The irony of this referendum is that the European Union has changed our world completely, and done it so well that we’ve forgotten what it was like before, apart from when when our parents or grandparents hail us with “It was different back in my day” etc. Instead it’s now the scapegoat for everything wrong with the world from crime and immigration to faulty toasters (I’m not joking, a UKIP MP really did do that).
No one is denying that a Union of 28 extremely different countries doesn’t have issues, it is very bureaucratic and they need to employ hundreds of translators and interpreters to be understood in all the 24 official languages. However, these drawbacks do not take away from the many things that the EU has done for Britain. As well as providing guidance on jobs and trade, the EU focuses upon many different directives that are still vastly important important but not always talked about in the referendum debate.
- Environment – The EU has been successful in creating air, water and waste pollution management legislation and protection for both land and marine wildlife and climate policy which the UK has contributed to and benefited from. Until this Environmental Protection Act was passed in 1990 there was no body who regulated air quality, and the fact that the EU encourages the British government to meet the standards set is the reason that Boris bikes were introduced to London. The EU also set a target of 27% of all energy to be renewable by 2030, a goal helped by the old UK government’s ambitious view on the subject. Whether this government would be as dedicated if we left the EU and they could set their own targets is up for debate.
- Animal welfare – The Birds and Habitats Directives are two pieces of legislation that allow conservation and identification of species to be pan-European, making it much easier to track progress, goals to be consistent and more scientific research to be done. It has allowed the population of wolves, lynxes and bears all over Europe to increase since they’re not being hunted and habitat isn’t being decreased. The EU has rules over how farm animals can be treated – they must be free from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury and disease, fear and to be able to express normal behaviour. This means that hens kept in the EU are, at the very minimum, are kept in cages that should accommodate their behavioural needs, and pigs are no longer kept separated but are in pens that mean that they can interact. There has also been no animal testing for cosmetics in the EU since 2009.
- Travel – The EU is a no visa zone, as we all know we can pop across the channel when we like, and because of the competition in the Single Market you can get there very cheaply. In addition we now can’t be charge extortionate mobile charges to make calls either. It is also the institution that created the Erasmus programme that so many students have benefited from.
- Consumer rights – Everyone knows that when you shop online you can return the item if you don’t like it or it doesn’t fit, but it’s not well known that it was the EU that created all that legislation. Their consumer rights laws ensure that the cost is always transparent, that any damage that occurs to the product before it arrives at your door is the trader’s fault, and that if the seller doesn’t respect these laws you can sue them. So it’s the EU that has given you a safety net for next time you go on an impulse online shopping spree and instantly regret it.
What will happen if Brexit occurs is all guesswork because there is no clear plan – people who want to leave all have different ideas of what they want to happen and nothing is clear. Leaving the EU is like jumping into an abyss, and we don’t know what’s at the bottom of it. The EU however has bought positive changes to all their member states, and the best way to fix any flaws in it is to be in it. To do that you need to vote on June 23rd, if you are going to be away from where you are registered to vote, sign up to a postal vote!