REFERENDUM: Forward in Europe makes the case for Remain

Michael Mumford is chair of Forward in Europe, a group of individuals in North Lancashire and Cumbria who are pro EU.

Thursday, 16th June 2016, 10:56 am
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2016, 12:58 pm
Michael Mumford

The organisation has existed for over 20 years, and it says its 100 or so members include several people with a deep knowledge of Europe, the Commission and its development and policies.

Lancaster-based Michael Mumford explains why the UK should remain in Europe:

“The European Union (EU) originated in 1945. Both World Wars started in Europe. WW1 caused 11 million deaths and WW2 nearly 60 million.

“West Europe’s leaders believed that a European-level organisation sharing some sovereignty could make Member States inter-dependent.

“They were right. Now the debate is about the areas in which to share sovereignty.

“Powers are shared by agreement between all Member States, each with a veto on proposals. The 2009 Lisbon Treaty stressed two principles: (1) Subsidiarity – the EU acts only if the objectives cannot be achieved by Members States separately; and (2) Proportionality – the content and form of Union action mustn’t exceed what is essential.

“The EU provides hundreds of practical solutions to real problems, many requiring careful research and patient negotiation over many years. The European Union develops cross-border answers to cross-border questions. As one example, common standards for taking transfusions, storing blood, and injecting it in patients mean that blood transfusions are now safe in all twenty eight Member States.

“The EU also protects many rights - consumer, working, environmental, health and trading rights.

“The quality of beaches is higher because of the EU; global warming is seriously addressed; travel is easier and cheaper between Member States (even outside the Schengen area); European Arrest Warrants stop suspects skipping over borders; and both consumer rights and public health reach higher standards, higher than most American standards.

“‘Leavers’ claim that Britain was better before it joined Europe, and our democracy was stronger - a mix of nostalgia for youth (the sun always shone), and wishful thinking. They claim that the European Commission is not elected. Neither is our Civil Service. But all MEPs are directly elected, and Parliament can reject the proposed list of Commissioners, or later require them to resign, and it has actually done so. Meanwhile, our own political system can produce majority governments with only 30 per cent of the popular vote; and our House of Lords is not elected at all!

“Europe spends only 1 per cent of the gross domestic product of its Member States. National and local governments, by contrast, spend some 40 per cent of GDP. Universities in North West England receive millions in European research funding.

“The EU employs directly some 45,000 people (and its agencies another 10,000). Lancashire County Council alone employs over 40,000.

“The governments work in quite different ways, too. In Britain, far more debate takes place in the House of Commons, rather than in Committee. In Europe, all MEPs serve on at least one of the Committees that do most of the work. Most differences are discussed and resolved before formal debates reach the full European Parliament.

“In British law and politics, we pit one side against the other in a crude “winner takes all” battle, unlike the search to establish the truth typical in the EU. The EU works slowly and thoroughly.

“It is not good at fast reactions. But it generally works well. It represents the most successful political development in 100 years.”