A Norfolk man abroad explains why you should vote to keep Britain in the EU
- Credit: AP
I have three friends back home in Britain. One of them is planning to vote to stay in the European Union referendum. One is voting leave. The other is tormented by doubt.
All three have fine minds, bundles of common sense and want the best for our country.
As I am not allowed to vote in the referendum because I have lived on mainland Europe since 1984, I will have to convince at least the doubting Thomas to vote on my behalf.
Most voters will be reeling under the tsunami of facts and figures, anecdotes and neat turns of phrase, being fired at them from both sides of the argument.
The anti-Europeans have some valid concerns. The European Union is struggling to solve the refugee crisis; there are seemingly endless negotiations with the Greeks about their debts and border controls; the system of agricultural subsidies is wasteful; both the democratic and the undemocratic institutions of Europe are unloved; there is money spent; sovereignty – whatever that is – is shared.
The anti-Europeans go on to say that our security will be guaranteed by Nato, that there will be a lot less red tape for business, that our island rock will keep the migrants at bay, that we can be like Switzerland or Norway and keep the trade agreements in place and at the same time make our own decisions about everything that needs to be decided, for example the shape of our vegetables, the volume of a pint glass and other less or more important matters.
It would be a fine thing to be able to bombard you with facts and figures you haven't already heard. I did try. Contacting Eurostat to obtain some clear data is like disappearing down the corridors of the 'Kafka School of Statistics'.
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The grey mice in Brussels work diligently, are not particularly corrupt, take on many intimidating evils such as corporatism and terrorism on our behalf and have created real trade freedom. However, Eurocrats are absolutely dreadful at presenting their own achievements.
I discovered a new word recently: ' The Euromyth'. These are distortions invented by sections of the British press in the past 40 years in order to give the EU a bad name. Anything you have ever read regarding bananas, cucumbers, barmaids, miles, pints, sausages and so on will have been Euromyths.
For some reason no defence was ever offered but the accumulated negative effect on reputation has been unfair and bad. And no longer funny.
For example, has the EU made it easier or more difficult to trade foods? I import organic foods from the United Kingdom and sell them in different EU countries.
The food legislation means that all European consumers are now protected from fraudsters because the definition of organic farming and processing is described in detail and is the same for everybody involved in the market.
The export process is easy and transparent with a minimum of red tape. The market is large enough in this way to make innovation viable. This is why a small business like mine requires an institution like the European Union.
We recently started exporting products to Switzerland, the apparent utopia of the campaign to leave the European Union. The fuss and bother associated with providing the necessary paperwork for every sale is onerous. It costs time and there can be no discrepancies or mistakes so it involves tedious and costly procedure.
It is very hard to recognise any economic argument for leaving the European Union that holds any kind of water.
And since the end of the second world war there has been peace between all the member states of the European Union.
We have never had peace like that in history. It is of course absolutely correct that Nato has had a lot to do with maintaining the peace. But coming from a military family I can guarantee you will find no democratic soldier, officer or general who believes that force alone brings lasting peace.
There has to be a political solution. The mission statement of the European Coal and Steel Community had nothing to do with the market share for steel or the price of coal. Old protagonists gathered round a cramped table in Luxembourg and declared that their real aim was 'to make war impossible and materially unthinkable'. Reconciliation and forgiveness were the deeper themes, not punishment, not retribution. Give them all some posthumous medals because they achieved that which had eluded us for centuries: lasting peace.
Almost every family in Britain lost someone in either the Great War or the Second World War. Their legacy has been 70 years of peace and prosperity based on essential freedoms and human rights. If we respect their sacrifice and value their vision then we should vote to stay. It is certainly what Winston Churchill would have done and what our fathers and grandfathers would have done if they were with us now.
We should therefore vote to stay in Europe to demonstrate our solidarity with valued friends in turbulent and dangerous times. Solidarity brings peace which brings prosperity.
•Jeremy Deacon grew up in Norfolk and went to Wymondham College. He now lives in The Netherlands where he is a food marketing expert. The views above are those of Mr Deacon.