The threat of Brexit - I sincerely hope the British people do not let it materialise tomorrow - calls upon us to move forward in deepening European integration. We need to step up and fight against Europe's neo-liberal austerity that created insecurity by destroying jobs and aggravating inequalities, and to fight against Fortress Europe that cruelly closes borders to those who beg for protection. Isolationism, intolerance and exclusion will only feed radicalisation and escalation of terror in our societies and globally.
This referendum is far from being just about the UK in the EU and it is far from being just about the UK: it deeply affects Europe as a whole and will have repercussions worldwide. That is why I was in Norfalk this weekend, with my Labour MEP colleague Richard Howitt, to support the IN campaign: I believe that we need a more united, solidary and democratic Europe and for that we must have the UK’s contribution: a pro-European UK can be crucial to make the changes the EU so badly needs.
There are many British young people who do not conceive a future without the European Union. They went on Erasmus and volunteering programs abroad, they were not forced to go to war, they study and work with colleagues from different nationalities, they travel and feel first-hand the benefits of being part of a Union that brought peace to a Europe tormented by centuries of wars. The result of the referendum will depend, to a great extent, on these young people not staying at home today and showing in the polls a UK that does not give up on the EU, but instead pushes towards the reforms needed and helps making it stronger and more effective in the global regulation.
I am, on my own, very critical of the EU. Constructively critical: I strongly feel that the EU needs reforms in both its structure and policies, and push daily for more democracy, more transparency, more accountability, more coherence and more effectiveness.
It is important to recognise that, in several aspects, we are quite far from living up to our European project and values. We also need to acknowledge that the dissatisfaction and mistrust felt by many citizens will not come to an end tomorrow, whatever the result. We need to get rid of the neo-liberal deregulation policies which created unemployment, social exclusion, inequalities and injustices, and explain the political resentment and the feeling of insecurity felt today by large sectors of our societies. People who may be instrumentalised by xenophobic and intolerant populism and radicalism, which are pushing many into violent extremism and even terrorism.
Disunity and distrust have been prevailing too often, because we failed in promoting solidarity and tolerance. Hatred and the extreme right propaganda have already made victims, as the brutal murder of MP Jo Cox tragically illustrates.
This referendum may be, above all, about the kind of society British people want to live in. Whatever the outcome, we need to use it as the decisive impulse for all of us, Europeans, to move ahead towards a more just society and a rules-based world we want to live in, in peace. For that we need to enforce the words Jo Cox was never afraid of using: “We have far more in common than which divides us”.
Ana Gomes, MEP