On Friday June 24th the result of the referendum will be known and the future direction of Britain will have been defined. And also on the 24th June we will wake up to a string of challenges: the need to address climate change and to implement the Paris agreement will still be there. Our air quality (still the cause of ill-health and early deaths) will still need improving. We will still need to ensure long-term sources of reliable, affordable, decarbonized energy to power our future. We will still need to reform corporate taxation. We will still need to meet rising demand for food as our population grows – which it will do whether we are in or out. And yes, with 65 million refugees on the move, we in Britain will still need to figure out how we respond to a global migration crisis that is likely to endure for many years to come. The list could go on…
I say “need to address” but that does not mean that these issues will be addressed. It is my firm view that there is far less chance that they can, or even will, be addressed in Britain if we are outside of the EU.
No doubt, there is a progressive case for Brexit, in which Britain hunkers down and creates a highly localized, self-sufficient, sustainable economy. But there is 100% zero chance that this would be the real outcome of a vote to leave.
These are global systemic challenges present across each region, country, Europe and beyond. As such they can only be addressed systemically. Cities have shown the way in their leadership on climate but they can only go so far. Individual action by cities and nations cannot be sufficient. The EU (and its “red tape” for which is so maligned) has driven so many of the improvements we have seen in Britain in the past decades – whether these be improvements in water quality, fish stocks, and the protection of habitats. And the EU has probably done more through “red tape” to reduce our energy use and cut carbon than any other means.
No doubt, there is a progressive case for Brexit, in which Britain hunkers down and creates a highly localized, self-sufficient, sustainable economy. But there is 100% zero chance that this would be the real outcome of a vote to leave. Far more likely is an isolationist stance and the watering down of regulations that have helped improve quality of life in this country. The shifts we need demand supra-national cooperation and collaboration and that can only come from a strong Britain in Europe.
If we do choose to leave, there is every prospect that our exit will be the prelude to the unraveling of the EU and the post-WW2 consensus behind it. A consensus that, for all the EU’s faults, has resulted in the ending of dictatorships and enabled an unprecedented era of peace and stability. Of course, the EU is far from perfect. Europe’s politicians and bureaucrats are too remote from the people they were elected and appointed to serve. And the economics of the euro and the enforced austerity have been penalizing to many. But in the face of the challenges ahead, our role in Britain should be too lead its reform, not set off the starting gun for its unravelling. Britain on the fringe of a fracturing Europe represents pretty dismal prospect for securing a peace, security and prosperity in a low carbon world for the next generation.
We rarely if ever stray into politics on this blog. But this is too important not too. I cannot remember a vote in my lifetime that is as important as this one. I write from Abidjan where I am in conversation with people from around the world. Everyone, and I mean everyone, I meet sees danger ahead if Britain leaves. The world is watching and waiting, and in large part hoping. We must remain in the EU. The scale of the challenges ahead demand greater collaboration and the EU is the best instrument we have to meet them. I am firmly for “in” and I fervently hope we are still in come Friday.