Fringe Box



Opinion: The Benefits of EU Membership

Published on: 29 May, 2016
Updated on: 31 May, 2016
Nils Christiansen

Cllr Nils Christiansen

By Nils Christiansen

Conservative ward councillor for Holy Trinity

This article is the third of a series of five setting out my personal views on a very important voting decision. I have written them in the hope of stimulating some reasoned debate, and I hope that others, from all sides, will do the same.

The EU tends to get blamed for so many problems, that it is easy to overlook its successes.

Firstly, it has brought us peace in Europe. Old enemies have been brought together, democracy has spread deep roots into Southern and Eastern Europe, and the EU has helped to resolve intractable nationalist problems like Northern Ireland & the Balkans.

EU&UK FlagsSecondly, it has been an engine for growth. In particular the Single Market has exposed all European industries – but perhaps most particularly those in the UK – to high levels of competition from other European countries through for example public procurement rules.

A level playing field has sharpened our competitive edge, improved management of our companies, and made our public services more efficient. It is also clear that much of the foreign direct investment we have been so successful at obtaining has come as a result of our unique position as a member of the EU trading block, combined with the English language and a strong tradition for upholding the rule of law.

Opinion Logo 2Is it really a coincidence that Britain’s inexorable post-imperial economic decline was only halted once we joined the EU?

Thirdly, it has allowed us freedom of movement. This is of course a two-way street; our students are getting educated in Dutch universities; our young are working for SAP in Germany or Bla Bla Car in France, and our elderly are living on the Costa del Sol.

All are able to do so simply because they want to, and all are free to return as and when they like, bringing their valuable new experience with them.

Fourthly, it has brought us security. As criminal and terrorist networks globalise we need to work more closely with our neighbours to fight them.

This cooperation is only possible with high levels of trust – which is fostered through continual engagement and debate in the EU. This point was reemphasised only recently by the most recent heads of MI5 and MI6 who are presumably in the best position to know.

What is more, we can still continue to control and monitor who actually enters the country, since we retain our passport controls and there is no reason for this ever to change.

The benefits of membership are manifest, but are less obvious and of a longer term nature than the apparent disadvantages. We do not see the terrorist attacks avoided due to close intra EU security co-operation, nor recognise the incremental improvement in our economic competitiveness, but we do see the foreigners who are able to arrive as a result of freedom of movement.

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