A few weeks ago, Swedish journalist Göran Rosenberg made a welcome appearance on the radio program Good Morning World. Speaking on the European Union and UK’s membership, he said: “A very human reaction to external threats, real and imagined, is to secure a place somewhere, behind a border of any kind, where the threat can not reach; a block, a nation, a continent, the size can vary, as well as the relationship between the nature of the threat and the site’s protective capacity.”
Next week, Brits decide whether their future lies in or out of the EU. He had the following message for them:
“Once outside the EU, Britain will not only be hedged against the Euro collapse, the refugee crisis and all sorts of other threats from the continent […] but also safer, freer and stronger to take on the world on their own. A bit like the old Empire period.
“Some of the arguments for staying are perhaps not much more sophisticated – and they appeal to similar protective instincts. But at least there’s the realization that no nation in Europe can any longer be an island, not a great and once powerful island like Britain. And in this perspective, a flawed EU better than no Europe at all.”
I share this very view. As a Swede, I believe that we would all be better off with Britain’s vital voice around the table rather than away from it. Yet, the shameless populism of the London’s former Mayor, Boris Johnson, has led many in Britain to believe that this is not the case.
Johnson is a political animal – tactics come before common sense and consensus. It is with a slight smile that he denies in interviews that his true goal is to bolster a bid to lead the ruling Conservatives when David Cameron steps down. Johnson’s decision to campaign for Brexit may help his chances, but it may also be, in the words of his own father, a “career-ending” move.
Either way, the decision signals a remarkable double-standard. As Mayor of London, Johnson used his voice to stand up for the environment, but many of his green investments were financed by the EU. Regional funds from the EU in his time as a Mayor amounted to more than £290 million.
I approached Johnson’s office two months ago to inquire about on other funds, such as university research programs, that it received from the EU – and I’m yet to receive answer. (Universities and students will be hit hard by withdrawal, given that the UK, as a whole, benefitted from £1 billion of research programmes in 2014.)
If the UK chooses to leave, London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan will need to find new sources of finance to deliver a climate change action program and ensure cleaner air for Londoners (it is needed: London breached the annual pollution limits just one week into 2016). But as well as funding, it’s important to consider the benefits of collaborative policymaking – particularly on global issues like climate change. The EU’s policies on climate and energy have done a huge amount for the UK.
Through its implementation of Environmental, Energy and Climate regulations, the EU has also provided important support for NGOs and voluntary organizations. This dangerous combination of a weakened ‘third sector’ and the absence of EU legislation poses a huge threat to the Paris Climate Agreement.
So, please take the time to reflect on this before you give your vote on June 23.
@KajEmbren on Twitter