The EU is the largest and most successful peace project in human history. After thousands of years of bitter war and bloodshed in Europe, we have seen 70 years of real and meaningful peace, of openness and tolerance, and free inter-cultural exchange.
Being part of the EU, has allowed Britain reconcile with old European rivals-turned-friends, and allowed British people to cross borders and engage with our neighbours in a way that was never possible before.
As a peace campaigner, cultural activist and creator, using inter-cultural dialogue to bring people together in order to recognise what they share in common, the exploration of European fundamental values as a bedrock for peace remains at the heart of my parliamentary work. Using arts, culture and creativity, we can engage people we may otherwise be isolated from, or include those who are marginalised. We discover that culture is not static, and that our identities can be extended: we can be British, European, global citizens and, above all, compassionate human beings.
After decades of peace in Europe, I’m afraid that we have come to take our prosperity, democracy and human rights for granted, so much so that the old narrow-minded demons of xenophobia, intolerance, and racism are rearing their heads once again. For the sake of all that we have accomplished together, for the sake of our common future and that of our young people, we must now stand up for our values of openness, diversity, democracy, and compassion.
That is why EU membership is so deeply important for me, and why I asked my friend and colleague from 'In Place of War' to write about why we need to vote to remain in the EU:
Alison Surtees, Director of Programmes at In Place of War writes:
“As head of the Anna Lindh Foundation Network for the UK, In Place of War knows the importance of continued intercultural dialogue as a means of resolving conflict and bridging between nations, peoples and cultures. It is to be commended that since the end of World War II, members of the European Union have not had a war between themselves, something that had never been accomplished in the millennia before. It is by no means easy, and there are many competing agendas, from nations internally and externally, but it has been something that has unified those inside the EU, and enabled them to continue working together rather than pulling apart.
We wonder what our world would look like outside of EU support, and yes we do feel that there is support for UK there. Many people have become fixated on the issue of immigration, because of current influx of refugees from the war in Syria and around the Middle East, and we feel this is a manipulation of what really is a wider issue of fear of others. Our borders are already protected, we can agree to let people in or not, that has not changed, and we have a bargaining toll to disagree with numbers as we always have, with the Syrian Refugee crisis being an example, we are only taking in 20,000 people most in need. And let us not forget our own freedom of movement, ability to work, live and relative peace across the EU, which we have taken for granted over the years, the ease at which that is possible for our young people, artists and industry professionals as well as those choosing to live in EU countries, many of whom still entitled to claim their pensions. I for one value the shorter faster queue at passport control, and value my passport getting me simply and easily without visa or trouble into any of our EU partner countries.
We do contribute millions into the EU system, as we should, but make no mistake we also take millions out. The main structural funds and social funds in the UK are European ones, which have allowed us to develop enterprise, work to get people out of poverty and establish training, support and continued urban and community regeneration over the years. In a country currently hell bent on taking all funds out of action, reducing the public sector and and support mechanism except private enterprise, this is a blessing to many organisations working in this vital sector.
Trade easier within EU, we have a ready made market, and it has never stopped us trading anywhere else, despite what people think, we have always been able to do so, it's just that the vast majority of business saw the potential and benefit of trading with our nearest members. Another myth.
As we know from our network, we feel our voice will be lost on the EU stage if we remove ourselves from it, and would not have the ability to influence as easily from the outside, instead of looking form the outside and having no power to influence or change what would have a massive impact on us in daily life.
Finally, with this current governments hell bent of getting rid of our rights and especially those of workers, the EU is the only thing standing between us and the UK going back 100 years in freedoms.”