This vote isn’t just about the EU: it’s about the type of country Britain wants to be

Technology Eye | Jun. 21, 2016

Those who want to Remain and those who want to Leave agree that the EU Referendum is more than us making a decision on whether or not to stay in the EU: it is a vote for the type of country we want to become.

As a social entrepreneur working with some of the UK’s most vulnerable people, as a small business owner employing people, and as a dad, I’ve been thinking hard about the type of country I want us to be.

Having worked in some of the UK’s most deprived communities, I have seen how the EU benefits them every day. It gives local authorities, local economic partnerships and government departments nearly £2 billion every year to tackle disadvantage and spread opportunity through the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. This vital funding has created real social change. Between 2007 and 2015, 521,000 people who were long-term unemployed were helped into jobs and 533,000 disadvantaged young people were helped to enter employment, education or training.

As a small business owner, I have seen the confidence that stems from economic stability. We can’t predict what the costs of leaving the EU are but, as an employer, I’m listening to what the Bank of England, the IMF, the World Trade Organization, the OECD and the World Bank are saying, and the risks they claim it will cause our economy.

Over 90% of economists surveyed for The Times also said that Brexit would damage Britain’s growth prospects. Norway, Switzerland and Canada have been highlighted as alternative models that the UK could adopt. Norway accepts free movement of people and has to accept the EU's single market rules and regulations without a having a say in making them. Switzerland also accepts free movement of people but doesn't have direct access to the EU’s market to services, including financial services, meaning no market access for apart of Britain's economy that makes up 40% of exports. Canada’s deal is similar to the Swiss but is now being held up because of disagreements over freedom of movement.

Some say we shouldn’t be part of the single market. This would mean we’d need to negotiate with 27 countries that sell 8% of their exports to the UK, and to whom we sell nearly half of our exports. Economic growth is key to creating a strong society; businesses like mine employ more people, creating new jobs, and pay more taxes, which funds more public services.

Not only has the EU helped us build a kind and strong society at home, it helps us build friendships with countries who were once our enemies. Europe is historically the continent that has most been at war; virtually every decade before the EU was founded, a European country was at war with another. Europe has been at peace for the last 50 years and the UK has been at the heart of this, working within the EU to see the end of dictatorships across southern Europe, helping democracy and human rights flourish.

The UK is an outward looking nation, building alliances and partnerships across the world, including with the United States, Commonwealth countries, and countries across Europe.

Tragically, this is challenged by nationalism – and extremism – which are on the rise across the West, threatening peace and unity. Sixty years ago, Winston Churchill said we must “recreate the European family so we can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom”. As a dad to two small children, this is just as important today. I don’t want to give fuel to nationalism, especially when all of our major allies want the United Kingdom to stay in the EU and stand tall in the world.

So when we go to the polling stations this Thursday, let’s make sure we think about the type of country we want the UK to be.

SOURCE: World Economic Forum

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