Sovereignty, freedom of movement, national identity
London4Europe Committee member Michael Romberg sets out the case. The harms of Brexit are real but we have a positive case to argue for. Economic prosperity is important but still just a means to an end. Leavers are right in this: the EU is a political project; the issues that matter are sovereignty, democracy, freedom, sense of community with particular reference to freedom of movement, sense of national identity.
Europe became top continent in part because competition between nascent nation states drove innovation, competition and enterprise. The downside was continual war. The EU is a peace project; it always was - we knew that when we joined. It provides a framework within which nation states may thrive and realise their sovereignty while at the same time dissipating the inevitable tensions between nation states in interminable committee meetings. The EU helps nations to calm border disputes like Northern Ireland, so reducing terrorism. There has never been a war between EU member states. There has never before been so long a period of peace for so much of Europe.
Sovereignty is not a thing of beauty to be admired in a glass display case. It is a tool to be used. As usual in human affairs, we achieve more if we work with others. By co-operating we can have more of what we want (worker protection, consumer rights, environmental protection, standing up to multinationals, animal welfare laws) because we know we will not be undercut by countries with lower standards.
If we work together and build trust by adhering to common standards and coming under a single oversight body then we can be more secure. The European Arrest Warrant works because all EU countries adhere to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (which supports the European Convention on Human Rights) and are answerable in the end to the ECJ.
In the wider world, other countries know we are worth talking to because we in the EU and can influence its direction. Other countries know they may not push us about because with NATO and the EU we have powerful friends. The EU enables and supports the global rôles of its member states.
The EU is democratic: laws are made by the directly elected Parliament and the Council of Ministers from each member state. It is not a "they"; it is a bigger "we". Just as some laws are made in the borough, some by the county, some in Westminster, so some are made in Brussels.
Nor are we marginalised in Europe. A 2015 analysis showed that we were on the “winning” side in 87% of decisions in the Council of Ministers and, for data up to 2008, the UK’s stated negotiating position was on average closer to the agreed outcome in EU legislative decisions than most other member states.
Freedom of Movement
We see without divisions all the peoples of our EU neighbours as our neighbours, just as we see all the people of the UK as our neighbours, whether they live in London or Yorkshire, Scotland or Cornwall. We recognise the shared values and customs across the whole EU family. We see them as people like us.
The primary purpose of freedom of movement is to promote ever closer union of peoples. We are happy that people from other countries come here. They have brought different experiences, different ways of thinking and working. They have made us a more interesting place. Typically someone who ups sticks and moves is more enterprising, more curious, more courageous; someone to admire and learn from. These people are our colleagues, our customers, the people we do business with, the people who look after us in hospital, our friends, our lovers.
Freedom of movement gives each one of us the freedom over this great and diverse continent, like Americans have over the whole of the USA. Millions of Britons have made use of it. We have gone to work, trade, study, retire, live in the EU - we have fallen in love with EU citizens and been able to settle down together; all this without ever once having to ask an immigration officer for permission. That is freedom, real freedom. Let's make it easier for all to benefit from it. Under EU rules, Erasmus is available for apprentices as well as students - let's call on the Government to make that a reality.
We all have multiple identities, based on our region, our nation, and being European. There are also people who may have other identities, what may include heritage from outside of Europe, intersecting with their regional, national and European identity. Having so many makes us individually more interesting. European is just one more: it adds to the mix, it does not subtract.
EU countries share our values. We are part of a common European tradition of rights and values, cultures and fashions. At the same time, if you go to another EU country it looks and feels different: different architecture, ways of living, food. And yet the underlying values are the same: freedom of speech, independent judiciary, incorruptible police. "United in Diversity"
We will not hide on our little island. We understand that give and take is part of co-operation. We do not feel ourselves diminished by that, we do not see every defeat as disaster. We understand that we share the ultimate objectives with our partners. We know that together we are stronger than alone.
The harms of Brexit are a distraction. It is hard for the positive case for EU membership to land in a country where it has not been part of popular discourse. But that makes it all the more important that we make it.
Michael Romberg is committee member of London4Europe and a member of European Movement
This article has been edited slightly and was originally posted on the London4Europe website here