Alan Dean

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stansted North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Learn more


by Alan Dean on 17 June, 2016

Two weeks ago today I was asked by Stansted’s Business Forum to put the case for the UK remaining in the EU. The following are my personal reasons that I offered to forum members over breakfast.


When I lived and worked in Indonesia in the early 1980s I was often asked “Where do you come from”? I would usually reply “England”. Why? Well, I reckoned they knew where England was and that claiming it as an origin gave me some cachet. Five years earlier in 1975 I had voted in a referendum for the UK (including England, of course) to stay within the then European Economic Community. There are a few main things I remember about the 1970s:

– the first is that I was married into a partnership that has lasted and overcome any differences my wife and I have had from time to time, as one does in most successful marriages

– secondly, about that time Britain was known as the sick man of Europe, largely because it had failed to adapt to a post imperial world and to modernise itself. We had stood aloof from the Continent as it had become more successful. I voted in 1975 for what I saw as the future – greater international interdependency of economic, social and environmental matters; matters that affect us and that were then and are now, in my opinion, better dealt with in a partnership; and a partnership that needs common rules if it is going to work.

The EU and its forerunners in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were set up to bind together nations that spent the first half of the 20th century tearing each other apart. I am thankful for having lived through a period in Europe that has not been dominated by demagogues, populist politicians and dictators without real answers to the problems of the time. I do not want to see those once incredible gains thrown away on a Brexit agenda that seems to be more a leap into the dark on a dangerous mystery tour than a worked out alternative.

And, yes, I am comfortable with the necessary and unavoidable sharing of national sovereignties where needed through rules to make the EU work; even if improvements are needed.

The UK has been successful over the last 40 years because it has shared its talents, its ways of doing business, its people, its many products and its national sovereignty to help make what is the world’s largest single market and partnership.

Contrary to popular myth, decisions of the EU are not made by faceless bureaucrats any more than they are made by our own civil servants in the UK. Civil servants – just like council officers – propose legislation. They don’t impose it. They don’t decide it. Within the EU system, decisions are made by ministers from all national governments through the Council of Ministers and by elected MEPs through the European Parliament.

Yes, Brussels and Strasbourg are more distant than Westminster, but in my time in local government I have heard numerous complaints about our own Westminster and even that Essex County Hall is too remote. It’s often too easy for us to blame someone else for this country’s misfortunes rather than seeking ways to make democratic arrangements work better.

In my experience, it is better to fight for change from within rather than walk away and risk making things worse. I don’t always get my own way at home. Nor can the UK always have its own way, whether in or out of the EU; and probably less so if out. But who knows? I’d rather not chance it.

I said I am an Englishman. I am also a European. I enjoy freedom of movement within the European Union, though I’ve only taken advantage of that as a tourist. I’ve never had a job in the EU outside Britain, but I expect some of my grandchildren will.

This is about my grandchildren’s future more than mine. It will be good for them if their own country – England, Britain, the UK, call it what you will – stays in partnership with its continental neighbours. I fear isolation and division. The world is increasingly unstable, so better not to make it worse. My grandchildren will be disadvantaged if the UK turns in on itself and reduces its relevance and its influence.

I really can’t vote for some short-term feeling of satisfaction that the worries of the world will somehow go away on June 24th. So I invite you to vote on June 23rd to remain IN the European Union: – for the good of all European peoples

– for the good of future generations

– so that our own politicians can stay at the table and work from within to adapt and change Europe for the sake of all our futures.

Alan Dean, The Ash Public House, Burton End, Stansted

3 June 2016


2 Responses

  1. keith says:

    Did you run this past Rolfe or was it all your own work?

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