A letter in yesterday’s edition of my local newspaper (Southend Echo) had the title “European Union was a force for peace”. In it, the writer, the son of the man who owned what was once regarded as the major factory and employer in the town (ECKO), well known in my younger days (and where I once worked), reflected on the call to preserve some underground tunnels on the factory site, which is now being redeveloped. These tunnels were built just before World War 2 with the expectation (although not needed as it happened) that these might be needed during the war that was anticipated.
He remarked that his father believed the European Union (EU) could preserve peace, which has to a large extent been the case. He also pointed out that under the EU Europe often speaks with one voice e.g. regarding the current conflict in Ukraine and, like in the matter of peace, this is a good thing. This is not the first time I have heard such arguments for Britain remaining in the EU, and there are others. In a recent discussion with a politician friend, he felt if we were to leave it could prove disastrous for British jobs and the economy. He felt many of the arguments put up by the likes of UKIP, such as how much money we pay the EU that might be better spent elsewhere, the erosion of freedoms and how little control we have nowadays over the laws that affect us, are spurious.
Those who have read my earlier writings and blog postings may conclude I am a Euroskeptic, or I would prefer to say realist. While I haven’t fully elaborated upon all my reasons for coming to this view and I yearn for an intelligent debate in order to do so, I am happy to stand by this position, mindful of the arguments given above, and others besides. Rather than advocating for complete independence from Europe, I suggest there is a future for inter-dependence and cooperation. What I have seen of the EU to date and the move toward further integration, feels me with dismay. I see a wasteful and corrupt institution, one that appears unaccountable and undemocratic, that infringes on and overrides the ways, liberties, voices and aspirations of local peoples far more than it ought.
As we move look forward to a general election in 9 months, I await with interest how the debate will unravel, but not with high hopes given how debates on important issues are carried out these days. Without being unfair to the various parties, it seems to me that UKIP would have the UK leave the EU, the Liberal Democrats and Greens would favour more integration, Labour would maintain the status quo, and the Conservatives would like the UK to regain more powers but will happily duck the issue by promising an in-out referendum if elected. The outcome is far from known of course but my prediction (sadly) is the UK will go with the (EU) flow.
This leads me to the issue of Scottish Independence, which tomorrow the Scottish people will vote on. I have already written about this matter, along with a recommendation that the Scottish people vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. Some will see a certain irony in this for, while on one hand I want European disintegration, on the other I want UK integration, but mainly because this will be the best result for the UK as a whole, including the countries that make up the UK. My belief is that by preserving the United Kingdom we will be better placed to forge a future less tied to the rest of Europe. We await with interest what happens and no doubt there will be a lot more to reflect on in future blogs.