not bin it. According to the latest research commissioned by anti-Brexit campaigners Best for Britain and HOPE not hate, 56% of people across Great Britain would now vote to stay in the EU, while a total of 193 constituencies have changed their mind on Brexit since the referendum. 

Yet, despite lacking public support, the Brexit train chugs on. For centuries the most vital goal of British foreign policy was to avoid having continental Europe united against us. Sadly, that is where the ardent Brexiteers are leading us.

Mohammed Amin is the chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum. [The submitted article had a second sentence in the description, "He writes in a personal capacity." which was was omitted by Huffington Post.]

Readers comments

As of today, 16 December, there were only a few reader comments which can be read below the original piece on HuffPost UK.


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