The EU Referendum

Ash shares his thoughts ahead of tomorrow's referendum.

Tomorrow here in the UK, Britons across this country will vote on the question, of whether the UK should remain in the European Union, or whether it should leave. As a business owner, it's a big question for us, I've heard people saying businesses shouldn't express an opinion. However this issue effects business probably more than individual people. I think business has a role to play in politics, and after weighing it up for some time; I decided I wanted to write about it.

In my opinion both the remain and leave campaigns have been frankly awful. Full of typical sound bites that have come to be the norm in politics today. Little actual fact or consideration has been given regarding the real issues. I've seen people swap sides who I know as someone that's been politically active for the larger part of my life. Don't believe in what they're saying, just trying to further their own careers. The whole campaign has been a disappointment for me, and I know it has been for the vast majority of others too.

I want to stress that the question at hand, is a subjective one and regardless of what any one may say or think, myself included, there is no right or wrong answer. It is important though to give an answer, so I would encourage everyone to vote, regardless of which side you may fall.

Okay, now we've got that stuff out the way, here's my opinion. I think we should stay. I don't buy in to the campaign of fear. I think remain has argued to stay for fear of economic collapse, and leave has argued through fear of immigration. The entire notion of the perceived benefits of leaving however, amount in my opinion, to well, crap. I'm going to explain my reasoning here.

We should be run from Westminster not Brussels! Why? No seriously, why? Westminster is an out of date political system, where the people in charge are often elected on a minority, not majority. At the last election, the Green party and UKIP achieved more than 16% of the entire public vote. They got 2 MPs. The Liberal Democrats got less than half of that vote, but got 4 times more MPs. The European Parliament is elected on a system where the results are proportional to how people vote. So what leave campaigners are suggesting is we should want to be run by a parliament that we didn't elect, rather than one we actually did.

As someone that's actually studied European politics for the best part of a decade. There is a strong leave argument, that beyond the European Parliament, the EU is not that democratic. I accept that. But the reason for that, is that individual countries are so afraid of losing power, that they won't hand it to the most democratic body in Europe. That is not the fault of the EU, but rather countries like our own that are not prepared to do what's right.

I know many will say, yeah but we're getting run by other countries. No we're not. We're cooperating and working together and being run by an alliance of countries. No more are we being run by Germans, as we Yorkshire folk are being run by southerners. Frankly, I've no problem with either. What does it matter if the person we're working with on policy is from London or Berlin. We all want the same things. We're a part of a group, and we're a pretty big important member. The truth of the matter is very few things ever get through Europe that we as the people, don't agree with. How many things have gone through Westminster that we didn't agree with? Bedroom tax, pasty tax, cuts to disabilities etc. FYI the UK has more laws regarding the shape and standard of vegetables than the EU. Before anyone brings up fictional laws that don't actually exist.

I've heard the argument none of that bad stuff would have happened if we didn't have to give all this money to Europe. They mean that investment in Europe that generates a profit for UK PLC? The stuff that means we get more money back than we put in through trade. So they want us to spend less, get less and just be poorer? Again the money issue is a fallacy. Any argument about our NHS being under threat because of the EU, is total bull too. If we left the EU and we kicked out all of the people we rely on to run our NHS, then we might actually be in some small trouble. But the NHS is safe in Europe. It would also probably be safe outside it too. Point is, the NHS is safe regardless. Well safe from Europe, forces within the UK are a far bigger risk to it.

Ah but what about all those immigrants! EU free movement is ruining our country! Is it? You ever been in a Polish shop? Great beer and food. We all know our compatriots, whatever Brits might say, we are in a not nasty way, a little bit racist. No not in that awful way, what I mean is, that we all know the majority of British business owners, given a choice between a British worker and an equally skilled European one. They'll choose the British one. So if the Europeans are coming over here taking all our jobs... It's because we don't want the jobs. Or it's because companies are breaking employment law to pay them less than the minimum wage. In which case, then it's on us to enforce our own laws. It's not right to blame immigrants for our own failings to enforce our own law.

Also I'd like to at this point, salute Laurence Taylor, his advert in the Metro, paid for by himself, really hammers home the facts here:

But what about the ones that come over here just to get our benefits? Well, Sweden has a better benefits system than we do. How many times have you considered moving to Sweden just for that reason? You haven't, until now, have you? It's total crap. And the EU's highest court has said we are within our legal right under EU law, to put the measures in place that we have to deal with benefit tourism. Not that it actually exists.

