THE BLOG
14/12/2018 16:46 GMT | Updated 14/12/2018 16:46 GMT

EU Membership Has Made Britain More Open, Tolerant And Influential – We Mustn't Throw It All Away

For centuries the vital goal of British foreign policy was to avoid having Europe united against us – sadly, that is where the ardent Brexiteers are leading us

SIPA USA/PA Images

Having lived in Manchester since 1952, I have seen Britain change enormously for the better.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Britain felt gloomy and backward looking, obsessed with the end of the British Empire and national decline. Attitudes were very insular; even Roman Catholics were regarded as a bit strange, let alone Jews or Muslims like me. Foreigners such as French or German people were incredibly alien. 

Since the early 1970s, Britain has been transformed. Far more Britons travel to continental Europe and over a million live there. Millions of continental Europeans live and work in the UK, strengthening our businesses and universities. Polish immigrants have revitalised the Roman Catholic church. Intermarriage increases every year.

None of this is an accident. The founding fathers of the European Community’s institutions planned it from the very beginning, with the famous four freedoms. The key goal was to integrate France, Germany and the other member countries so much that another European war would be impossible. They succeeded. Furthermore, faced with two behemoths in the world in the form of the USA and the USSR, they recognised that European countries could only have weight when they stood together, since separately even the largest were dwarfed by those giants.

The European Union has been a great success for all its member countries including the UK. That is why other countries still aspire to join. As a deliberately trivial example, when American movie studios tried to segment Europe into individual DVD regions, it was straightforward for the EU to insist that the whole of the EU would be a single combined Region 2. More importantly, the EU has been able to levy anti-trust fines on American companies running into the billions of dollars. No individual European country would have dared to do this, given the power of the USA to bully individual countries.

The UK has been a big winner from EU membership. So many French people live in London that London would count as the sixth largest city in France. Their presence makes all of us richer as well as making London a better place to live for everyone. With about 12% of the voting power in the EU, with the English language, with our diplomatic connections, the UK was well on the way to becoming the most influential country in the EU, which in turn magnifies our influence in the wider world. 

Leaving the EU would throw all of this away.

And for what? Most polls now show Brits want to retain their EU membership, not bin it. According to the latest research commissioned by anti-Brexit campaigners Best for Britain and HOPE not hate, 56% of people across Great Britain would now vote to stay in the EU, while a total of 193 constituencies have changed their mind on Brexit since the referendum. 

Yet, despite lacking public support, the Brexit train chugs on. For centuries the most vital goal of British foreign policy was to avoid having continental Europe united against us. Sadly, that is where the ardent Brexiteers are leading us.

Mohammed Amin is the chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum