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What have the Europeans ever done for us?

Note: The list below is based on one produced by a Professor of Politics at York St. John's University. The comments in italics /brackets, the final paragraph, and the separation of the list into definite benefits and ones which I am more dubious about are mine.

The EU provides: 

  • 57% of our trade. (Yes, we would still be able to trade with Brexit, but on less favourable terms)

  • Structural funding to areas hit by industrial decline. (The East Midlands benefited from this in the past. Some regions – such as Wales - are benefiting now)

  • We have had to clean our beaches and rivers.

  • We have been forced to have cleaner air in our cities.

  • We had to introduce lead free petrol saving tens of thousands of lives.

  • Our countryside is cleaner due to restrictions on landfill dumping.

  • We have had to develop a recycling culture.

  • We have cheaper mobile charges both because they have been reduced by the European Parliament and because the producers have been able to reduce production costs due to Europe-wide research and development.

  • We have much cheaper air travel.

  • Improved consumer protection and food labelling mean we are able to make healthier choices.

  • A ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives.

  • Better product safety, wherever products are made in the EU or licenced to be imported by the EU.

  • Europe-wide patent and copyright protection.

  • No paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market. (Big cost savings)

  • Price transparency and removal of commission on currency exchanges across the eurozone. (Try driving to Italy passing through Holland, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland – apart from Switzerland, they all now use the same currency)

  • Freedom to travel, live and work across Europe. (Roughly 2 million British live/work/retire to EU countries)

  • Funded opportunities for young people to undertake study or work placements abroad. (Some of these would still exist with Brexit but many rely on EU funding)

  • Access to European health services on same basis as nationals of each country.

  • Labour protection and enhanced social welfare;

    • Smoke-free workplaces.

    • Equal pay legislation. (Stronger than Britain's previous legislation)

    • Holiday entitlement. (Until Labour adopted the EU Social Chapter in 1997, UK employers did not have to give paid holidays – although many did)

    • The right not to work more than a 48-hour week without overtime.

  • Strongest wildlife protection in the world.

  • Improved animal welfare in food production. (Ongoing process)

  • EU-funded research and industrial collaboration.

  • EU representation in international forums – much louder voice than a single small country.

  • European arrest warrant.

  • Cross border policing to combat human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling; counter terrorism intelligence.

  • Support for democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond.

  • Investment across Europe contributing to better living standards and educational, social and cultural capital.

A few more contentious claims:

  • The break up of monopolies. (Yes, more still needs to be done)

  • Single market competition bringing quality improvements and better industrial performance. (Need to be careful this is not at the expense of workers)

  • Bloc EEA negotiation at the WTO. (Probably wouldn't change if we pay to be in EEA as Norway and Switzerland do)

  • EU diplomatic efforts to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. (Not as effective as it could be while we continue to set a bad example with Trident)

  • European civil and military co-operation in post-conflict zones in Europe and Africa. (Still room for improvement)

BUT All of this is nothing compared with the EU's greatest achievements: the EU has for 60 years been the foundation of peace between European neighbours after centuries of bloodshed. 

It furthermore assisted the extraordinary political, social and economic transformation of 13 former dictatorships, now EU members, since 1980. 

Now the union faces major challenges brought on by neoliberal economic globalisation, and worsened by its own systemic weaknesses. It is slowly taking measures to overcome these (Cameron's reforms are largely irrelevant). We in the UK should reflect on whether our net contribution of £7bn out of total government expenditure of £695bn is good value. We must play a full part in enabling the union to be a force for good in a multi-polar global future.

Vote to remain part of the EU and then, at the next European Elections vote Labour and convince others to vote Labour, so that the EU can continue to bring benefits to all the people of Europe – AND THAT INCLUDES US!


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