With the referendum on Britain’s EU membership now certain to take place, it’s very easy to draw comparisons with the independence referendum north of the border. Like the Scottish referendum only nine months ago, the EU referendum is already seeing the formation of a movement advocating we leave a Union that is claimed no longer represents Britain, scaremongering by both sides has started before a date has even been set, and Britain has the most to lose from a vote to break the bond.
Pro-Europeans should take note of these similarities because, as 2017 fast approaches, it is vital that they heed the lessons of what was a highly criticised campaign to stay in the Union. If they are not too careful, they could easily fall into the trap of negativity and reuse the same phrases; that Britain is too small to ‘go it alone’ and would become ‘marginalised’ on the world stage if voters choose to leave. This is not what the public wants to hear; for years they have heard Eurosceptics stressing the negatives of our membership with Europe, it is time for the Yes campaign to bring positivity to the referendum.
Thanks to the media’s propensity to focus on the things the EU has done wrong, the benefits of membership of the Union are often overlooked. Not only has our membership of the EU benefited us economically by tearing down trade barriers and competition rules to protect against corporate monopolies, but it has also provided security through agreements such as the European Arrest Warrant. Membership has opened up more opportunities for all, through free movement of people, through ERASMUS grants for students and through Objective One funding, which has provided much-needed investment for some of the poorest regions of our country. In an increasingly globalised world, issues that transcend borders, especially climate change, require a regional and an international response; leaving an organisation that has worked towards tackling these issues not only weakens British influence in the world but also our security. The steps that the European Union has made towards dealing with climate change and cutting carbon emissions are without comparison, and leaving an organisation which sets the global standard in tackling international issue would be to the detriment of the United Kingdom.
The Norwegian approach to Europe, the gold standard that UKIP have held in such high regard, is simply not best suited for the United Kingdom, as even Norway themselves have admitted; how is contributing to an organisation and being bound by its rules in exchange for no representation a better deal? Of course the EU is not perfect, but one cannot change things for the better when one is already preparing to jump ship.
Whilst we might be ‘better together’, a revival of the campaign of the same name is not what this referendum needs. A strong, motivated and aspirational movement promoting the benefits Europe has to offer Britain by remaining a member is the only way to guarantee a Yes vote.