On the radio last week a group of ‘Remainers’ were asked if they would vote in the General Election for parties promising a second EU referendum. It was interesting. Most said “no” – their line being: the vote has been decided, we need to proceed and exit.
This must give those who are dismayed by the implications of exiting the EU pause for thought. What is the credible political and ethical standpoint for arguing to remain a part of the EU when the majority in the UK voted to leave?
It was a question exercising many of us in the recent delegation of UK third sector groups to Brussels, organised by SCVO. The arguments about the benefits the EU has brought us have been well rehearsed, but nothing confirms them like two days of presentations telling us about EU plans in the next year alone. These include:
- strengthening citizens’ rights, including increasing mobile EU citizens’ right to vote where they reside (note: that’s EU citizens, not ‘migrants’)
- increasing opportunities for students, trainees, teachers and others to work across the EU (remember we have a real shortage of teachers, early learning practitioners and social/health care workers)
- strengthening equality and non-discrimination practices and laws across gender, LGBTI, working families and disability
- investment in digital and telecare and more than €200 billion invested between now and 2020 alone in support and innovation to tackle the challenges of an ageing population
- continuing the Erasmus investment of €50 million to support families, children and young people. By 2020 the first 100,000 young Europeans will be invited to volunteer as part of the European Solidarity Corps to bolster skills development and contribute to society.
The EU environmental policy discussion we were part of underlined strengths in reducing carbon and the stabilisation in numbers of many animals and plant life under threat. However this also highlighted that climate change is still a huge danger for all EU citizens, and that solutions have to be global and at scale if we are going to have any lasting impact.
So, from just these few examples, even the most ardent Brexiters might feel daunted by the sheer scale of decoupling from the EU. For those of us who recognise that the strengths of our rights covering children and family draw on the European framework, it is worrying.
What should our next steps be? Our mandate for action will of course come from how people vote in next month’s General Election and the result of any future independence referendum.
It is legitimate that if we do leave the EU, we must seek confirmation that there will be no reversal or detriment to existing rights and protections across all our public institutions. We must also seek ways of continuing to work within the EU network to learn from each other and support change and improvement – especially for children and young people across Europe.