I was in Strasbourg, in 1979, when the first group of directly elected Euro MPs journeyed to the Parliament Building to take up their seats. The mood was optimistic. History was being made. We all felt that the EU’s new democratic mandate would help it develop into an exemplar of international co-operation.
The 410 MEPs in the Parliament included some political heavyweights, including national leaders (Leo Tindemans, Willy Brandt and Simone Veil), and future Commission presidents (Jacques Delors). Political and intellectual titans all, they stood for nations that had fought against each other in the Second World War, and were now determined that it should not happen again.
That belief in the positive benefits of co-operation between Nation States to resolve their problems, after centuries of rivalry and conflict, has been my lodestone ever since, and why I will be voting to remain in the EU on 23 June.
All the major world problems that fill our daily news media – from terrorism, to migration, recession, conflict, poverty, famine and disease - can only be solved by international co-operation. And Britain’s part in helping to resolve these issues is made infinitely stronger within the EU than without.
If Britain chooses to walk away from Europe, we are in turn, abrogating our own duty, and destiny, as a solver of problems, a healer of conflict, and a beacon of tolerance, liberty, decency and the best of democratic values.
For sure, Britain has, historically, stood aloof from the European landmass. It has chosen instead to act as a check and balance against any one nation, France, Germany, Spain or the Low Countries gaining hegemony and threatening British interests. More recently, Britain has been a bridge between Europe and the USA.
Today, however, our historic role must change. Globalisation requires us to embrace the world’s biggest trading bloc, the EU Single Market. We need to cooperate in business, social affairs, education, science, policy and economics to compete with our global competitors and raise living standards across the whole of thr EU. And yes, one quid pro quo is pooling some of our sovereignty.
Finally, the EU is a bulwark against both Russian expansionism in the East, and the surfacing of that nasty, xenophobic viciousness that has found its apogee in the foul murder of Jo Cox MP. UKIP will gain if Britain chooses to leave the EU on 23 June, and that would sustain its European equivalents, the front Nationale, Jobbik, Golden Dawn and Pegida, among others.
Make no mistake, politicians sympathetic to these abhorrent views stand to gain from the turmoil that a Brexit vote would bring. Although there are many principled opponents of the EU, they cannot escape the fact that they share a platform with really unpleasant people who want to spread discord, disharmony and violence against their fellows.
A vote for Brexit risks letting UKIP in, or worse, and we cannot and must not give any succour to these throwbacks to fascism.