How do you decide the benefits of being in the European Union?

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

The possibility of another referendum has caused me to reflect on how I decided to vote in the first. Would I vote the same way? Has the last 2 and a bit years enlightened me? My starting point is simplistic. I shared it with a few friends who voted in different ways. The responses of those who voted to remain follow as those are the ones that challenge my thinking most and more likely to move me from my starting position. I believe it is only by allowing people to be honest that we best influence each other. I have been tempted to say nothing but believe honestly is a better option.

I have never seen so many British people some of whom are friends wearing the flag of the European Union (EU). Frequently outside the Houses of Parliament in recent weeks we have seen via daily news those sporting the Union Jack and those sporting the flag of the EU.

The question went through my head which flag would I drape around myself. Maybe in a moment of spontaneity, I could be found wearing either flag otherwise I don’t believe I would drape myself in either.

It reminds me of the flag waving I was part of in my Northern Irish youth which also related to which union you wished to be a part.

I have never considered myself a patriot of the EU though I see myself amongst other identities as being European. I was surprised to learn following the vote to leave that some friends felt a loss of nationhood.

I am left wondering again like the rest of the country what are the benefits of being a member of the EU at the price we pay to be a member. I often make decisions on this basis such as whether I should remain a member of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) or the Civil Service Motoring Association (CSMA). I remain a member of YHA as although not now a frequent user I believe in the opportunities it particularly affords young people. I remain a member of CSMA as I get cheaper breakdown recovery. So I remain part of something when I believe there is a benefit.

I wasn’t eligible to vote when the UK decided to join the then European Economic Community (EEC) but I was when we voted in 2016. That caused me to think about my relationship to the EU and whether I considered it value for money and or an entity worth supporting.

After researching and listening I decided to vote to leave. I have just checked the figures and on a simple monetary basis, we pay in 5 Billion more than we receive back. I have also struggled relating to the EU believing that the mechanism to vote for Members of the European Parliament does not fit with my ideas of democracy. The Commission particularly has more power than I would like for an unelected body.

If I was a business that benefitted from the EU I no doubt would support it as I would derive a benefit. I believe in large part many people voted to leave because they did not believe they derived a benefit from the EU that is worth retaining membership.

This probably goes to the heart of the matter which is that capitalist systems seek to benefit capitalism. Rightly or wrong my perception of the EU is that its first priority is trade. Decisions are made around trade without due consideration of the social impact and funding to support an infrastructure required.

Of course, the other question in my mind is will ordinary people benefit from the 5 Billion surplus by no longer being an EU member? I guess I already know the answer to that question.

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The responses follow

I read your article. You sound like a true Scot! By that I mean you reduced the discussion down to money. But the figure you quote is not the true monetary value. Freedom of movement and trade across the most lucrative trading block in the world is incalculable. I think for that 5billion is a bargain. I would also say that I don’t believe for your average Brit being part of the eu had anything to do with national identity. It was a large part of the post war consensus that seems a distant memory now. It was all about creating a world where that kind of war wouldn’t happen. Or at least not in Europe. For me 5billion is the price to pay for the most quarrelsome region in the world to stay at peace. The eu has grown out of the disasters of two world wars as European superpowers fought for preeminence. The result was that America emerged as the dominant world power and Britain paid America and Canada to supply the war on the western front. The final war debt settlement was in 2006. Two years later the global economy crashed. And whilst the doctrine of austerity (concocted by well placed well educated white men) has been very harsh on poor people globally it has always been that bit warmer in the eu. The world has changed. Britain’s desire to make its own way in the world is in fact the ‘propaganda’ of a cabal of well placed well educated white men who dream of a Britain that simply is no more. And likely will never be again. But they are determined to try. And if they fail just like austerity it will be the poor who will suffer, with the cabal remaining secure in their ivory towers. If they succeed we will effectively be empowering a ravenous beast with a putrid delusion, loosed from its shackles to devour all in its path. This same delusion saw intrepid white men board great ships and plunder the world. They raped and pillaged and till this day the indelible mark of colonialism wreaks havoc wherever the delusion found a home. Separatism is today’s zeitgeist: nation states and regions within nation states are increasingly squabbling over borders and by proxy identity. It seems that the extreme right has found its voice, a voice that many in Europe indeed the world thought had been silenced by the calamity of the Second World War. It wasn’t: instead it went underground and has been festering and fermenting all kinds of hatreds. That my friend is part of what I call the putrid delusion. From afar it looks amazing, shiny, bright (kind of the marketers dream) and yet up close and personal it stinks of death. The eu was always more than just money. It was also about peace. Peace secured through relative financial security through sharing power and through sharing resources. When we abandon that in a world that is driven by appetites, and move away from sharing power to hoarding it, then sooner or later the peace will fail. That is why I voted to remain.

Hamish, Scotland

The 5bn is only the direct costs. Almost every economist in the world says we would be far worse off that’s why the markets are so depressed.

Then there’s the question of what happened after the 2nd world war when said don’t etc this happen again and the pact5of European countries working together would hold. Peace now we have far right and nationalist views emerging that could cause a repeat of far-right nationalist movements that started the war.

Billy, North-ern Ireland

My decision was not a monetary one. I believed that being part of the EU gave us a better chance of peace, given the last two wars were fought against countries now in the EU and I also value freedom of movement and being part of “the bigger picture”.

Ursula, England

Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.