Smell the difference

Alan Alexander gives his views on the in/out EU debate and vote on June 23

AS you walked down the gangplank from the ferry it hit you immediately. This was definitely not Britain. The waft of coffee and Gauloise were unmistakeable, this was definitely France, Britain was another land. And it’s no different now as you travel across Europe you instantly know that you’re in another country. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain or France each one of them has preserved that very special characteristic that belongs only to that country.

When we first voted to join the EU I was seriously worried that the tentacles of large multinationals would spread across the whole of Europe affecting conditions of employment and wages. Nevertheless on balance I decided to vote in. Now many years later time really has moved on and multinational companies are absolutely everywhere in the world let alone in Europe. They dominate what we want, what they think we want and many of them have turnovers and profits to match a medium sized country. As we’ve seen recently they also do their very level best to avoid paying taxes in the countries where citizens like ourselves help to make their profits. In other words we make a contribution, they do their best to avoid doing so. There’s no doubt that the two international conferences in London in May, one on tax avoidance and the other on money laundering will attract a lot of attention and many governments and companies will be watching eagle eyed . We can but hope that following on from the Panama papers revelations about the misdeeds of banks and multinationals that there will be a serious change in the way governments control commercial activities in their own countries. This result could be increased revenue to the various exchequers to the benefit of all of us.

So here we are again once more faced with a decision whether to remain in the EU or to step out bravely into the unknown. I know that there are many things about my own country that I would like to change, things that the government carries out without consulting me. I’m sure some of us feel the same about the decisions sometimes made by the Council of ministers. Personally I love Europe, I’m gratified that neither I nor my children have had to be called up to go to war in what was once a hotbed of conflict. I love the differences between the countries and the way in spite of all the interaction we still speak our own languages and do things in our own idiosyncratic way.

Over the last 30 years there has been increasing pressure by politicians in power and by companies to try and erode employees rights and make it difficult for trade unions to stand up for their members. Meanwhile under the EU umbrella we are protected at work, entitled to holidays and parental leave and are not allowed to work so many hours that we could harm ourselves or someone else. I’m convinced that if we go down the Brexit route there will be a rapid rolling back of our benefits as we try to indiscriminately attract companies to come to UK, we’ll become the sweatshop in the Channel.