EU vote ‘the biggest choice in a generation’

In or out? Major political figures are getting ready for a lengthy campaign.

The official cross-party campaign to keep Britain in the EU is launched this morning. A choice between Britain and Europe? Or can one love Britain and love Europe too?

Today Lord Rose, the former Marks & Spencer chief, will claim that every Briton is £450 a year better off thanks to the nation’s membership of the EU as he launches a campaign to stay in Europe. The chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe, the cross-party ‘in’ campaign, will brand Eurosceptics pushing to leave as ‘quitters’ who are running away from attempts to achieve positive reform of the EU.

It is the start of a massive national debate. Three former prime ministers are supporting him. Others are worried that four million young people may not be able to vote. The identity of Britain’s next prime minister could depend on the result.

The In Campaign will join a crowded field: a separate Labour party campaign will call for the same outcome, and they will spar with two rival groups known as Vote Leave and Leave.EU.

‘Remain’ campaigners will stress business and economic interests. The In Campaign’s board appointments have included several high-profile businesspeople who believe an EU exit would threaten jobs, cause a significant drop in GDP and result in new barriers to trade. Their opponents will contest these claims keenly, arguing that an exit would free businesses from EU regulations, present new trade opportunities and save Britain money in contributions to the EU budget. Some left-wing eurosceptics, meanwhile, see Greece’s recent problems as evidence that the EU punishes its poorest members.

But the next two years will see debate on a wide range of issues. Vote Leave’s slogan, ‘let’s take control’, is a sign that sovereignty (the power to govern including the making and enforcing of laws) will be central to their message. EU legislation, such as regulation of working conditions, will come under scrutiny. The two sides will debate whether greater independence would strengthen Britain internationally. And the merits of allowing people to move freely across borders are likely to be in focus with particular frequency.

Nonsense?

We must choose, some say, between our loyalty to Britain and our loyalty to vaguely-understood and not very democratic EU institutions such as the European Council and the European Commission. Only politicians and Westminster journalists will really care about this over-blown spectacle.

But Lord Rose will say that it is ‘utter nonsense’ for patriotic Britons to choose between their country and Europe. ‘To claim that the patriotic course for Britain is to retreat, withdraw and become inward looking is to misunderstand who we are as a nation. The choice facing us in this referendum is the biggest in a generation.’

You Decide

  1. Will the debates about Britain’s EU membership be interesting?
  2. If you could vote in the referendum and it was taking place today, would you ‘remain’ or ‘leave’?

Activities

  1. Write down five questions which you would like to ask about the UK’s place in Europe and the EU. Why are these questions important?
  2. Work in pairs. One of you represents the ‘remain’ campaign; the other is from the ‘leave’ campaign. Write — and if possible act out — a discussion on the EU referendum which covers three topics you consider important (eg migration). Allow around one minute per topic.

Some People Say...

“Britain should make its own laws.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Does being in the EU really affect my life?
A lot of EU laws relate to issues which rarely get discussed but still matter. EU advocates argue, for example, that countries can’t keep air or beaches clean on their own. But many opponents say the EU is too bossy and that its taxes cost jobs.
What about the impact of migration? That seems especially controversial.
It is, and the varied responses to the current refugee crisis are making it more so. Those in favour of free movement of people say mixing with people from different backgrounds enriches us as people and makes us more tolerant. But their opponents question its impact on resources (such as houses or school places) and social problems. Free movement works both ways, though; an estimated 2.2 million Brits now live in other EU countries.

Word Watch

Leave
The campaigns have been called ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ as those words will be used on the ballot paper. But they have also been referred to as the ‘in’ and ‘out’ campaigns respectively.
High-profile businesspeople
The In Campaign will be led by a former boss of Marks & Spencer, Lord Stuart Rose. Their board will also include Apprentice star Karren Brady and Richard Reed, the co-founder of Innocent drinks.
Issues
The debate could impact on all areas of public life: Vote Leave’s first advert, for example, has claimed that leaving the EU will allow the government to spend more on hospitals, schools and transport.
Sovereignty
UKIP, the party most closely identified with the Eurosceptic movement, have previously estimated that 70% of Britain’s laws are now made by the EU. Their opponents say this is an exaggeration.
Move freely
‘Remain’ campaigners will argue that migration presents economic and social opportunities, including for Britons who live elsewhere in the EU. But ‘leave’ campaigners will argue that Britain should be allowed to choose how many immigrants enter the country.

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