EU Referendum: Citizen of Europe

“I find no contradiction between being a Highlander, a Scot, a citizen of the UK and a citizen of the European Union at one and the same time.” – Charles Kennedy

eu

Romania

When I was a child my Mom told me that we were moving to Romania, I didn’t know what to make of it. Eastern Europe was definitely not a subject I was familiar with. Looking back, it was the most enriching and enjoyable part of my childhood. Romania is a mystical place with gypsies, castles and Dracula accompanied by snowy winters. However, the history was more of a nightmare than a fairytale

In the late 80s the people revolted against its communist government. It was a bloody revolution with 1,000 people losing their lives. My school even had a bomb shelter that had been used only a few years prior to my enrolment. The execution of Nicolae Ceaușescu ended the war and Romania became a democratic republic, joining NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.

One of the main arguments from the Leave camp is the lack of control on immigration. Part of the package of being in the EU comes with unrestricted free movement of people between member states. In particular, we see a lot of prejudice against the “swarm” of Romanians moving over to Britain and becoming a strain on our resources. There is a brilliant notion of using the Schrödinger’s cat analogy to describe immigrants as simultaneously taking our jobs and benefits. What they have actually done is pay £20 billion in tax that we use for our services while only claiming 2.5% of all benefits.

I understand there are concerns of the strain it puts on our services. They put pressure on our NHS. If immigrants were to be deported tomorrow, we would lose 26% of our doctors and 14% of our nurses. The NHS would crumble without immigrants. Standing on the white cliffs of Dover with a sign that says “We are full!” does not make any sense for economic development.

UKIP love to say “we can be like Norway” until they are purple in the face. Norway is part of the single market but still needs to pay a membership fee without any representation at the table. Norway is still obliged to honour the market’s four freedoms including the freedom of movement of workers. The Leave campaign has now distanced themselves from the comparison since this keeps getting pointed out.

Today Romania joins the United Kingdom as part of a united European Union. From a tiny communist nation to now being part of the world’s largest union of democracies. We should never treat Romanians as 2nd class citizens. They are some of the humblest and genuine people you would ever meet and helping them establish themselves as a European democracy with a stronger economy would only strengthen our continent.

If you are still not convinced, remember one of the Avengers is a Romanian!

romania

Playing in the Romanian snow with my brother.

France

My first job after university was for a company called Logica (recently acquired by CGI). They were one of the biggest IT services companies in Europe with many offices across the continent.

Every year they would hold a football Euros tournament with a team representing each of the countries Logica was based in. Of all the countries, who knew I would be representing Wales on the European stage?

Britain is a gateway into the EU single market. Besides Ireland, the UK is the only country with a native tongue of English making it an attractive prospect for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the Commonwealth countries to invest in. Being a way into the single market is why a lot of corporations set up their European headquarters here. Who would blame them if they left London for Paris, should Britain opt out of the market? They would have to pay extra tariffs on their goods and services.

To be fair we would probably remain in the single market even if we left. Then why leave in the first place? We would still have to pay a membership fee. We would still have to accept the free movement of EU citizens. The only difference is that we would not have a seat at the table to work on EU laws and policies. All for the sake of sovereignty.

It is true, if we left we would have complete control of our laws and we would be able to pass a British Bill of Rights. What has the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ever done for us exactly? Beside protecting the most vulnerable. Protecting women from domestic abuse. To hold the police accountable for misconduct. Protect worker’s rights and paternal leave. I can see the appeal of having rights exclusive to Britain but on a nationalist platform how can it confront the atrocities in the world? Only part of a stronger human rights act could we challenge female genital mutilation, the oppression of the LGBT community and calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

The football tournament took place over two days. The evening before a crucial match we went out to experience what Paris had to offer. Some of the lads enjoyed it a bit too much where we were only able to field 10 men in our first knock-out game. Surprisingly, we drew the game 1-1 and then won on penalties. We were channelling the spirit of Zinedine Zidane! Might I add, Zidane was the greatest footballer of all time and both his parents were immigrants to France.

paris

Enjoying the Parisian sights with my team mates.

