Europe values us, and we should value Europe

21 Mar 2013

You would think that in the context of the greatest economic crisis in 60 years, our government would have better things to do than to pander to the extremes of the backbench by offering an in-out referendum over our membership of the European Union. Though he would hate to admit it, Cameron only made this stab as an attempt to neutralise the growing threat of UKIP. Not only has this miserably failed, it has also held the Tories back in their Blair-style moderniser project.


But the real problem I have with questioning our place in Europe was summed up by Tony Blair himself. In a speech about the referendum last month, he said that "the future is together, not more separate", and let that be a warning to the SNP who seem to think that the world would be much better if we were all governed by small tribes who have no sense of the bigger picture.

Back in October, I attended the European Youth Assembly in Strasbourg, France, along with a delegation of ten other young people across the UK, and 140 young people from 42 countries across the continent. The event was hosted by the Council of Europe, and the theme was 'a lost generation'. It was a kind acknowledgement of the fact that the global economic crisis was not caused by young people, yet it is young people who are suffering the most. Britain has the second highest youth unemployment rate in Europe - only Spain has a higher percentage, and even Greece and Cyprus are doing better than us. However, we came to realise that, across Europe, we all share the same problems, as well as the same potential solutions.

Farage likes to make us think that we are hated by our neighbours, so we may as well leave. The South East MEP and his UKIP colleagues voted against an EU budget that would see Britain contribute less to the overall budget. An insider even admitted to Paul Staines, of 'Guido Fawkes' fame, that they voted to give the EU more of the UK taxpayers' money in order to build up resentment towards Europe by the public; clever electioneering but wholly hypocritical.

But what struck me was how much Europe loves Britain. One delegate referred to me as "my lord" because he watched Merlin and many I spoke to were confused as to why we wanted to pull out of our valued place on the European decision table. On the last night of the conference, we held a British music night, and everyone loved it. The German president made an unconvential, emotional appeal to Britain in February in which he said "stay with us, we need you!" and that, as the oldest Parliamentary democracy, Europe needs us. It annoys me that some people are willing to give all this up.

It is important that we don't lose sight of what brought us into the European Union. In the aftermath of the bloodiest war the world had seen, Britain and her allies wanted to make sure that we would never have to go to war again. Instead, we wanted diplomacy and dialogue between nations, with a democratic forum for discussion and debate. Now is not the time for a referendum.

If we become ignorant to this then we run the risk of being as guilty as Alex Salmond of incredible short-sightedness, heading down the road of insignificance. Our economy will suffer, so will our international reputation and integrity. As Winston Churchill said "we want a Europe where men of every country think of themselves being as European as of belonging to their native land, without losing any love or loyalty to their birthplace".

By Jake Pitt

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