It is time to make my position on the EU clear.
Let me state the obvious: the EU is deeply flawed by design. Any arrangement that provides equal rights on the movement of capital and labour when one is inherently more mobile than the other is bound to favour returns to capital over returns to labour, and so it has been. The period during which the UK has been a member of the EU has coincided with a period when there has been a massive bias to capital across almost every part of the political spectrum with inevitable, unjust and unjustifiable consequences. And nothing that David Cameron is doing is helping change that: indeed, he has put reinforcement of the rights of the City of London at the very heart of his campaign as if they did not already enjoy privilege enough.
Second, let me be clear that in recent years there have been policies proposed by a German dominated European a Central Bank that are abhorrent to any right minded person let alone any right minded economist. The treatment of Greece makes it all too clear that the lessons of Versailles in 1919 have been forgotten at direct cost to Greek people and, indirectly, the rest of us as the perverted logic of austerity persists with official endorsement.
Third, some policies that are embedded in the EU, like the common agricultural policy, make no sense in the twenty first century.
And, importantly, democratic accountability within the EU is weak, and since that issue is at the heart of much of what I argue I have to be concerned about that.
Despite which reservations I oppose Brexit and have no doubt that I will be voting to stay in the EU whenever we have a referendum on the issue. So let me explain why that is.
First the EU has, in my opinion, delivered union where there was once conflict. I do not take that lightly. And I think the risk of conflict has not gone away, but is reduced by the continuing existence of the EU. I think that absolutely fundamental in the debate to come.
Second, I am a member of an extended family that is only in the UK because of economic migrancy. I think my extended family has added value to this country. I think many other economically migrant families do. Of course there are issues with migration: the rate at which integration of people into communities is possible is an issue, but let’s never doubt that, firstly, the right to live and work elsewhere in the EU suits millions of UK citizens who would lose it if we left; secondly that the most problematic migration we now face arises from humanitarian need and leaving the EU will not change that and, third, many parts of the UK economy would be lost without EU migrant workers. Walking away is no way to solve migration issues.
Third, leaving the EU will indisputably and inevitably make it harder to trade from the UK and as a trading nation we would be mad to impose such a constraint on ourselves. If we want to be worse off, leaving the EU makes sense. And there is no upside: an imposed TTIP would be worse for the UK in every way. To pretend that there is some economic utopia by pretending the UK could operate as the proverbial corner shop standing up against a globalised world is to take heed of the machinations of a febrile mind.
Fourth, there may be weaknesses in EU democracy but it has achieved some pretty good things. No organisation has done more to help crack down on tax abuse. It is intent on delivering more and note who it is who is really taking on multinationals on this issue: we could not do what the EU can to the likes of Apple. And the protection for workers that has come from Brussels has taken labour rights forward by leaps and bounds. There is no doubt that many in the Brexit camp are intent on taking away these rights that have made life better for millions and reduced, if not as yet by enough, the inequalities in our society.
Fifth, argue if you will that the EU does not do democracy but it has got an inter-state parliament. In a global world that is an indication of cooperation that is unique. It is flawed. It could and should be improved. But let’s stop pretending anyone gets all they want in life: imperfect as it is the EU delivers more for international cooperation in a democratic form than we can expect to achieve any other way.
Finally, for now, let’s note that Brexit is, almost certainly, the precursor for the end of the Union too: Scotland would be holding another referendum on leaving the UK faster than you could imagine if Brexit happens, and don’t rule out Northern Ireland pondering its future as well. To say Brexit is literally a little England view is to be kind to it.
I could, and no doubt will, expand these themes over time. But the point is, this is ultimately a decision to be taken by instinct. All big decisions in life are. And there is no doubt that in that context I have only one instinct, and that is that we must stay.