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Should renegotiation fail Britain should leave the EU?

December 4, 2014 8:00 PM
By David Goodall at Southampton University debate on the question "Should renegotiation fail Britain should leave the EU?"

In a word No - but let's be under no illusion this process which David Cameron has embarked upon it is purely to try and keep the Conservative Party together.

However, it could lead to the Britain leaving the EU. This would have massive negative economic consequences for the UK and would lead to a drastic reduction in our ability effect matters in Europe. European matters that will affect us whether we are in the EU or not.

However, it is not possible to consider the answer to question of this debate without first considering, why does the EU exist in the first place?

Since the Second World War one of the greatest achievements has been the way Europe has come together to improve the lives of people across the continent. Countries that had previously spend the first half of the 20th Century fighting and killing each other spent the second half of the 20th Century trying to work together and help each other.

The main driver of this has been the European Union, which started out as European Coal & Steel Community in 1952. The reasoning behind the EU follows the philosophy of the early 19th Century French economist Frederic Bastiat who said:-

  • "If goods do not cross frontiers, armies will "

And it follows the vision of our own Winston Churchill who speaking in Zurich on 19th September 1946 said:-

  • "Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of the United Nations Organisation. Under and within that world concept, we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe."

And he went on:-

  • "If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.

    The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny.

    In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together."

Now I believe the role of a national government is not simply to pursue a narrow self-interest in all matters but to play its part helping build up the wider international community. We live in a very interconnected world, problems in one part of the world quickly translate themselves into worldwide issues. To help make the world we live in a better place we cannot do this on our own. We must work with others to achieve this goal and that must mean starting in our own backyard with our European neighbours.

For me the preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution sums it up well when it says:-

  • "Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services. Setting aside national sovereignty when necessary, we will work with other countries towards an equitable and peaceful international order and a durable system of common security."

Since 1952 in Europe we have developed a way of working together that is based on shared principles of democracy and universal human rights.
This way of working together means that:-

  • 1. All decisions that affect member states have to approved of by the Council of Ministers (contains UK Ministers elected by us) and the European Parliament (elected by us)
  • 2. European Council (heads of Government of all EU states including British PM) is the European Union body responsible for setting the direction of the legislative programme.
  • 3. The European Commission (appointed by European Council and European Parliament) is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU.

The purpose of staying within this EU framework is not to create a European super-state or simply a free trade association but to work with other countries to build an equitable, peaceful and prosperous international order.

That is the purpose, which we in Britain must focus ourselves on - not leaving the EU let other countries try to achieve this purpose without us.

For it is in achieving that purpose that all in Europe will ultimately benefit including us.

Leaving would only serve damage Britain and the rest of Europe.

Finally as Churchill also said in his 1946 speech:

  • If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which its three or four hundred million people would enjoy."