EU vote is about the big picture, not petty politics

On security, trade, climate and crime, the UK is better off in Europe


The British people may well be only 18 weeks away from answering the most important political question of our generation: do we want to stay in the EU, or do we want to leave?  Brits will be forced to consider who we are as a nation, where we stand in the world, and what kind of country we want to be.

Answering these existential questions surely requires us to think deeply about how we can ensure security for ourselves and our children; economic security as well as freedom from conflict and the uncertainty caused by climate change.

Even Eurosceptics accept that being a member of a single market with other countries means there are more jobs available for British people.  And those jobs are higher quality because we are in Europe, because of our European rights to measures like paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, and protection of our health and safety at work.

Yet many such jobs are under threat, in the UK and across Europe, because of the twin pressures of competition from low-wage economies and job losses from digitalisation. These challenges are fundamentally international in their nature.

We can have far more impact on the economic policies of countries like India and China as part of a union of 500 million consumers across Europe than as one country on our own: through European trade deals, environmental agreements and strict import standards that stop European producers being undercut.

Similarly, we can only deal with the power of mega-corporations like Google by working across borders — as recent revelations about tax dodging have shown. In addition, the kinds of scientific and technological developments that will provide the high-quality jobs of the future are generally only created through the meeting of minds — and funds — generated by European and other international collaboration.

And when it comes to dealing with the challenges of international terrorism, crime and climate change, it is obvious that criminals and carbon emissions don’t respect borders. That means politicians have to work across them, rather than continue to propagate the fiction that borders are all that matters, as Nigel Farage and others might have us believe.

No politician with a shred of integrity can deny the need to solve these problems. Yet rather than focus on them, David Cameron has fixated on the internal management of his party.

If you look closely at the details of his renegotiation package, it barely touches on any of the big issues.  There is very little in there about trade.  No mention of climate change, of fighting terrorism, of adjusting to fundamental changes in society and labour markets.  There was a risk that he was even going to try and water down workers’ rights in the deal, but a concerted effort by Labour MEPs saw that off.

He has spectacularly failed to rise to the challenge.  He is fiddling while Rome burns.

There was a genuine opportunity here for a big debate, held between 28 countries on an equal footing, about what the EU needs to become in order to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

But if Cameron does strike a deal today, it will be thanks to some incredibly hard work behind the scenes and because other European leaders have been able to see beyond the details of this renegotiation to the more important point: that the UK is better off in the EU, and the EU is better off with the UK in it.  As we now move into the referendum campaign proper, I urge British voters to do the same: look at the big picture, not the small man who nearly threw it all away.

Anneliese Dodds is Labour MEP for the South East of England

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7 Responses to “EU vote is about the big picture, not petty politics”

  1. Stefanos K

    Hmm, wrong question.
    The right question is, do you want to live under the rule of the Germans? Previous time you were asked, you said no.
    Lets see this time

  2. j

    Well you’re hardly going to say anything else are you , with your rear end firmly parked on the gravy train. How much weekly wage would you lose if we left and how much of your platinum plated pension would you lose if we left? And what other perks would you lose on top of that?
    Maybe if some of you MEP’s had stood up for Britain in years gone by instead of the EU federalist objective, we might take you seriously.

  3. Calvert McGibbon

    DC is merely papering over the cracks in his party….The bigger battle is to make sure that we don’t as country vote ourselves out of the EU.

  4. Robert Dimmick

    Good article. The basic reason for supporting EU membership, I think, is nothing to do with economics or security. It is about affirming our common humanity and breaking down barriers between peoples. I can only suppose that Stefanos K has not met as many Germans as I have: they are much like the rest of us, but they have learned the lessons of history better, and are more determined to prevent any future wars of aggression or racist attacks. I don’t care whether our political leaders (not “rulers”) are German, British, Greek or whatever, as long as they are committed to building peace, looking after all the people of Europe, and being fully accountable to us – and they are intelligent, well-informed and unprejudiced. National boundaries and national sovereignty are 19th-century notions that did a lot to bring about the suffering of the 20th century. Let’s get rid of them, gradually so that people (at least those who are open-minded) will recognise that it is progress.
    And vote “remain”, not because Cameron’s “negotiations” did any good, but in spite of the fact that if anything they will make things worse for all Europe, including the UK. Even after his changes, it is still better to be in than out – and we have the chance of getting rid of “special status” and making the UK a full-hearted, positive, progressive leading member of the EU.

  5. Jimmy Glesga

    Anneliese, you will be looking for a real job if we get out. Better you look for a safe constituency in England. Time to get out of the EU mafia gravy train.

  6. Frank Upton

    Support Goldman Sachs! Vote ‘Remain’!

  7. Mike Stallard

    Let’s just nail the world peace thing.
    M. J-C Juncker wants a powerful Europe. And that means including the Ukraine and Georgia in the EU. Baroness Ashton was there in Kiev.
    The Russians do not like that.
    So, to placate the Baltic peoples, we need a European army.
    All this is entirely down to the EU pursuing the traditional role of bringing civilization to the benighted east.
    Napoleon, Hitler, the Kaiser all did the drang nach osten. We are now being tied into the same wrong headed thinking.

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