Sunday, 12 June 2016

My personal take on the EU referendum

Published in the Llanelli Herald on 10th June 2016

The claims and counterclaims of each side in the EU referendum campaign are bewildering.

Leaving the European Union will cause our economy will crash. Or, leaving the European Union will free us to grow faster and produce more jobs. Which one are we to believe?

Within the next three weeks we are being asked to make the biggest decision for a generation, and we’re being fed a diet of fear - by both sides.

I’ll be voting to Remain in the EU because it provides hope for a better future.

For me this is not a decision about short-term benefits. In fact it is a very personal decision based on the sacrifices of previous generations, and my hopes for my children’s generation.

70 years ago my grandfather leapt from planes into machine gun fire to help secure a bridge in Arnhem. I witnessed the scars this brave man bore from what he witnessed in the Netherlands, and across the deserts of North Africa, fighting for our freedom so that me and my children don’t have to do the same.

His generation faced the hell of two World Wars within 50 years of each other - both with their origins in conflict between European States. After that war the European Union was created to stop this happening again. By binding the economies of these former enemies together we have had 70 years of peace and prosperity.

We now take this for granted, but we really shouldn’t. Bringing dozens of countries together - and keeping them together - has been the outstanding achievement of the post-war generation. And it has everyday benefits - easy travel and study across the continent; rights in the workplace from safety to maternity benefits; and vastly improved environmental conditions - from blue flag beaches to cleaner air.

We hear a lot in this referendum about ‘sovereignty’, and about EU bureaucrats telling us what to do. But the real story is that by being part of this super-alliance we have opted to share decisions with our neighbours to secure shared benefits. In an unstable world this is a smart thing to do. None of this is inevitable, and it could quickly unravel if we left the EU.

The idea that by leaving we can keep the best bits of EU membership and opt-out of the disadvantages is a reckless fantasy. What’s more it leaves us under-equipped to deal with the threats we face.

The big challenges over the next 70 years we’ll face as a continent are climate change, terrorism and mass migration (which will worsen as climate change makes many areas uninhabitable). All of these threats are too big for one country to tackle alone. We need to pull together, to pool the risk and share the benefits. That’s what the European Union was designed to do, and for all its flaws, continues to do.

And that’s why I’ll be voting to Remain on June 23rd.

Lee Waters is the Welsh Labour AM for the Llanelli constituency

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