We are European and British

Friday, 26th July 2019


• CLEM Alford (What Europe has done for us – not so good, July 18) criticises Camden leader Georgia Gould’s call to stay in the European Union because he believes the 2016 referendum settled the question and that the EU is undemocratic.

Yes, 2016 was a vote to leave. But the leave campaign deliberately did not define what “leave” meant.

Was it to create Singapore-on-Thames or socialism in one state? Should we retain strong economic and personal links with the EU as Norway does or cast off all connexion with our neighbours? Should we tie ourselves to follow the rules of the USA?

Out of the universe of possible Brexits we can leave only on one. Until we have decided what Brexit means a decision to leave can only be provisional. Remaining in the EU is an option until we have a concrete plan to compare it with. That’s how decisions are made.

Mr Alford goes on to repeat the old errors about the undemocratic EU and appointed officials answerable to no one. Did he really miss the European Parliament elections in May?

Camden councillor Luisa Porritt was among those returned in an open direct election held under proportional representation.

The new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is a member of the German Christian Democratic Union, part of the European People’s Party parliamentary group which is the largest group in the parliament.

She was proposed by the European Council, the leaders of the member states. Her appointment was approved by a vote of elected MEPs.

Individual members of the commission will be proposed by elected national governments and then face hearings by MEPs. The commission as a whole then faces a vote when the parliament decides whether to approve it or not. The parliament retains the right to dismiss the commission.

Compare how the United Kingdom found itself with a new prime minister and cabinet this week. Which is the more democratic entity? Underlying Mr Alford’s criticism is a misunderstanding.

The EU is not some imperial power, a “they”. It is a bigger “we”. The EU is a great project that builds a peaceful, free, democratic Europe.

Member states voluntarily pool some of their sovereignty in order to achieve by their common endeavour what they cannot deal with alone, whether that is presenting a common front to Russian aggression, standing up to tech giants, or dealing with the environmental challenges that we face.

It is the EU that gives us as individuals the freedom to live, work, study, retire, marry an EU citizen anywhere on this continent without having to ask an immigration officer for permission.

We are European as well as British. The EU is part of how we realise our identity.

Tottenham Street, W1

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