Whenever I have conversations in which I am defending Britain’s membership of the EU, I am always put in mind of the “What have the Romans done ever done for us?” scene from Life of Brian.
“All right, but apart from access to the world’s largest common market, mechanisms to prevent governments breaching citizen’s rights, environmental protections to defend against the effects of climate change, and the longest period of uninterrupted peace in European history, what has the European Union ever done for us?”
It is, granted, a lot easier to be against the EU than for it, and it is an organisation that still needs considerable reform to make it fit for the 21st century — and I’d start with the European Parliament, the very body in which UKIP have set up their money-grubbing shop. But I maintain that a) the advantages of being in the club still outweigh the disadvantages, and b) such reform is better pursued from inside.
But in looking at what the EU does do for us, it is perhaps worth looking locally. What has the EU done for Southend?
One of the biggest developments for Southend as a town in recent years has been the massive expansion of London Southend Airport. The London part, admittedly, is stupid, pointless and misleading, but the airport itself is very impressive. I have used it twice for short hops to the continent for holidays, and I have nothing but good things to say.
I won’t, because this isn’t an advert for the airport. But think of the jobs that it brings, employing local people in the various aspects of daily airport business. Think of the money which is brought into Southend by putting it on the map as a tourist destination, not simply from the east end of London but all of the European destinations which it flies to.
Alongside the obvious bonus to Southenders of cheap, easy holidays on their doorstep, it has also brought money and business into the town.
Why do I bring all of this up? Because this expansion has been driven by EasyJet, the budget airline. They fly to fourteen locations from Southend, and to what do they credit their success as a company?
“EasyJet is a product of the EU’s deregulation of Europe’s aviation market. Without deregulation we would not exist.“
Funny that. So without the EU, EasyJet wouldn’t be able to operate. And if we left the EU, it would likely have an extremely detrimental effect on Britain’s tourism industries — and on Southend in particular. Worth remembering, when you head to the ballot box, that this is just one of many ways in which UKIP — and some Tory — policy would hurt Britain and Southend.