The case for a strong democratic Europe is compelling. Yet the vote for Brexit showed that we have failed to make it.
This is why, now more than ever, we need the European Movement. And it is why I have decided to join.
Being part of the EU has brought untold economic benefits to the UK. Where I live, in south Wales, you can scarcely move without bumping into a piece of infrastructure built with EU money: roads, railway stations, university campuses. Europe has invested in Wales when Westminster has ignored it.
There is a role for the European Movement in spelling out the economic benefits of the EU far more forcefully. It can also challenge national politicians when they let the bogeyman of “Europe” take the blame for their own policy failings. For too long the British disease has been blame someone else.
Then there are our rights. Brexit would mean an unprecedented loss of UK citizens’ rights. Another reason why I joined is that I want my children to have the same rights as I have had to travel freely across our wonderful continent, and to live and work in any one of 28 countries if they wish. I want my UK compatriots to continue enjoying the rights they get as EU citizens: in areas such as annual leave, maternity pay, limits on working hours, rights to compensation (eg airline delay). On the long list of Brexit swindles, one of the biggest is this: they take away our rights and call it “freedom”.
By requiring would-be members to meet stringent criteria before they can join, the EU has played a crucial role, often overlooked, in spreading and strengthening democracy in Europe.
I joined the European Movement to support it in making all these points as part of the case for Europe.
But the most compelling argument of all for the EU, which is especially timely as we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, is more fundamental still: seventy years of peace on a blood-soaked continent.
No organisation could be better placed than the European Movement, set up by Winston Churchill, to remind us of this most significant of all the EU’s achievements.
Seventy-three years ago, less than the average lifespan of its citizens today, Europe lay in ruins. It was decimated by a conflict that ravaged an entire continent and killed millions, only two decades after the Great War had done the same.
Recent generations, in contrast, are the lucky ones, having known seven decades of peace.
We owe this in large measure to the EU, originally set up to bind one-time enemies together.
The EU has been, and remains, a force for peace and stability in Europe.
The EU is far from perfect. But amid all the detailed debates about its costs and its benefits, we must not overlook its most fundamental and precious achievement: peace and stability on a war-ravaged continent.
The European Movement, inspired by the vision of Churchill, must ensure we remember.
Lest we forget.
Kevin Sullivan lives in Swansea and is a member of European Movement. He also has a blog which you can read here