Recently I laid out the left wing case of leaving the European Union. This was aimed more as a counterpoint to UKIP and their xenophobia than it was to those who want Britain to remain a part of the EU. Many on the left believe there is a lot to be gained from Britain having an active role in Europe, so here is the left wing case for staying in the EU:
The EU is generally more left wing than the British government has been over the last few decades, especially on economic issues. EU regulations prevent the worst excesses of private business. Health and safety standards and working time directives protect us from unsafe working conditions and long gruelling hours. I cannot imagine the Cameron or Blair governments passing the same laws.
Atlantean free marketeers (like Douglas Carswell) see this EU referendum as an opportunity to reduce regulation and government oversight of the British economy so that it becomes more competitive. George Monbiot aptly describes these as “rules that prevent children from being poisoned by exhaust fumes, rivers from being turned into farm sewers and workers from being exploited by their bosses.” Without the EU we will have less job security and less safety in the workplace.
The issue of large companies avoiding tax is also one that can only be tackled at an international level. The Conservative government has shown that it is intensely relaxed about large companies paying little or no tax, despite the fact these companies benefiting from government spending on education, healthcare, transportation, etc. The European Union has already indicated that it might force Google to pay more tax than the paltry sum which George Osborne negotiated with the search giant. In the age of globalisation and multinational companies, only multinational governments can hold large private firms to account and make them pay their taxes.
The greatest argument in favour of Britain taking an active role in the EU is that our future is intertwined with the EU countries, whether we are inside the EU or not. Our cultures and people are intertwined. There are 2.3 million people from other EU countries living inside Britain, bringing with them a huge diversity in language, food, religion and culture. There are also 1.26 million British people living abroad in other EU countries. If we left the EU these connections will still be present, the people of Europe will still be mixed together, but Britain would have no political voice in this shared European society.
I love the diversity and that immigration that EU membership brings to this county. I believe it makes us a more tolerant and flexible society, easily able adapt to the challenges of the future. With conflict spreading in the Middle East, China's economy slowing down and environmental crises looming Britain needs all the strengths and diversity of opinion it can get. The right thinks the free market can solve these problems, the left knows that only with European governments working together through the EU can these issues be tackled.
In the refugee crisis, Europe is being tested by an external shock. All the countries in Europe have been affected by the huge influx of people. With climate change meaning more environmental disasters and sea levels rising, we will see a lot of immigration into Europe over the next few decades. This will affect all of Europe and Britain needs to part of the solution. Pulling up the drawbridge will not work.
I believe in the wider EU project, the idea that it is in the interest of all the European countries to work together to solve the problems we are all facing. Europe is stronger when its countries are united in government as well as in purpose. The EU is the larger structure that allows European governments to respond collectively to the challenges of a globalised world. A country like Britain does not have the clout or the economy to influence global events alone, but by working with our neighbours we can be a powerful force for good in the world.
The nations of Europe have not fought a war between each other since the inception of the European Union, because we recognise that it is in all of our best interests to work together, share resources (such as labour and capital) where needed and to tackle problems with a united front. The EU is certainly not perfect and reform is needed to improve its ability to achieve this mission, but if we are to meet the challenges of the future then we need a multinational government with British representation. Leaving the EU is to sacrifice co-operation with our neighbours in favours of a mythical belief in the superiority of Britain.