Professor Michael Dower, former director of the Peak District National Park and John Youatt, a life member of the Green Party based in Derbyshire Dales, talk about their reasons for voting to remain the the EU.
We have been reading the material published by those who are for and against the UK’s continuing membership of the EU. Much of the debate seems to focus on the economic impact, either way, and on migration. We are not economists, but feel we are best served by staying in the EU, with a full voice in its future, while trading with others around the world. The economic debate seems to be drifting into a stalemate.
Meanwhile, our wish to stay in the EU is driven by six other principles – peace, freedom, citizenship, protection, solidarity and the rich exchange of ideas.
After two terrible world wars, we value highly the peace that Europe has enjoyed for over 70 years. The founders of the European Union believed, rightly, that peace could be secured by former enemies talking and by creating, eventually, a prosperous transnational community. Britain’s presence in both the EU and UN is vital in order to balance the economic and political power of other nations. It enables us to promote mutual trust and cooperation, to anticipate tensions and resolve conflicts, rather than to go to war.
Freedom of movement
We are deeply moved to see the attraction of freedom, for which people flee here from zones of conflict and economic hardship. We should be deeply proud of this view of the UK and Europe, as a theatre of human freedom, and believe we should respond generously, within reason, to the needs of these refugees and migrants. Within the EU, the freedom of movement and of trade is a net benefit to the United Kingdom, bringing skilled workers to sustain our national health service and other sectors, and offering opportunity for our own citizens to travel, work and live anywhere in the Union. We must make proper infrastructural provision for net growth in our population and not pretend otherwise.
We value greatly being both a citizen (not subject) of the UK and a citizen of the European Union. This means that we can vote for, lobby and consult councillors or members of parliament at parish, district, county, national and European level. It means that we can move freely around Europe, benefitting without charge from the national health services of all EU countries.
While mutual and cooperative models are growing, private sector companies predominate in the UK’s mixed economy They are required by law to maximise profits for shareholders. During right wing governments, the EU has and will provide balancing protections for human rights, workers’ rights, and consumers’ rights, and for the protection of the environment, habitats, climate and wildlife.
The EU is committed to raising the standards of living throughout the 28 member countries. Its regional funds are used to strengthen the economies of the weaker regions, including four UK regions and elsewhere. Its agricultural and rural funds help to sustain the farming industry, rural economies and the environment in the whole of rural Europe, including our own country. Its support to the ‘accession and neighbourhood’ countries which lie near, but still outside, the Union is a powerful force for promoting democracy and the rule of law in those countries. The UK should continue to contribute to, and to benefit from, this process of social and economic development on a continental scale.
Exchange of ideas
The high diversity and cultural wealth of Europe makes available to all its citizens an extraordinarily rich array of experience and ideas, which we can use to strengthen the society, economy and culture of the UK. This is reflected in many fields – tourism; twinning of towns and cities; access to European universities for our students through the Erasmus programme; massive opportunities for our researchers to launch multi-national projects, in cooperation with the brightest brains in many countries. We believe that this exchange, in all its forms, is deeply enriching to life in the UK.
For all these reasons, we hope to keep our European citizenship and be part of a United Kingdom which is fully committed to sustaining peace, freedom and solidarity in Europe; which contributes actively to the great exchange of ideas in Europe; and which puts continuing energy into building a shared and prosperous European economy.
Michael Dower is Visiting Professor of European Rural Development at the University of Gloucestershire. He has a long career in civil society and in government in England. For the last 30 years, he has also been actively involved in rural affairs in Europe, as a consultant to governments, as a teacher, as an adviser, and as a leader of civil society movements – ECOVAST, PREPARE, ARC2020, Euracademy and others.