View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 15 May 2016

EU referendum

On June 23rd, voters in the UK will go to the polls to decide whether to stay in the EU or not. I am not eligible to vote, but will nonetheless summarise my stance on this important issue.

The European Union was started in 1957 as a trading association between Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux nations (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) in the aftermath of the Second World War. It has ballooned into a political force, comprising of 28 countries, 17 of whom now have a shared currency, the Euro. There is plenty wrong with it, bureaucracy being the worst aspect of it. Why does it need to have three headquarters, Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg? Each has a full complement of civil servants etcetera. Why does it need to do with regulatory affairs encompassing all member states? Some aspects are best left to individual countries, as nuances may differ across nations.

The UK has always had a fractious relationship with the EU. Although a desire was expressed to join the EEC (the precedessor to the UK) in the 1960s, it was France's General de Gaulle who stymied that desire with his infamous 'non'. The EU has caused severe disruption within the Conservative Party, which has had major fallings-out over the issue. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher lost her position over the EU in November 1990. The UK has negotiated a 'special deal' and a rebate from the EU, although I have never properly understood what made the UK eligible for such a special deal. And all that haranging, with handbags or without, will have decreased the likelihood for other EU leaders to give the UK leeway in any future discussions about its status. 

Current PM David Cameron has felt compelled to call a referendum, although he himself is backing the In campaign. Senior government ministers in his cabinet are all for Out. However, I would be for In, if I were able to vote. I have indicated that there is a lot wrong with the EU, and change will need to happen. It is far better to effect change from within. The Out campaign are playing on base fears such as the fear of strangers - immigrants from near and far and base emotions such as sovereignty and national pride. The job of any government is to decide on a way forward which will be the best for its people. Again, in my opinion, it is in the best interests of the UK for it to remain a member of the EU.