Monday, 4 April 2016

Britain in Crisis: The EU Referendum

Evening all!

It's been a long while since I last published a blog. Despite the fact many opportunities have surfaced in regards to issues in the world that have cropped up, I feel the topic of the possible Brexit needs to be addressed in as many ways in possible. Campaigning in the centre of my hometown (a fairly modest place in Northern Oxfordshire) earlier for staying in Europe, it's evident that, upon conversing with the people who are agreeable to leaving Europe, their main problem is immigration. So, let's address that:

The media is an incredibly powerful tool. Whilst we may not choose to question the bias of the newspaper sources we read, perhaps it is advisable to begin doing so. It appears, because of the media, people are under the pretense that almost anybody can walk into the UK, "take our jobs", (and by the word 'our', I do question why they use possessive vocabulary in talking about something as simple as a job), put a strain on "our" NHS and "claim all our benefits". Firstly, we have to consider why there is a sudden influx in illegal immigrants - because, let's not deny it - worryingly, there is. In 2014, 276,113 migrants entered the EU, which represents an increase of 138% compared to the same period in 2013. This suggests, yes, we do need border control to ensure people are not taking advantage of the system, but we have to start acknowledging illegal immigrants and asylum seekers as two different things with one thing in common. They both run from tragedy. Images of migrants and asylum-seekers crammed into unseaworthy boats making perilous voyages to Europe have come to symbolise the unsettling reality of the irregular migration phenomenon. Asylum seekers run from the tragedy inflicted upon their homes by terrorism whereas many illegal immigrants try to escape the horror in their motherland and with no economic support for their families, is it any wonder? However, these people are not the animalised beasts The Daily Mail and The Sun portray them to be. They are vulnerable to labour and other forms of exploitation. The EU has established tougher rules for action against criminals involved in trafficking in human beings, combined with better assistance for victims, which is why, we are better staying in.

Despite this, there is a return policy as induced by the EU. So those who do come to exploit the system are reintegrated back into their own society, which is humane and effective. However, the special thing about the UK is that we choose, on a case-by-case basis, whether or not to adopt EU rules on immigration, visa and asylum policies. Great Britain has a voice well and truly heard in the European Union and I am proud to be part of a country that considers the cases as individuals, which is ultimately good as it promotes values of tolerance.

What is disappointing on the subject of tolerance is that ultimately, people (especially those of the elder generation) are living in the past. We are not in the '50s, or '70s. We are in the 21st century, and by now, people of all ethnicities should be being accepted. People need to realise that just because you are English, British, or any nationality, for that matter of fact, you are not superior. We are all equals. However, it is a shame some a treated more equal than others. Yes, so perhaps 'English' culture was more pure in the past as a lady who 'travelled around the world' 50 odd years ago told me in an almost anecdotal sense. Countries were very different from others then, but it's globalisation that has changed that. Not the EU and the migrants. The EU cannot be made a scapegoat to people's problems. The risks are far too grave.

Earlier on, upon campaigning for staying in the EU, a man attempted to blame the recent shootings in Brussels on being in the EU.  I see no reason to leave the security the EU provides for us as a whole and I believe leaving the EU would be more detrimental to our economy and political position in the world. After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and now Pakistan, I am only further convinced that nations and people coming and staying together is the way forward. Being a part of a productive community is essential to the peaceful cohabitation of this planet. Unfortunately, I have never been overwhelmed by Conservative ideas (like many) and it is disturbing that people are very willing to agree with Cameron's opposing stance on something that will tear us apart from our home continent. The peoples' best interest is not at heart being taken into account here and the prime goal of those such as Boris Johnson is enforcing an outdated conservative idealism. Staying in the EU with our fellow European citizens provides us with the security and justice we need. The European Arrest Warrant replaced long extradition procedures and enables the UK to extradite criminals wanted in other EU countries, and bring to justice criminals wanted in the UK who are hiding in other EU countries. Eurojust helps UK authorities work with other EU countries’ to tackle international organised crime such as drug smuggling, people trafficking and money laundering, as well as terrorism.

And to all my fellow feminists, equal pay for men and women is enshrined in EU law, as are bans on discrimination by age, race or sexual orientation. This benefits Britain and British people who live in other EU countries. Europe has done a huge amount to protect the rights and freedoms of women. It ensures equal pay for equal work, underpins maternity and paternity rights, the right to work after maternity leave, and the right to sick leave and time off for urgent family reasons. Thanks to the EU, part time and agency workers, who are more likely to be women, also have the right to equal treatment in line with full-time permanent employees. Across the world, European nations are working together to improve the lives of women in developing countries by tackling violence against women, improving standards in factories staffed by women, and cracking down on the horrific practice of female genital mutilation. We are stronger in Europe working with other countries to get more women in Britain the rights and jobs they and their families need and securing the safety and security of women across the world.

So, what if we actually do leave?

Let's imagine for one second we wake up on June 24th to find out we voted collectively (and by we, I mean those eligible to vote. So 16-17 year olds can't cast a vote in potentially the most groundbreaking decision affecting us so far, but 95 year olds can? So effectively, are the establishment trying to tell us we are not responsible for our own future? That is another can of worms though.) to leave Europe. Months pass and slowly the cracks begin to show. Free migration within Europe has ended, so British expats cannot move to Spain and invade the Costas with their failing businesses, even though there's already a million of them there. Students can't go to Germany or France to study, despite the fact they'd have less debts and, depending on their chosen degree, get better education. Businesses would too suffer, as British firms wouldn't have unimpeded access to the single market and wouldn't continue to benefit from the EU’s trade deals with other countries whilst we would have no say over EU trade policy which could be potentially devastating. If you think unemployment is a problem now, let's just imagine it without the EU. With around 3.5 million British jobs are directly linked to British membership of the European Union’s single market – that's 1 in 10 British jobs.  Effectively, investment would fall as foreign companies that invested in the UK as a launch-pad for serving the entire EU market shifted some of their activities across the Channel. Some British companies would do the same. Unemployment would then rise until wages had fallen far enough for people to price themselves back into the market. British families enjoy lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled simply by being in the European Union. These sorts of benefits could not be achieved by Britain alone. There are countless positives of staying in the EU. Countless.

There are really no good alternatives to membership. We should stay in the EU and put our energy into reforming it, instead We should be voting to stay in the EU for employment reasons, for gaining far more than we spend in trade, for being able to travel freely, and for global political and economic stability. We should be voting to stay in the EU for all generations to reap benefits, not voting to leave so only a few at the top of the hierarchy can gain from it. We are stronger together.

Remember, your vote counts and this is an extremely important and significant decision that you have some power in to help make. Leaving Europe will impact us all and it's not something I wish to see happen in my lifetime.

Take care,
Sophie xo

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