Britain is one of the great success stories of western civilisation. It is the country that invented the modern state handing power to the people, while putting faith in the free market to dictate the direction of the economy, and cherishing logic and progress above gut feeling and superstition. It is the country that made, for better and for worse, the modern world. And the story of British success is one of outreach and cooperation. Britain built railways that brought the world together, invented the telegram, the telephone and the Internet enabling the world to become interconnected, and pioneered the notion of free trade so that worldwide competition would drive global economic progress. For every heroic British success there were others standing besides us; the Prussians forced Napoleon's hand at Waterloo; The French stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the mud and stench of the trenches of the Great War; And in our finest hour as we repelled the Luftwaffe over the skies of Kent, we did so arm in arm with Polish and Czech pilots. Britain is the collaborator nation, and the British have always engaged in friendship and cooperation with her allies. In fact, it is of little surprise that Britain values collaboration as Britain itself is the result of a fantastically successful union between previously bitter and historic foes. At conflict and divided, England and Scotland, were small insignificant countries in the northwest of Europe, but together they shaped the world to their will.
In this light, the European Union, can and should be seen as the great success of Britishness. In bringing together disparate powers, many who have spent generations in conflict, and forging harmony through shared responsibilities and free trade, continental Europe has adopted the very model that made Britain great. The European Union is currently in trouble; the single currency was an ill thought through mistake, and a satisfactory solution to the refugee crisis that rages on Europe's southern borders has yet to be found. However, it is not the British way to run away and hide from these problems. The Britain that built an empire that stretched across the globe did not run, did not leave allies to fend for themselves, and did not abandon her responsibilities. The Britain we know we should be needs to lead, not leave, the EU. Britain can guide our allies away from the follies of the euro crisis, we can find a fair and humane solution to the refugee crisis, and we can install the competitiveness that Europe desperately needs to compete in a global marketplace. European problems will not disappear if Britain leaves the EU and we cannot and must not forfeit our destiny to shape a positive future for Europe.
Therefore, it is of great sadness that Britain stands on the brink of leaving the European Union. It is also of great regret that the arguments for leaving are weak and untruthful. These mistruths, deceptions and downright lies should be exposed for what they are. Thirteen years ago, Tony Blair led Britain to one of her gravest errors on the basis of lies. Britain must resist following the same treacherous path.
The leave campaign says that the EU compromises Britain's sovereignty, but this is a mistruth. Nations must always compromise in international affairs. Britain compromised sovereignty in joining the UN, in being a member of NATO, in signing the Geneva Convention, or in signing any trade deal. International affairs involve finding a happy way forward in the competing interests of nations. That the EU has survived and flourished in finding ways of getting 28 different countries to work together should be celebrated and applauded.
The leave campaign says that Britain sends £350 million a week to Brussels, but this a huge deception. Britain 'sends' £350 million a week to the EU but receives much of this money back in the form of rebates, funding for science and technology, and aid for the farming sector. Further, this money grants access to the EU's single market and as a result generates jobs and prosperity for many. The money, a mere tiny fraction of total British government spending, is repaid over and over again in the near forty percent of business that is with the EU. Money given to the EU is one of the most efficient and beneficial of all current government spending.
The leave campaign says that Britain can regain control of both its housing market and the funding of the NHS, but this is a dangerous lie. Britain retains control over all the great affairs of government. Britain controls its fiscal policy, the supply of money, the collecting and spending of taxes, and our military and security policy. The funding of the NHS is a matter for the British government. If the British government wishes more money to be spent on health services it can do just that. The same is true for housing policy, the British government can build more houses, instruct the Bank of England to raise interest rates, or introduce land taxes to restrict second and third homes, all of which would have significant effects on the demand and supply of housing stock. Even immigration can be dramatically reduced if the British government chooses. Over fifty percent of immigration to Britain is from non-EU countries; a British government that so desired could completely halt this flow. In fact, given the huge numbers of British citizens living in the EU, removing EU nationals from Britain will not see a reduction in numbers as expats are forced to return home.
A further misleading lie is the notion that Turkey will soon join the EU, with the potential to escalate the refugee crisis. The British government, as a member of the EU, has a veto on whether any additional countries can be accepted into the EU. If the British government does not want Turkish membership of Europe than it will not happen. The leave campaign lies because they pretend the British government is powerless when the truth is in fact the opposite.
The inconvenient truths regarding leaving the EU are frequently described as 'Project Fear', a sinister plot concocted by European elites to cling to power. This is frankly nonsense. Cutting ties with our biggest trading partner will surely damage Britain's economy. Britain's ability to shape the continent in which we live will surely be reduced by giving up our place at the top table. And freedoms to work, study, and retire across Europe will surely be restricted if we do the same to other EU citizens.
Britain has always reached out, always looked beyond the horizon, and always lead when others were paralysed by indecision. It is difficult to imagine there will ever be a time that Britain should leave Europe to ruin, but it is certainly not now.
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