Brian Wilson: Why I changed my mind over the EU

Brian Wilson, former MLA, seen at an election count earlier this year.
Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Brian Wilson, former MLA, seen at an election count earlier this year. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

In 1975 I was secretary to a group called Labour against the Common Market. This consisted of a small number of dissident NILP members who were opposed to Harold Wilson ‘s decision to remain in the Common Market.

Now I am campaigning to remain in the EU as I believe it would be a disaster for our economy and in particular for working people should we now withdraw.

I admit I was wrong in 1975. Since then we have had forty years of growing standard of living greater than that of France Germany and Italy. We have also benefited from a period of unprecedented peace and stability in Europe based on the EU. At a time of increasing tension throughout the world it would be folly to destabilise the structures which have worked given us peace for more than sixty years.

Our main concern was that we believed it would be a free capitalist market with no protection for the workers. In hindsight this was not the case as the introduction of the Social Market has lead to many improvements in working conditions which would be lost if we vote for Brexit.

Benefits such as paid holidays and parental benefit, equal treatment for part time, fixed term, and agency workers, equal pay and improved health and safety conditions. These and many other employees rights are enshrined in EU law and were opposed by the Tory party. It is inevitable that a new free right wing Tory government would try to water down many of these hard fought rights. In addition the Tories have opposed much of the environmental legislation which has improved our waters and reduced pollution. These benefits could all be lost.

As a democrat I am extremely concerned at the level of debate on the referendum. Most of the arguments have been based on figures which have little substance or credibility. Projections of the impact in twenty or thirty years are totally irrelevant given the changes in the world economy and globalisation. Many of the arguments are based not on facts but on emotions with a hint of racism.

One of the most hotly disputed issues is the level of savings achieved by withdrawal. This is greatly exaggerated by Brexit supporters who suggest could be used to improve public services particularly the NHS. Such a claim has no credibility since the leaders of BREXIT have been enthusiastic cutters of public services, tax cutters for the rich and most support the privatisation of the NHS.

There is little agreement on the facts but the vast majority of economists both pro and anti do agree that withdrawal would lead to an initial downturn in the UK economy as foreign investors are concerned about the uncertainty and investors who located in the UK to take advantage of the single market look to move elsewhere.

Brexit is madness. We would be gambling with our long term and economic future and peace by destabilising Europe. I shall therefore be casting my proxy vote to remain in the EU. Unfortunately as I am still at Euro 2016 I will not be able to vote in person.

Brian Wilson, Former MLA North Down