I’ve spent a lot of time angry at the EU. In particular its treatment of Greece and its people, through malice or incompetence, was and will be remembered a disgrace. In its fervour to grow and become a major trading bloc it let in nations that it knew were not ready for currency union and then beat them over the head for a decade. This for me was negligent, and will continue to be demonstrated as such in the future until steps are taken to treat nations realistically based on the realities of their status quo.
What I do like about the EU is that over 60% of my staff are from parts of the EU outside of the United Kingdom. I have the best the bloc has to offer and it means I can compete on a global scale, genuinely claiming and justifying that the UK is the premier HQ for international marketing operations. With one foot in the EU and the other in essentially the US camp, we are uniquely positioned. I love that.
I could also do with some economic stability please. I don’t think it is wise to invite a trauma into our economy right now. The country is just above water as it is. It’s a badly timed risk and I’d go as far as saying that our government has been negligent to allow a referendum when our finances are in the state they are in. And that’s before reflecting on how ill-equipped our population is to make this decision. Most people struggle to understand the difference between a variable and tracker mortgage, let alone the macro-economics of leaving a trading bloc.
I also love political stability. My parents are from Cyprus where the probability of all out war with Turkey was something discussed by the adults regularly when I was a child. Since Cyprus and Greece joined the EU, this isn’t a topic of serious discussion any longer. The prospect of someone attacking an EU member or war between countries within it is a ridiculous scenario to imagine as it is now pretty much an impossibility. I love that too. I’ll settle for bananas of any shape and open borders if we’re not shelling each other. And that’s not scaremongering – a country is always closer to war than its people believe. Just because we’ve had a period of peace at our own doorstep doesn’t mean that we’ve all suddenly found civility.
Immigration. Now, I love immigration, however unpopular it is to say so out loud. I’m the son of immigrants so clearly biased but I can tell you that my parents worked 80 hours a week in this country from the age of 15. They brought me up with an appreciation for this country and what it stands for. I never took the opportunity afforded to me for granted. Today I employ 200 people. I pay, happily and willingly, a great deal of tax. Denying my grandparents entry into this country would have helped nobody but Australia (which was Plan B). I’m pro-immigration as the more people we have the bigger our economy becomes, and the multitude of nationalities and their regular influx gives us ties around the world, new ideas, and momentum that I believe is fundamental to this nations identity and future. The UK is the centre of the commercial global universe because we let people in and they excel in our world leading infrastructure and support systems.
Now, the flow of labour so freely has certainly created pressure on our housing and on our NHS, but I don’t think we should blame the EU or immigration for that. We should blame our governments, past and present. We should want to grow our economy and we should take real steps to make sure our country’s infrastructure can keep up. Immigrants are not a cost, they make us money and make us more powerful, they add to our GDP. Our governments have done nothing in real terms to grow our affordable housing stock, to invest in the regions, or to make the NHS an attractive place to work. Don’t blame the EU – the source of your anger is closer to home. I want us to embrace growth, not be scared of it. People want to come here and work – that’s a hugely desirable position to be in. It’s not a bad thing if we make sure we invest in our services in parallel. I hear the argument regularly that immigrants are taking our jobs because they are willing to work more cheaply. Well in that case you are saying that the jobs that are on offer do not pay a fair wage – so fight for a higher minimum wage. Our government needs to do more – blaming immigration and the EU absolves them of the responsibility they have in governing and allowing the country to grow.
I’m voting to remain as for me the pros outweigh the cons – economically and politically. I don’t believe it’s an issue of sovereignty and ‘taking power back’ (from who? To give to whom?). I believe we can govern ourselves within the EU and resolve our problems if our government did a better job at investing in growth. Blaming the EU is lazy and convenient, and often feels like misplaced nationalism. I want a UK with strong leaders, within the EU, fighting for British values, reforming the EU from within, and not being scared of immigrants. Let’s be leaders in Europe. I know we can do it if we demand it from our next government.