More than just trade

As so much of the debate about Europe has simply been focusing on the single market, it’s worth recalling that the EU is about much more than trade.

When we joined the EU (then the EEC), we actually left the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) because we wanted more than free trade: we wanted to join the political framework set up for neighbouring European countries to be able to cooperate on all kinds of issues when they decide it’s advantageous to do so.

Since then, we’ve developed EU cooperation on a host of subjects, each one approved beforehand by out national parliament. For example, we cooperate on:

  • research and development, pooling resources and avoiding duplication in research programmes to get best value for money on, for instance, medical research (update: this is one reason why the UK’s universities are overwhelmingly in favour of EU membership)
  • transport links
  • foreign policy, so that (when we all agree) we can speak in unison and amplify our voice on the world; when we don’t all agree, countries go their own ways as they always have
  • climate change, where a solitary action by is alone would achieve little, but common action at the level of a continent (and the world’s largest market) can achieve much more)
  • police and justice cooperation — where, notably, the European arrest warrant has enabled us to secure the return for trial of 49 of the 65 most wanted fugitives from British justice, and where Europe-wide protection orders mean that when our courts give protection to a woman from an abusive former partner, it applies across Europe so she can go on holiday or work abroad without fear
  • civil law, so that, for example, wills and contracts are recognised across Europe without further ado
  • student exchanges, such as the popular Erasmus programme
  • protecting migratory birds, something that can’t be done in one country alone
  • working together on overseas aid to avoid duplicating efforts
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