On 23 June, voters will decide in a referendum whether or not the UK continues to be a member of the European Union. The result will affect all our futures. We represent a number of academic disciplines, as well as a range of political persuasions. We strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to register and to vote, whatever their position in the debate. At the same time, it is our sincere view that Britain should remain in the EU. In this letter, we outline our reasons for supporting continued membership.
First, the economy. Britain is presently part of the world’s largest single market: nearly 50% of British trade is with the rest of the EU, and it is estimated that over three million jobs in this country are connected to membership. But the EU is far more than a free-trade area. Membership gives UK citizens the right to live, study and work in 27 other European countries. It guarantees progress towards equal pay for men and women. It provides us with common environmental and food-safety standards, security of food supply, consumer protection and a floor of basic employment rights. The EU also provides significant resources for scientific research that benefit British universities.
Second, politics. The EU is a force for progressive values. It champions our civil and political rights, and has outlawed discrimination based on gender, race, sexuality or disability. Although it has its shortcomings, the EU is subject to more democratic accountability than any other international organisation. Crucially, membership allows us to influence EU laws. It also allows us to play a role in reforming the EU’s institutions and procedures. Were Britain to leave the EU, it might be allowed to stay in the single market, but it would no longer have a say on deciding its rules or shaping its future.
Third, people. The right of free movement for EU citizens hugely benefits the UK. It boosts our economy and enriches us culturally. Universities in particular benefit from the rights of students and world-class researchers and teachers to move freely. Moreover, many hundreds of thousands of British people live, study and work in other EU countries. We will all be poorer if we lose this right.
Fourth, regional peace and stability. The EU has helped to keep the peace in Western Europe since its foundation. Before 1945, Europe was regularly devastated by conflict and war. Economic interdependence now makes war unthinkable between member states. The EU has also promoted the consolidation and spread of liberal democracy, in post-war Germany and Italy, in post-authoritarian Spain, Portugal and Greece, and most recently in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. For these reasons, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
In short, the economic, political, cultural and strategic benefits of remaining in the EU are enormous. Membership underpins peace and prosperity in our part of the world and vastly improves our lives. To us the choice is clear, which is why we are supporting remaining in the EU.
The list of signatories, yours truly included, may be found here.