17-year-old activist Ross Gray says the challenges facing European societies require cooperation, not isolationism
The EU is deeply flawed. There is no doubt on that matter. However, on June 23rd, I will be voting to remain, to recognise the vital role of migrants in our society and to cooperate in tackling major global challenges that span borders and transcend the nation state.
The scapegoating of migrants for the strains on public services is a fallacy and founded in correlations not founded in reality. Those arriving from the EU generate far more in taxes than they receive in state support, to the tune of £20 billion between 2001 and 2011. Where the failure lies is with the chronic underinvestment of this surplus back into our services, which subsequently creak and struggle to chorus of scaremongering: blaming migrants for systemic problems their contributions could have alleviated.
The solution to Europe’s many ills is not to pull up the drawbridge at Dover.
In fact, 5% of NHS staff are migrants from other EU nations and are vital in propping up a service ravaged by cuts and underinvestment, blindly pursued by the Tories in search of their nirvana of austerity. These hardworking individuals are subsidising this folly by papering over cracks left by cuts to nurse training places whose numbers reduced year on year under the coalition.
In addition, these are the very ‘aspirational’ individuals who drive our economy forward. EU migrants are 6.7 per cent more likely than natives to start new companies, and so provide crucial employment for local people and stimulate economic activity. Rather than burdening our schools and hospitals, migrants are protecting them; either with their direct employment or their tax contributions. Meanwhile the UK Treasury has failed to invest and make them fit for a burgeoning population.
Currently we also face great societal issues that cross borders and require cooperation in order to solve. In climate change we face the single greatest threat to our existence and it has been the EU which has been the catalyst for many vital interventions. The UK has been the biggest beneficiary of European Investment Bank funding for renewable energy schemes, receiving £1.7 billion since 2007.
European directives have forced sulphur dioxide levels down by 74% since 1990. Much work is still to be done, but comprehensive change will only occur with cooperation – not with countries going it alone, insulated in their own self-interest. Similar sentiments apply to the refugee crisis, where proportional sharing of responsibility is required to protect the vulnerable and nurture them, so they can contribute not only to European society but to that of their homeland when they're able to return.
Those arriving from the EU generate far more in taxes than they receive in state support.
The EU has also brought some of the most fundamental workers’ rights enjoyed in the UK today and prevents a race to the bottom between member states, which may otherwise have competed for profit through the systematic exploitation of workers.
We have Brussels to thank for a guaranteed 14-weeks of maternity leave, a maximum 48-hour week and equal treatment of part-time, agency and full-time staff. Proclamations that Brexit will cut ‘red-tape’ mask insidious intentions to compromise the power of workers and erode vital legislation that protects our fragile environment from annihilation.
However, the EU continues to be a murky world, often beholden to corporations and a depraved pursuit of austerity at the expense of its citizens, as demonstrated by the despicable treatment of Greece and the opaque negotiations of TTIP. Decisions must be taken by the elected European Parliament, not secret committees and unaccountable commissioners, so decisions can be made for all Europeans and not a privileged minority.
5% of NHS staff are migrants from other EU nations and are vital in propping up a service ravaged by cuts and underinvestment.
The solution to Europe’s many ills is not to pull up the drawbridge at Dover and satisfy the unfettered neocon dreams of Boris and his brexiteers. No, no. It is to build a Europe which works to bring equality and social justice to the heart of an institution which has already presided over cooperation where once there was war for over 70 years. It is for that for which we must fight.
Picture courtesy of European Parliament
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