I wasn’t old enough to vote in the European Union referendum of 1975. I was fifteen. But I did know that I wanted Britain to remain in Europe, so I went down to the ‘Britain in Europe committee rooms and volunteered to help. They gave me a badge saying ‘Sovereignty: The whole of the illusion or a share of the reality’ and I wore it while I put hundreds of leaflets through doors. I was delighted when the referendum result was announced: Two to one in favour of ‘Remain’.
Much has always been made of the undoubted economic advantages to Britain of being a member of the European Union; but I think membership has far more important aspects than that. To me, the European Union is about a Europe of values. It is about European nations and peoples coming together to promote peace, democracy and civil liberties as well as prosperity. There is a democratic framework in which all those nations and peoples share in shaping the European Union.
While I was born a citizen of the United Kingdom, when Britain joined the European Union in 1973, I also became a European citizen. I have spent most of my life being both British and European and I am happy to have both identities. I have valued the ‘four freedoms’ of the European Union, being able to travel, work and do business anywhere in the European Union as a European citizen.
I am pleased to hear people speaking in different accents and languages. I am pleased to see food from many cultures in the supermarkets. I am pleased to see people of many ethnicities and faiths living in Britain. I am pleased when I see British leaders working collaboratively with the leaders of countries that share our values.
That is why I am a member of the European Movement.
I was shocked at how the referendum was conducted in 2016. There was no specific proposal to vote on, so it wasn’t clear exactly what was being proposed and the ‘Leave’ campaign were able to promise different and incompatible things to different people; The ‘Remain’ campaign was headed by people who didn’t believe in the cause such as David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn, it was set up to fail and excluded the voices of people who genuinely believe in Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Also, the position has changed since June 2016. The political and economic situation in Britain and the world has changed. More information has emerged about the implications of Britain leaving the European Union (although much is still concealed) but it is clearly just a first step to a bonfire of the laws that currently protect workers, consumers and the environment. There is also evidence that public opinion has changed since 2016 in favour of staying in the European Union because that would protect peace, prosperity, democracy and civil liberties.
I am shocked at the position of politicians who campaigned for ‘Remain’ but are now happy to support Brexit. My MP is one of these and I have written to him to make my views known.
I support the campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’ in which the electorate would decide between leaving the European Union on the terms proposed by the government (when these are known) or staying in the European Union on the existing terms.
Adrian Waite is a member of European Movement.
If you support European values and the People's Vote campaign, consider joining too.