My apologies for not completing my Letter last week, I simply ran out of time on what was a busy weekend with family commitments.
In a way, this weekend has been just as busy with being out in Worksop yesterday morning on a Stronger In Street stall and them, this afternoon I have been out in Misterton, the first stop on our Bassetlaw Residents Survey. I hope that over the weeks before the Referendum in June, I will get to many more parts of the District but, if you want to fill in the Survey online, you can do so here.
While I always enjoy knocking on doors and talking to residents, especially in parts of the District where I have not been as much in the last few years, as I always get interesting conversations and discussion about the issues of the day, I must say helping on the Stronger In stall was a lot of fun, made even more enjoyable when we were joined by a group from UKIP backed Grassroots Out who were trying to do the same as us. After they saw us they resorted to trying to intimidate us, objecting to us having a Union Flag on our stall and denying that they are “European” (it would be better that they go and learn some geography as well as manners) but it didn’t work and we got a great response from many of the shoppers who stopped to talk with us.
As promised, I am returning to my discussion of the five areas that I suggest should guide your decision on the EU. I have already discussed Prosperity and Opportunity. This week I want to talk about Peace.
If you look back across European history since the middle ages, you will see it has been dominated by wars with many of them between the Germanic Holy Roman Empire and it successors fighting France & its allies for domination of the Continent. These wars have often dragged the United Kingdom into the conflict on side or another. In the last 300 years, we have had the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1802), Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), the Franco-Austrian War (1859), the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and the two World Wars (1914-18 & 1939-45).
Since then, since the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community[i] (the precursor of the European Economic Community) in 1951, Europe has been mostly at peace. More than that, the European Countries that were under dictatorships have nearly all turned into democracies and those that haven’t already joined the EU are queueing up to get in.
This is not all down to the EU but, especially in the Balkans, it has been the EU that has been in the forefront of developing democracy, encouraging trade between former enemies, helping to find diplomatic solutions, defusing possible issues that could lead to fighting. A good example of this is how, by both being in the EU, the United Kingdom & the Irish Republic have defused border tensions during the troubles in Northern Ireland and helped bring about a stable peace to allow leaders from both sides to discuss political solutions.
I am not suggesting that this extraordinary period of peace in Europe will end overnight if the UK leaves the EU but, if our leaving the EU damages it as much as some suggest it will, then there is a chance it will fall apart and the old enmities will re-surface. If those enmities spill over into armed conflict, then. just as in such European conflicts in the past, the UK could well be drawn in to the fighting.
This 70-year peace in Europe (an unprecedented period) is too precious to throw away or even risk throwing away because some in the UK cannot get their head around cooperation & shared sovereignty that benefits us all.