The BigIn today in Hyde Park
The most important vote every individual in the UK will have in at least a generation is upon us. On Thursday, we all get to have our say on whether we leave or remain in the European Union.
I, like many others, have been disappointed by the gung-ho politics deployed by both sides in this important debate.
I am probably one of the more Eurosceptic Chairmen that the TRG has had in recent years, if ever. I believe the EU to be over-bureaucratic and too centralised. I have concerns about the EU’s priorities especially those that favour political centralisation over improving the single market and making it truly open – we do not yet have a single market for services for example. It is also true that the EU has been too slow and cumbersome when dealing with various crises on its own doorstep, the migration flows and refugee crisis being the most serious.
This probably sounds like I am about to endorse a leave vote. I am not.
I believe without a shadow of any doubt that we should remain a member of the EU and I will be voting to remain in the EU on Thursday.
A great deal of the debate so far has focussed on the extreme negatives of a vote either way or made grandiose claims about saving or harming public institutions like the NHS.
I wish to make a few positive comments about why we should stay in the EU. My own personal choice to remain is born out of strong feeling about our direction of travel, not just the UK’s or Europe’s for that matter, but for the global community.
Like the rest of the TRG board, I am a volunteer, not a full-time politician. For the last 20 years I have worked in Information Technology and Communications, first for newspapers and for the last 12 years in law firms, responsible for the delivery of significant changes to technology in the work place for staff and employers. In other words, I deliver change.
Over the last 20 years, the world has become a very small place due largely to the advancement of technology and instant communications. We can travel the globe, quickly and relatively cheaply. We can communicate with each other instantaneously around the globe, in real time, almost in person given the advent of smart phones and mobile apps like Snapchat, Skype, Facebook etc. Businesses can trade globally and put in place networks and links that federate their abilities to transact in a way that was just not possible 20 years ago. In the near future, we will literally begin to interact with the physical objects in our world through verbal commands with data and services that literally follow us around.
Individuals have embraced this new way of interacting already, and businesses across the globe are catching up and doing the same. There are now over 7 billion people on our Earth, with some groups estimating we will hit the 10 billion figure sometime in the 2050s. With a global population growing much larger against a backdrop of limited and diminishing resources available, there will be continuous pressure between the nations of the world competing for resources, competing for trade, competing for higher standards of living, whilst we will see a continuation of technical innovation and information sharing that literally breaks down barriers between us all.
Now is the time to strengthen networks and unions between people, organisations, businesses and nations, not break them up.
The world won’t sit still and wait for us to sort ourselves out. If we leave the EU, we will spend many years renegotiating our ability to trade with everyone else, including the EU. What will they be doing during this time? They will not be prioritising our trade agreements. They will act in their own national self-interest in addressing the challenges they face and forging ahead with plans for their own growth and stability.
I am not one of those who believe all is lost if we leave, that we won’t be able to go it alone – we could. I simply think it’s nonsense to believe we would be better off outside the EU. Many people seem to want to describe the impact of staying or leaving in binary terms, good or bad, growth or recession, easier trade or no trade. I take particular issue with those who wish to paint a vote to remain as somehow talking down the UK and our ability to go it alone.
I believe a Britain outside the EU would eventually forge a stable future for itself; I simply do not agree that it will be as prosperous or stable as we will be if we stay in the EU. Nor do I believe we will be more secure or “more free”. Why? Because I believe Britain is strong because of our inherent talent and tenacity within the UK and because we benefit from the single market within the EU. Our greatness is a combination of the two – a strong UK benefitting from a single market, and cooperation with our neighbours within the EU.
I also believe the tide has turned within Europe, particularly with regards to the need for further and continuous reform. The Brexit debate has awakened those voices in other EU countries for the need for reforms that make the EU more democratic, bringing more powers back to nation-states so decisions are made at a local level and for the need for a realignment of the aims of an ever-closer union. Now is not the time to leave, not when we have begun to win this reform argument. Now is the time for the UK to show leadership within Europe, and I believe it will be a leadership that is welcomed.
Whether you think the Prime Minister negotiated enough substance in the reforms he had agreed with his EU counterparts or not, he was the first PM in years to achieve any reforms, he showed leadership within Europe and if we stay in, we have to maintain the pressure that says the reform agenda has just begun and needs to accelerate.
For all the faults within the EU, it has helped deliver peace and security for European nations for the last 70 years. It has allowed us to forge the largest free trade area in the world, 43% of our trade is within the EU, its on our doorstep, they are our neighbours. Driving up barriers to trade with our trading neighbours is not the direction of travel we should take, its not the direction of travel the world should be taking as we literally move closer to one another in every sense of the word.
Uncontrolled immigration is causing a great deal of anxiety for many people in these islands. I for one believe that our growing economy has benefitted from most of the immigrants coming here, and that our continued growth as a nation will benefit from it. For those hoping that leaving the EU will solve our issues with how we control immigration, I believe a lot of people will be disappointed quite quickly. Half of our immigration comes from outside the EU and in order to renegotiate our trade agreements, free movement of people tends to be one of the foundational principles of those agreements.
The EU as a whole needs to resolve its migration flow problems particularly with allowing nation-states to have some control on the movement of people in a way that allows them to provide adequate infrastructure and services and to alleviate the pressure on overcrowded cities, towns and public services. I just don’t see leaving the EU as a miracle cure to this. We need to remain in and be part of the solution. Thinking we can throw up walls, virtual or physical, is not going to be a reality that works out for us, not without seriously harming our economy and our international reputation for being a fair and open country.
Finally, for me, I am concerned at how a vote to leave will harm our reputation with our allies and friends in the world. I am concerned that a vote focussed solely in terms of what it means for us in the UK ignores the potentially harmful effect a Brexit would have on the European and global economies. The decision is ours alone, but if we are to ignore the views of practically every other nation on Earth (not including dictators or despots) then can we truly represent ourselves to the world as a great nation, open for business, considerate for people in other countries and hope to still demonstrate the global leadership that many in the world currently look to us for?
I am voting to Remain IN this Thursday 23rd June. I wish us to remain a strong economy in Europe and the world. I wish to remain heading in a direction that sees the world negotiate its issues, working and trading in unity with one another. I wish to remain safe and secure cooperating with our European neighbours. I wish to remain a leader within the EU, pushing for reforms and working collectively to fix the serious issues we have. I hope a majority of us choose to remain and work towards a stronger Britain in a reformed and stronger EU.
David Fazakerley, National Chairman, Tory Reform Group
The views expressed in this article are those of David Fazakerley as Chairman of the TRG and not a statement from the TRG as a whole.
A recent survey of TRG members showed support from its membership for remaining in the EU at between 75% and 90%.
As a result of that survey and with a majority vote of the TRG board, the TRG has been encouraging its members to join in the Remain campaign by signing up to Conservatives IN.
In these last few days we encourage you again to support and campaign with Conservatives IN in your local areas, which you can do by following this link here at www.conservatives.in
Make sure you vote on Thursday 23rd June.