I got an email the other day from the Green Party – I’m a registered supporter but not a member – about lowering the voting age for the possible EU Membership Referendum in the next couple of years to 16. I will be writing about that another day, but for today I want to write about the EU.
I don’t know how I feel about the EU; I used to, but now? I’m confused. I used to be very Euro-sceptic, now I’m just sceptical about the Euro – the single currency – especially after the last few years and austerity, and the negative effects it has had on certain areas of Europe to the advantage of other areas.
I have positive feeling regarding the EU as an area of free movement of people, but at the same time I’m a British citizen so I can’t actually leave the country without a passport. From that perspective, we don’t have that much free movement, unlike my continental friends who can travel between countries very easily, as long as they have their I.D. cards.
One of the complaints levelled at the EU by people (and especially right wing newspapers) is that it allows uncontrolled immigration. On the other hand, I, like everyone else in the EU, can work in other EU countries with less hassle than someone from outside the EU. People go where the work is, if that means moving across a continent for a few years then how can we say one group of countries’ citizens are allowed to do that but another group of countries’ citizens are not? We can’t condemn people to poverty because they happen to be from the ‘wrong’ part of Europe.
I have, over the last few years, had the pleasure of working with many eastern Europeans; educated, and intelligent, many of them are prepared to spend a few years working in a fish factory in Grimsby to earn enough to continue their education back home, or to help their families. Very few of the Poles, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians I’ve met are planning to stay permanently, and the ones that are have made efforts to integrate.
There are thousands of people who travel across Europe, and the world, for that reason; if there is work in your profession in, say, Latvia but not much in Scotland, the sensible option is to temporarily move to where the work is, surely? For example, I have an uncle who has spent the best part of the last decade living and working in the Netherlands and Germany. He speaks Dutch and German now very well. He has a very specialised job which means he has to go where the work is.
To balance out my ‘Yay, I can work anywhere if I want to, and I get to meet people from all over Europe if I can’t leave home’, there’s the slight problem of the inherent bureaucracy and undemocratic nature of the EU, the European Parliament and the European Council themselves. Nothing ever gets done without a fight, and no one ever knows where all the money goes. There is very little trust between citizens, and the MEP’s and those involved in administering the bureaucracy.
We will probably be voting on membership in 2017 and I don’t know which way I’ll vote. I find the whole system daunting; where would I start if I wanted in depth information, information enough to make an informed decision? Here there just seems to be propaganda, for one side of the argument or the other. I don’t want to make such an important decision based on emotion alone, but on reasoned argument and fact. I want what will be best for everyone, not just a few people in the here and now.
Any ideas as to where I might start looking for that information, information that is balanced, factual and unbiased?