As a Christian on the left, it is my strong conviction that the UK should remain within the European Union (EU). Inspired by Jesus’ love for everyone, I am committed to contributing to a society that is caring and recognises the rights of each person.
The EU is an institution that allows this to happen, in both economic and social terms. The trade links and international cooperation it makes possible are invaluable in the quest for a society that delivers for everyone. It must therefore be recognised that, if we are to be a country that both grows dynamically and upholds the dignity of all people, Britain must remain a leading member of the EU.
I believe passionately in a system that provides a rising standard of living for everyone, and an economy that is growing consistently and sustainably is the best way of achieving this. The role of the government is to ensure that the market functions efficiently and in the interests of all citizens. For this reason the debate on Europe must be centred on the economic effects of EU and EEA membership. It is beyond doubt that tariff-free access to a goods market of over 500m people, and a factor market with a GDP of over €14tn(1), benefits growth and employment in our economy. The fact that we do nearly half our trade with the EU(2) shows how important it is to us, contributing billions to our national income. Not only does the EU bring us trade, it also helps attract foreign direct investment, which provides jobs and incomes for millions of workers and forms the backbone of the economy in many regions of the UK. London is Europe’s financial centre, and this status is made possible because of the trade opportunities, economies of scale, and confidence associated with being part of the single market. The alternative, it seems, is an essentially isolationist approach, which simply cannot deliver economic benefits comparable to the dividend we gain from EU membership.
An issue which stands out for the attention it has received is that of immigration. Labour mobility is a necessary part of the single market, and expands the labour supply, thus improving Britain’s productive potential. However, the many thousands of Europeans in Britain should not be considered primarily as factors of production but as human beings. As a Christian, I believe firmly in a compassionate society, with an emphasis on social justice and improved welfare for all. While it is difficult to arrive at a precise figure, reputable studies(3) have concluded that EEA immigrants make a net contribution to public finances, and this helps provide public services that all UK residents benefit from. Our country is among the most prosperous and most advanced in the world, so many have seen living standards rise as a result of coming here. Immigration not only has the potential to benefit our economy, but it makes possible a better quality of life for both British people and Europeans in the UK.
None of this is to argue that the EU is perfect; very obviously, there are significant flaws in its structure and operations. Many of the problems that have befallen the European project have been the result of politicians prioritising their own countries’ national interests over the communal cause. If the EU is to succeed, it is vital that leaders recognise that the common good can take precedence over tribal interests and form policy accordingly. This view is partially shaped by my Christian values: Jesus was inclusive and focussed on reaching out, and I therefore believe strongly in an outward-looking foreign policy that is defined by co-operation and emphasises a sense of shared interests in Europe. Mistakes have undoubtedly been made at EU level, but the solution is not to reverse European integration. If we are to establish a richer society, both economically and socially, progressive leaders must work together to bring prosperity and social justice to Europe. With the necessary political will, the EU has the potential to be the framework within which this vision is achieved. It should therefore be recognised that sovereignty is not something to be guarded jealously for the nation-state at all costs, but something that, when appropriate care is taken, can be pooled in ways that increase welfare across Europe.
Membership of the EU holds great benefits for Britain, bringing trade and investment that strengthens our economy and increases economic welfare. However, European integration should not be considered exclusively in terms of national benefit, but in terms of the many potential rewards of trade liberalisation and supranational co-operation for the people of Europe. As a Christian on the left, I believe in a positive vision of a continent united, with leaders working together to further the cause of social justice and prosperity for all. To achieve this, it is essential that the UK commits to being an engaged member of the European Union.
(1) See Eurostat data at http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/refreshTableAction.do;jsessionid=WmnJt-zTVFl3ybcAyb1MmolZPfE30Rzgmz6j890-4tidUo-mZ5AB!-1610507484?tab=table&plugin=1&pcode=tec00001&language=en.
(3) See UCL/CReAM report at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/european-institute/highlights/2013-14/immigration and http://www.cream-migration.org/files/FiscalEJ.pdf#page=26
About the author
I am an A Level student from Luton with a passion for politics and economics. I have spent eight years living outside the UK, in Jordan and then Cyprus. This has convinced me of the need for a government that provides for its people, and has also given me practical experience of living in another EU member state. I am a Christian, and I believe that my faith provides a perspective on life that informs and helps to shape my political convictions. While I have thus far had little experience of involvement in British politics at the national level, I am excited by the potential to make a difference to my country and am keen to see where God’s plan for my life leads me.