Democracies don’t ask much of their citizens. The only duties are to obey the law, and vote. Now that registration for voting in the EU Referendum is closed, those of us who did register only have one task: To turn out on Thursday 23 June.
Nearly every single opinion poll has the Remain and the Leave camp within 1% of each other. To give you an idea of how close that means the referendum will be, if only one in every 50 Remain voters doesn’t turn up, the Referendum is lost.
Yet, why does that matter? Well I am about to explain to you why you should turn out and vote. I’m about to explain why Eduroam, Trainspotting, the ethical treatment of animals by Benefit and NARS, a crackdown on tax avoidance, the hopes of Scottish Indy’s and Unionists, Colin Firth’s Oscar, and British justice have all benefited from EU membership.
Firstly, while our Prime Minister literally puts his right honourable member inside animals, the EU has not only banned animal testing in cosmetics but last month also banned the sale of any cosmetics where the company is known to have tested it on animals, anywhere. No longer will Flopsy the Rabbit be injected with the latest array of Benefit, nor Curious George have Hugo Boss sprayed in his eyes just to see if any weird shit happens.
Therefore if we left the EU, and the British cosmetic industry decided to go to town on London Zoo with a bag full of Lynx and a f*ckton of NARS, we would not be able to sell any of it to the continent due to their regulations on animal testing. Even if we negotiated a free trade agreement after Brexit (however many years that would take), it would be illegal to sell British cosmetics on the continent unless they conformed to EU standards, and this is true for all of our exports. Surely it is better to remain in the EU and help write the standards which over 57% of our exports must comply with?
Therefore if you want to keep the needles away from Flopsy’s eyeballs, and want to be sure that no animals were harmed by your mascara, get out and vote.
Another way the EU helps Britain is through our film industry. The EU supports this £84.1 billion industry, with a pool of £16 billion (figures from the UK Creative Industries Federation).
This is because the EU MEDIA programme (now known as ‘Creative Europe’) helps UK theatre and film by providing it with significant funding. Films only made possible by the EU include; Trainspotting, The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, Pan’s Labyrinth, Slumdog Millionaire, The Queen, An Education, The King’s Speech, The Iron Lady, and Shame.
Therefore instead of threatening British culture, the EU amplifies it. Films supported by EU funds, about King George VI overcoming his stammer, about strippers from Sheffield, and about heroin addicts from Scotland have helped ensure British films have a global presence. Colin Firth wouldn’t have an Oscar if not for EU funding which helped make The King’s Speech possible. Royalty, strippers, and heroin seems a far better advert for our culture than Nigel Farage saying we shouldn’t treat foreigners with HIV, or Boris Johnson saying Obama hates Britain because of his ‘part-Kenyan ancestry’.
The EU’s fantastic role in the culture industry is why last month a letter was signed by hundreds of notable figures advocating a Remain vote. Recognisable names included Benedict Cumberbatch, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley, John le Carré, Sir Patrick Stewart, Michael Morpurgo, Carol Ann Duffy, and Richard Curtis (the celebrated director of Love Actually, Notting Hill, and About Time). If you like British films, then it’s about time you took an interest in British politics. If love, actually, is all around us, then please don’t tell the continent to f*ck off. Just get out and vote.
Another EU announcement from last month is the reduction of phone tariffs within the EU by 75%, and the abolition of all data roaming charges from June next year. This is a direct way in which you personally save money through EU membership. If you find yourself in Ibiza and want to impress your friends back home with a fascinating Snapchat story of beach, beach, beach, and drunk shaky cam, then you no longer have to pay exorbitant costs to do so, if you vote Remain. Come, my fellow Yik-Yakkers, get out and vote.
Have you or someone you know been murdered? Has the killer then fled abroad? Chances are, you will never catch them now, and justice will never reach them. Luckily, you might just be part of a Union with the surrounding 28 countries, who have created a ‘European Arrest Warrant’ to ensure that any member can extradite criminals that have fled abroad. If you want the righteous power of British justice to reach from the Highlands to Sicily and if you find it comforting to know that 28 police forces are on your side, then get out and vote.
Do you like Scotland being part of the UK? If Scotland votes to remain in the EU, but the rest of the UK votes to leave, another Independence referendum is likely to be called for. The EU Referendum is essentially a referendum on two Unions, the European and British. If you vote to leave, both are at risk. So get out and vote.
