A progressive believes in the equality of people, the rights of the individual, accountable and democratic Government to name just a few. These beliefs can all be folded under the umbrella of fairness. Individuals who self-identify as progressive tend to be in the younger generation - people who have grown up in a multicultural society, passionately defending the rights and liberties of their neighbours, family and friends. It's not clear why these are the age-groups and individuals who are most likely to support the European Union. In this piece we hope to convince all self-respecting progressives to support Brexit.
Starting with some of the key reasons we believe progressives support the EU - their dislike of Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin, and their support of immigration. Farage and possibly Putin's support for Brexit should not have any impact on your vote in this referendum, as somebody else's opinion should be completely irrelevant. This is a referendum - it is your opinion which matters, not theirs. It is not necessary to vote a different way because of personal dislike. If Putin or Farage give money to charity, do you refuse to give money to charity? If Putin or Farage hate ISIS do you support ISIS? Obviously the answer to these questions is no, therefore don't allow their views to impact on your vote in this referendum.
Most progressives believe immigration has been of great benefit to our society and economy, believing the EU has made this easier by enabling a more tolerant immigration system. Nothing could be further from the truth. Contrary to popular belief it is the EU which is racist, not Eurosceptics. Under EU rules anybody from an EU Member State is allowed to come to this country - 'no questions asked' - unless there are exceptional circumstances. No such rules apply to migrants from outside the EU. As a result, large numbers of EU migrants have come to Britain. Reducing EU immigration is illegal under EU rules, so in order to reduce overall migration the Government has been forced to apply very strict rules restricting non-EU migration. This policy is one of European superiority, with EU migrants considered preferable to non-EU migrants. We want to see a system where immigrants are judged by the content of their character and contribution to our country, before they are allowed to settle here, not by their continent of origin. There is no justification for saying 'yes' to a Bulgarian builder who has the exact same characteristics as a Nigerian builder who is refused.
The sad reality is one of the reasons Africa as a whole is poor is because many countries do not encourage trade with it, imposing massive trade barriers - with the EU being the main culprit. Parts of Africa could compete in the agricultural industry, but the EU prevents it from doing so, forcing them into pitiful subsistence farming, condemning generation after generation to poverty. According to James Cleverly MP "Tariffs mean that in 2014 the whole of Africa made just under $2.4 billion from coffee exports, while Germany made $3.8 billion...without growing a single bean...Germany's coffee producers need cheap, raw beans to make money, so there is no import tariff on green, unprocessed coffee. That's why the vast bulk of African coffee exports are unprocessed. But there are import tariffs on processed coffee because it is in the processing, branding, packaging and marketing that Germany makes its money." This is nothing short of outrageous, and the EU elites should be ashamed of themselves.
We hear progressive arguments in favour of the EU, such as the EU giving us workers' rights. It has not. Time and time again, it's said the EU gave equal pay to men and women. It did not. Our own Equal Pay Act gave us this right in 1970, before we joined the EU. It is true to say the EU extended these rights, but our Government would have done the same. Workers' rights have been increasing throughout the world over the last 40 years; the idea the UK would not have introduced similar legislation is fanciful at best. Those who make this argument unfairly compare workers' rights in the UK back in 1972 with workers' rights in the EU in 2016. It is a false premise - don't get sucked in by it.
Getting to the heart of the reason why we at Get Britain Out are Eurosceptics is we believe in democracy - a belief progressives certainly share. Our laws should be created by the people we have voted for, who we can remove in a General Election if we disagree with their policies. Our laws should not be made by 28 unelected EU Commissioners over in Brussels, who most people have never heard of and can't hold to account. You may believe the EU has created some good laws, but as we've pointed out, this argument is flawed in substance, and it's flawed in other ways too. The EU might introduce agreeable rules from time to time, but all the laws they introduce will become our laws - good and bad, with us having little say in the process. What happens when and if we don't like what they foist upon us? We won't be able to repeal these laws, as this system of democracy will be long gone if we don't vote to Leave! A hero of the progressive cause Tony Benn described this as "believe[ing] that a good King is better than a bad Parliament. I have never taken that view."
We have already seen the EU introduce repugnant legislation - such as the Tampon Tax - which is a tax on a woman's biology. For some obscure reason Jaffa Cakes are exempt as they are classed as a 'necessity' under EU VAT rules, but not Tampons - they're deemed a 'luxury'. Perhaps they are a luxury for the male-dominated EU Commission (68% of Commissioners are men), but not for the millions of women in this country. There has recently been some talk by David Cameron about the repeal of this tax, but you will notice - you're still paying 5% tax for each sanitary purchase, so don't hold your breath! While we are members of the EU there is nothing our Government can do to stop this outrage; the power is vested in the EU.
The EU has now started taking credit for everything - apparently it's responsible for peace in Europe. Peace in Europe is the result of NATO, the lack of a Treaty of Versailles, the spread of democracy and the collapse of imperialism - NOT the EU! If anything, the EU has been counterproductive to peace, it fiddled while Yugoslavia burned beneath the fires of genocide. We have seen the far right expand at a rate of knots due to declining democracy in Europe and forced austerity. Elected Prime Ministers George Papandreou and Silvio Berlusconi were removed from office by the unelected elite in Brussels, not by the people in their own countries. This demonstrates the EU's true contempt for democracy, stoking the flames of extremism.
Unfortunately the EU has not been a force for good. It may have started out with good intentions, but it has fundamentally failed. The organisation is corporatist, not capitalist. It does not want the best product at the lowest price, it merely responds to the demands of big businesses, which spend millions heavily lobbying the EU in secret. The rules created are solely for the benefit of multinationals to the detriment of competition, choice for the consumer and small businesses. Just look at the rules on car emissions. Cars are not tested in real-world scenarios, instead they are tested in factories, in which car companies are allowed to maximise efficiency by altering the vehicles, which the consumer doesn't even purchase. Why does the EU allow this manipulation? Because car companies are one of the heaviest lobbyers in the EU spending huge sums of money to get what they want - no wonder they support a 'Remain' vote.
If you are a progressive, it is time to make your voice heard. It isn't progressive to treat Europeans better than Indians, it isn't progressive to keep Africa poor, it isn't progressive to treat democracy with contempt and it certainly isn't progressive to tax sanitary products. Say it loud and clear, it is time to Get Britain Out.
Matthew Ellery is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out.