We Don't Need to Leave the EU to Be a Great Country

13/06/2016 13:05 | Updated 13 June 2016

The debate, or arguments - depending on your viewpoint, around UK's membership of the EU will increase in intensity as the date of the referendum nears. It is obvious that both sides are putting more simplistic arguments forward to get their messages across. Whilst it is embarrassing for all concerned that people like Farage have referred to the danger of women being raped and sexual assaulted if we stay in the EU - the more reasonable campaigners on both sides have stuck to more reasoned arguments.

One element of the Brexit side argument is a call to patriotism - that this country can be a great again - as long as we leave the EU. This is exemplified by an article in the Telegraph by Maj-General Tim Cross recently telling us that the UK can be great again if we leave Europe. When you get army generals writing in the Telegraph talking about Britain being great - we are entitled to think he (they) mean military greatness and sure enough the article was accompanied by photographs of Churchill and Margaret Thatcham in the Falkland Islands.

There is irony here of course - Churchill's greatest moments were brought about because of dis-unity and rivalry in Europe - and a vile regime in Germany. It is also significant that Churchill worked very hard to work in partnership with other countries to win the war - mainly the USA of course. The EU at its birth was meant to be something that would make such wars less likely. We take for granted these days that it succeeded in achieving that.

It is also ironic that images of Thatcher and the Falklands were used to illustrate what could be achieved outside the EU. The Falklands war was conducted by this Country whilst we were in the EU - our membership did not prevent us re-taking the Falklands. If that is what makes a country great - we were great - whilst in the EU. The EU did not cause us to subsequently reduce our Navy to such a size that we probably could not do the same thing again as it stands.

What is wrong with the idea of Britain being great in Europe - great in all the other ways a country can be great?

As many in the Brexit camp have pointed out Britain already has the fifth largest economy in the world - and that has been achieved as a long term member of the EU.

The UK has an outstanding record in winning Nobel prizes - second only to the USA - punching well above our weight in arts, culture and scientific research. We have three Universities in the worlds top ten league table - not bad for a medium sized country. A recent survey by the US based Commonwealth Fund found that the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world.

The UK gives more foreign aid, per capita, than most other countries. London has, for the fourth time in a row, been voted the most powerful city in the world by the Global Power City Index. If these are the things that make a country great then we have that already - in the EU.

The UK is developing hundreds of billions of pounds worth of trade deals with China which is now our sixth biggest export market. We recently signed £20 billion trade deals with India with both countries investing heavily with each other. All this whilst we are in the EU.

Of course what is missing in all this is how we treat this country's poorest - how we protect communities under pressure and families living on very low wages. I don't doubt that immigration does put a strain on local resources in certain parts of the Country - but why can't we help those communities whilst still in the EU?

It is not the fault of the EU that we choose to elect Governments more interested in hedge fund managers than providing social housing. It is not the fault of the EU that we demonise poor people for political purposes. There is another way of being a great country and that is by looking after those with the least - and the EU isn't stopping us from doing that either.