Or if you are pro-independence and you want Scotland to leave, vote remain and hope England votes to leave. Then if England goes one way and Scotland goes another, you have a democratic platform to call for another Independence referendum. So get out and vote.
Speaking of the British Union, the oft-forgot region of Wales has benefited enormously from EU membership. Structural funds made available by the EU provide Wales with up to £4bn a year, and Swansea University alone has just built a new £475m campus thanks to EU funding. I completed my undergraduate degree in Wales and have seen the amazing work the EU has done there. I have sat inside libraries built entirely by the EU. I have offered cups of tea to the British builders employed on these EU construction projects which benefit our education system. In fact, 15% of the UK’s higher education budget comes directly from the EU (figures from The Guardian). If you fancy chucking a lifeline to universities (Welsh or otherwise), then get out and vote.
Following the Panama Paper’s revelations, Britain absorbed itself by chatting about the morality of Cameron’s dead dad and his investments. Meanwhile, the EU Commission acted upon the consensus amongst Europe’s leaders to crack down on tax havens, and promptly introduced plans to ensure country-by-country reporting on profits within the EU, to prevent those profits being shifted into states with lower tax rates.
The new proposals were spearheaded by the European Commissioner for Financial Services, John Hill, the British commissioner. This is the influence we would be giving up if we vote to leave. When Britain can’t do much in the face of international problems like tax dodging, we can steer the EU to solve it for us. It saves us a hell of a lot of time and effort. The EU isn’t an oppressive burden, it’s a tool we can use. If you’re in favour of Britain having influence on the continent and using that influence to make genuine progress when our Parliament can’t, then get out and vote.
Yet let us forget the EU money we receive from the UK rebate (£4.9 billion this year), forget access to the EU Creative Europe fund (a pool of £16bn), forget the tariff-free trade we do with over 28 other countries (57% of all of our exports), forget that 15% of our higher education budget comes directly from the EU, and forget that under the boringly named Grant ‘Agreement No. 731122 (GN4-2)’, the EU funds the maintenance of Eduroam at all UK universities. Let us forget all that, for this debate is bigger than money.
This debate is about the future of the UK in so many fields. Let us forget the massive financial shock which will hit on Friday 24 June (the pound already fell in value to 2008 crash levels recently, thanks to a poll which put the Leave campaign one point ahead). What we should ask ourselves is whether we trust politicians in Westminster with unlimited power.
For that is what total sovereignty means and that is all we get, if we leave. What will they do with that power? I am not suggesting they will do anything evil, I just don’t think they will do anything meaningful at all. We will have gone through the pain of a Brexit recession for nothing. The UK Government already has unlimited authority on controlling immigration outside the EU, and it has done nothing to restrict it. If you want to control immigration, you can cut it by over 60% and still remain in the EU, so campaign for that, not Brexit. It is not an either/or situation.
When I picture where Britain will be a year from now, I know where Britain will be if you vote Remain. Our economy will continue to have grown, I will have completed my first year of graduate employment, and a newspaper will announce to me that mobile data roaming charges have now been abolished by the EU.
On the other hand, I may not even have a job. According to every forecast from the IMF, the Treasury, and the Bank of England, Britain will go through a new recession, leading to new cuts on the health service and every other industry. Demand on our services will increase as the millions of Brits living in the EU (who don’t get a vote in the referendum) return back to the UK. In all likelihood, a resurgent right wing in the Tory Party will have swept to the leadership. If you thought Cameron’s austerity was bad, you wait until Gove and Johnson are in charge with a whole new recession on their hands.
Essentially the crux of the matter is whether you think losing all EU funding, ripping up our trade deals with our nearest neighbours, and distracting Parliament with the longest and most drawn out renegotiation in UK political history is going to help your personal prospects?
I do not believe so. Recessions are not good for young people, and we have had no detailed plan put forward by the Leave campaign as to how this would be avoided. In fact, we have had no detailed plan put forward about what Brexit would look like at all. There are no details, no foresight, no plan for the future. It’s like the Iraq of European politics. Frankly, Brexit scares me.
Therefore I urge you, please get out and vote.