CommonSpace columnist Siobhan Tolland explains why she believes the public is best served by voting to Remain in the European Union
I HAVE one final, last gasp plea to those who are considering a leftwing Brexit.
I am sorry, but I just don’t get it. I don’t understand what possible progressive aspirations could be fulfilled by this current Brexit proposal. And so I ask those who envision a leftist Brexit to consider two things before you cast your vote on Thursday.
I ask you to consider how we manage the urgent global problems that face us if we are outside of the EU. And in that context I ask that we consider this question in the light of what type of Brexit is on offer to us: not what we hope and imagine a Brexit could be, but the political philosophy that will dominate and define the terms of our exit. The one that Boris Johnson with a bit of Nigel Farage on the side is offering us.
I don’t understand what possible progressive aspirations could be fulfilled by this current Brexit proposal. And so I ask those who envision a leftist Brexit to consider two things before you cast your vote on Thursday.
So, looking at two examples: how do we tackle climate change and make environmental improvements? And how do we tackle the current humanitarian crisis on our doorsteps?
Climate change is an example of how mutual cooperation within the EU has had environmental benefits for both UK (and Scotland) and other European countries. The Environment Agency’s Barbara Young reminds us, for instance, that the majority of our environmental standards such as water and air quality, waste management, chemicals in the environment and on health, were born from EU legislation.
In addition to this, she continues, the UK’s positive role on these issues has helped the EU develop more robust regulations. Managing climate change and environmental management across Europe has been bolder and stronger because of the EU.
The UK has helped tackle these issues on an international level as part of the EU. It has developed cleaner beaches, better habitats and healthier society across Scotland, England and Wales because of our membership in the EU.
At a time in our history when radical changes to our environment have never been so important and so urgent, what vision to tackle climate change is on offer by the Brexit campaign? What strategies will be set up for a post-Brexit society?
At a time in our history when radical changes to our environment have never been so important and so urgent, what vision to tackle climate change is on offer by the Brexit campaign? The post-Brexit society will have an environmental vacuum,
The post-Brexit society will have an environmental vacuum, where, as Barbara Young notes, environmental and safety standards are not enshrined in UK law but comply with EU regulations. But, you know, I'm sure this will be an absolute priority for the Conservative party…
But there is another urgent humanitarian crisis that we need to think about, and that has not been discussed beyond the ultra-right spouting 'not in our backyard'. How will a Brexit assist the millions of people, displaced, traumatised and scattered across the globe?
I am not going to pretend that the EU’s response has been good. It hasn’t. It’s been appalling. So much so that Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has refused money from any EU country in protest at its terrible response. Human Rights Watch and UNCHR have been openly critical also.
Yet while climate change issues are often seen as an example of what can be done with good cooperation within the EU, the humanitarian crisis of refugees is quite clearly an example of the terrible effects of a distinct lack of cooperation in the EU.
Human Rights Watch and the UNHCR have been clear. This "self-induced humanitarian crisis" has resulted from a lack of collective strategy and action within the EU, as well as compassion. Countries are simply not working together despite agreements such as countries like Hungary and Austria capping the amount of refugees crossing into their borders, and the EU resettlement programme is largely unenforced.
There is another urgent humanitarian crisis that we need to think about, and that has not been discussed beyond the ultra-right spouting 'not in our backyard'. How will a Brexit assist the millions of people, displaced, traumatised and scattered across the globe?
So while the EU’s response has been appalling (and there is no doubt), this has been because of a collapse in a collective response from countries within the EU. What these organisations are telling us, then, is that a collective, coordinated and compassionate response can and will offer humanitarian support for those in crisis.
What role can we play in helping those in crisis inside and outside of the EU? If a disjointed response within the EU is making the humanitarian crisis worse, how does a Brexit build a coherent and sustainable solution for those, desperate and homeless, landing on our European shores?
Many humanitarian organisations will tell us the simple answer is we can’t. I am not saying we will definitely solve the problems within the EU. But, given the urgency and desperation of this humanitarian crisis, it is the best – no, it is our only – chance.
Making a disjointed approach more disjointed through a Brexit will definitely not solve the problem. Indeed, we are being told this is making the problem worse.
So what do we do on Thursday? How do we try and solve the international problems of our times? The ecological and humanitarian issues we face, we are being advised, will be best served working collectively, as part of the European Union.
I am not saying we will definitely solve the problems within the EU. But, given the urgency and desperation of this humanitarian crisis, it is the best – no, it is our only – chance.
So what do we do on Thursday? And please consider the Brexit that is on offer to us. Do we push the isolationist approach and leave? Do we break the collective approach, viewed by many environmental and humanitarian organisations as the only way of solving these urgent international problems?
Or do we stay and build upon the rickety and rusted scaffolding of the EU? Do we help build on the only real collective structure we have to solve these issues? Because the refugees stuck in camps can’t wait for an alternative to be built in the vacuum that a Brexit will create.
The urgency of the situation means we have to work together and with the existing structure we have. We can and must build on the cooperation and collective approach the EU can provide.
Picture courtesy of Martin Schulz
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