Belgium

After a few hectic weeks at work my girlfriend and I wanted to go on a short break. We decided to go somewhere new, so we chose Bruges. For the days we spent there we walked around the canals, soaked in the history and stuffed ourselves with chocolate. However, we did not re-enact scenes from ‘In Bruges’.

The day after we left Brussels, it was hit by a terrorist attack.

There is a lot of fear being generated by the media and UKIP. Terrorists are sneaking across the border posing as refugees. Some from the far-right are calling for a complete ban on all refugees. Even the modest call for 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children to be taken in is scoffed at.

Terrorists do not respect borders and being in or out of the EU will not make a difference to them. Norway is outside of the EU and still suffered a tragic terrorist attack in 2011.

Being in, Britain has access to police records from across the EU. The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) allows us to process foreign criminals and send them back to the EU country they committed the crime. It works both ways and we were able to apprehend criminals who carried out an illegal act here in Britain who are hiding abroad.

Leaving would also jeopardise our border with France. We have an agreement with France where our border checks are in Calais, allowing only legitimate migrants and refugees to cross. If we were to turn our back on France, why would they uphold any promises with us?

Less than 24 hours after I left Brussels, terrorists carried out three attacks in the city. Targeting the airport and a metro station, their bombs killing 32 people and injuring over 300. My initial reaction was not that of horror or of my own safety but of deep sadness of the continuing waste of life by extremists.

It is by working together with our neighbours that we can capture criminals and stop terrorism. I don’t see how going on our own puts us in a more powerful position to tackle crime and these monstrosities.

Belgium

Exploring Belgium.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is one of the greatest nations on Earth and one I am proud to call my home. As Hugh Grant so eloquently put it in ‘Love Actually’, “We may be a small country, but we’re a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that.”

Would we better as part of the European Union or taking the world on by ourselves?

We are the world’s 5th biggest economy with allies across the globe and we would have no problem standing on our own two feet. The EU has many faults. Lack of transparency of power and too many bureaucrats are things in need of desperate reform. We have to work with others to make laws instead of calling all the shots ourselves.

Nigel Farage is an excellent spokesperson and his main argument is that the EU is broken. If you look beyond all his bravado you will see a man who does not even try to fix the problems from his position within. He is chair of the EU Fisheries Committee but only attended 1 of 42 meetings and then complains we have no control of our fisheries. It took a chef activist with no ties to the EU to change the law.

With blind enthusiasm of deporting European nationals, the leavers tend to forget that 1.2 million Brits live abroad in the EU. Most of them retired, would be coming back to a NHS that would be depleted without our European workers.  If we were to leave, it would also trigger a 2nd Scotland Independence Referendum so we would not lose one union but two. The United Kingdom would be no more. Northern Ireland would have to re-evaluate its position since the Good Friday Agreement has the EU as its foundation. That would leave Wales and England to form a new nation of Wangland. I do not want to be a Wanglander.

I will respect the decision if the country votes to leave. We are a democratic nation and the needs of the people should always come first. Though technically, we are a monarchy. With one of our houses of parliament being unelected. Maybe we could learn a thing or two about fair representation from the EU.

For me staying in the EU has more positives than negatives. We can trade with the biggest market with no tariffs. We can freely travel and live in any member country. We work with nations to establish peace in Western Europe. We can collaborate with other scientists and universities. We can tackle climate change working together with 27 other countries. We have a protected human rights treaty that would be ignored if we left. We attract more investment from foreign companies with our position in the single market. And finally, being a member our voice is stronger in Europe and across the world. As Justin Trudeau put it, “Britain is always going to have clout, it’s just amplified by its strength as part of Europe”.

Only being in the EU gives us the power to reform it. That is why I will be fighting for a more prosperous and secure future for Britain.

Clegg

Working on the IN Together campaign with Nick Clegg.

One thought on “EU Referendum: Citizen of Europe

  1. Pingback: Liberal Democrat Conference – Brighton 2016 | Roaming Ryan

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