The Blog

Nationalism Is a Bad Argument Against EU Membership

As the debate heats up - one thing is certain - politicians will seek to simplify the arguments. Those arguing for us to stay in may well emphasise the as yet unknown hazards of leaving - the fear factor.

David Cameron is busy trying to re-negotiate small parts of our vast set of agreements with the EU - under pressure because he and his Government have committed the Country to a vote on EU memberships by the end of 2017.

The serious arguments for and against continued membership are complex and multi layered.

They involve issues of governance, democracy, immigration and national identities and are

made even more complex by there being so many different Countries in the EU - each pressing their own cases.

When it comes to us ordinary people voting - how should we choose between the increasingly complex membership of this European club and the complexities of re-negotiating our relationships with EU should we leave?

As the debate heats up - one thing is certain - politicians will seek to simplify the arguments. Those arguing for us to stay in may well emphasise the as yet unknown hazards of leaving - the fear factor.

What will the 'out' campaign resort to?

They will also play on peoples fears, but in my view, the more sinister fears. These arguments will be about having too many foreign people coming to our shores - about having to listen to foreign people when some of our laws are made - all this with a subtext of our supposed superiority and reference to history and past glories - Britain can be great again!

There will be references to a time when we didn't have immigration - when all our neighbours were like us and Britain ruled the waves.

I suspect these arguments will come through because that is what the out campaign

will feel they have to say - they won't be able to rely on the grinding detail of the various treaties on benefits and health and employment and the free movement of people because most of us don't have the time to look at the detail around these agreements or their implications.

The out campaign offer includes being free to trade around the world - as if we can't now - we have new trade agreements with India and China don't we?

It will be about being free of the pressures of immigration - as if Countries like the USA don't have such problems and they are not part of an EU.

Nigel Farage and the others on the 'out' side have long ago given up pretending that leaving

is a guarantee of stability and prosperity. He says that even if our economy shrinks - in other

words - even if we become poorer as a Country - then it is still worth it if we have fewer


Of course there are problems with EU membership - but there will be problems enough if we leave.

Immigration can and does put a strain on the resources in certain parts of the Country

but surely that could be managed if we wanted to do it. We should certainly dismiss exaggerated complaints that the country is full because research shows that only 7% of the Country is urbanised - the rest is countryside. Not that I am arguing that we should build on the other 93% - but we are not full.

Immigrants are a drain on our economy - so say some of the out campaigners - in fact research shows that immigrants generally contribute more in taxes than they claim in benefits.

Just as some of the out campaigners will feel it necessary to boil down some of their arguments as the referendum nears - so should the 'in' campaign. - but to a more constructive argument.

The European Union was formed after the catastrophe of the Second World War - to

prevent another war that would be so damaging to Europe and its people.

Fewer of us now know the realities of war - fewer of us know someone who lived through the last war and so we probably don't think it could happen again with or without an EU. But we have seen war in Europe in our lifetimes - in Bosnia and the Ukraine. We are seeing in wars not that far from EU borders - in Syria and Iraq.

I think we should give the EU the benefit of the doubt - by all means re-negotiate membership - and we shouldn't have any further major changes in the EU without a UK referendum - but lets work together with other Countries in the peace that the EU has brought about.

The counter arguments often boil down to nationalism and withdrawal from partnerships designed to prevent wars and that have served us well. Nationalistic claims of superiority and exceptionalism have a poor track record of bad outcomes!