You see where I'm going here? Lies and fallacies spread by people who only want more power for themselves. And if you want to read proof of that, look towards Michael Fletcher, who explains how our media became so biased against the EU, and see just who started it.

Now you may be thinking, okay you've maybe got a point, but you still haven't said what's actually good about Europe. You're quite right, whether all the leave campaign is built on a lie, doesn't matter if there's no good reason to be in the EU anyway.

I run a business with a data centre in Germany, run by a US company. This is possible thanks to the basic legal frameworks that the EU just sorts out, so businesses like mine can easily use products and services from other EU members. Now this is a little example, it doesn't mean very much. However this is something that is true for hundreds of thousands of businesses. Our membership of the EU, allows us to buy and sell from one of the largest marketplaces in the world, with ease. That is a definite plus. And FYI anyone that says yeah and we could still do that if we left, yeah, if we accept all the free movement of labour stuff. So we'd just be outside the club, with no say, in the same boat.

I want to highlight an example close to my heart, where the EU has made things better. We make websites, it wasn't that long ago that everyone used Internet Explorer. A browser famous for lagging behind everyone else with standards compliance. That made life more difficult for every web developer, and meant higher costs for customers.

The EU took on Microsoft, said that's monopolising a marketplace, you need to stop internet explorer being installed by default and give people a choice. Microsoft listened and did as it was told. Internet Explorer lost it's market dominance and now is standards complaint. As is it's successor Edge. So why should that matter to you? The EU saw an issue with one of the worlds most powerful and largest companies, and they were strong enough to enforce change. How? Because they could threaten a fine based on a percentage of it's profits across the entire of Europe. An amount so large, they had to listen. Our government on it's own, could never do that, it isn't big enough to be able to do it. This decision has saved people a lot of money, and made getting into business online, easier than it ever has been. What matters really though, is that the EU can take on big business. Whereas on our own, there's very little we can do.

The cooperation between EU countries on policing and security has made all our countries safer. Our ability to share information, and enforce policing in each others countries. Has lead to countless arrests and probably saved thousands of lives. Contrary to popular belief, we work together on policing so we know when someone dangerous is in our country. As opposed to letting them in and not knowing. We're safer in the EU, than not in it.

Then there's the things you may have noticed, like how it's ridiculously easy to go on holiday to Spain. How mobile costs abroad have been reduced. Did you know the EU negotiated with mobile phone manufacturers, to make all mobile phones use the same charger type. No more needing multiple chargers or having more expensive specialist chargers. One standard, lower costs for us all.

Practically Europe does a lot for us, most of which we never even realise. My strongest argument though is not based on facts, economics or anything like that. It's based on something far stronger. In every part of my life, I have seen example, after example. That we as people are strongest when we work together. I've been a community volunteer since I was like twelve years old... ish. I've seen how my community has improved by people coming together. In my area the community groups then came together themselves to help the larger community of our town. Where it worked. That wouldn't have happened if we hadn't stood together. Please remember this fact, that we are all stronger together. That's true in a community, a town, a region, a country, a continent and an entire planet.

In the face of continued Russian aggression, economic pressure from China, and instability in the middle east. We are all stronger if we stand together, not divided.

I've not tried to cover every issue that's been mentioned, I can shoot down just about every claim made by the leave campaign. Like Turkey joining the EU. Simple lesson on EU membership. For anyone to join, all the existing members have to agree. If we don't agree, they can't join. Not that personally I have a problem with Turkey joining.

No Europe isn't perfect, there are vast areas it can improve on for sure. But it's not a bad thing, it's actually a truly wonderful thing. Who would have thought in 1945, that seventy years later, Europe would have stopped fighting each other, and instead learned to grow through cooperation and peace. Remember that we can find strength in unity, and that we are strong, not because we are independent, but because we are united.

Finally, I go back to what I said earlier, whatever side you fall on, the most important thing is that you have your voice heard, and vote. This is a referendum that could drastically change the future of our country, a decision that has been placed on our shoulders. It is our responsibility to make it, so regardless, do make that decision, do vote.