To Believe in the EU is to Take Pride in British Accomplishments
I’ve always been a patriotic person. I love my country and I’m very proud of our achievements. But I find it puzzling that when we talk about these achievements, we rarely talk about anything after the second world war. But our nation has also helped shape the modern world, in a large part of that is because of our leading role in shaping the modern EU.
When people discussed the big powers within the EU, they didn’t talk about two countries. They talked about three - Britain, France and Germany. The countries of Scandinavia, Eastern and Central Europe, plus Ireland and the Netherlands frequently allied themselves with the UK within the EU, and followed our lead. The old EEC may have started without us but since we joined, we have had a huge role in shaping the modern EU’s economy, its culture and its values.
The best example of how big our influence has been on the EU is the single market. It was the British who was the driving force behind the common market (as it used to be called) which now makes a fundamental part of both the EU’s economy and the UK's economy. (1) We not only started the process, but we also pushed France and Germany to agree to it, and we sent a British man, Arthur Cockfield, to the EU to work out exactly how to do it. He wrote the White Paper that became the instruction manual on the necessary structures and laws the EU adopted so that the single market would work. (1) It created huge economic gains for UK and the EU, it is a tremendous achievement and one we should be proud to be a part of.
The culture of the EU has also been shaped by the UK. Brits have had leading positions throughout EU structures including the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank and the EU’s Diplomatic Service. (1) Our civil servants also shaped the EU in smaller ways, changing the how meetings were held and records were kept. (1) And of course we changed the language. While there are technically many official languages within the EU, its real working language used to be French. That started changing to English almost as soon as we joined, and today there is little doubt which one dominates.
The UK has also had a profound effect on the EU’s values and the good it has done in the world. The EU is a global leader on climate change and it is the world’s biggest donor of development aid. (2) It's successes in both of these fields are due in no small part to us. We have been one of the strongest forces within the EU pushing for action on climate change, and we have ensured that development aid is used for tackling extreme poverty and advancing the rights of women and girls. (2) We also championed EU membership for countries in Eastern and Central Europe providing stability and hope for these nations as they emerged from the brutality of Soviet rule.
None of this is to suggest that we are the only country who shaped the EU or that we’ve never done anything wrong within it. Every country contributes to the EU and it is stronger for it. But being anti EU because you are pro Britain is like claiming you don't like the Beatles because you like John Lennon, or that you are don't like the English football team because you're like Harry Kane.
I love my country and I take a great deal of pride in our accomplishments, and one of these has been the modern EU. I hope that MPs give us a chance to have a say on the Brexit deal, so that now that we know what Brexit will look like, we can decide whether we want to leave an institution that we've shaped so much of. This is one of the many reasons that I want a People's Vote.
Sandy Murthy is a volunteer and supporter of European Movement and the People's Vote campaign.