Cheap Flights: Many Brits now enjoy lively long weekends in places like Tallinn and Budapest, often for no more than the cost of a couple of good nights out back home– hotel and flights included. The EU’s deregulation of air routes and open internal borders are a big part of what makes these continental jaunts possible.
The European Health Insurance Card: This handy, free perk allows you to receive “on the spot” medical treatment anywhere in the EU for any unfortunate affliction picked up on your cheap weekend. It saves all of that messing about arranging travel insurance we once had to do. Or, worse, feeling sick all over again when you remembered you had forgot to buy the insurance and would have to pay full whack for the treatment.
Roaming Free Mobile Use: Coming soon - the EU is about to abolish roaming charges for member state citizens anywhere in its territory. This will enable you to make that guilty 2am call to your partner from a club in Poznan without getting a phone bill a few weeks later for more than cost of the flight.
Living Abroad & Retiring to the Sun: A similar number of Brits are living, working or studying elsewhere in the EU thanks to the “freedom of movement” scheme as the UK hosts from our fellow member states in return. They range from young people taking advantage of the lower tuition fees at Dutch universities to pensioners spending their savings on San Miguel by the Mediterranean instead of winter heating bills at home.
Taking Care of Gran: One of the kindest, most capable of the carers who looked after my Gran in her last years in a nursing home was Polish and able to be in the UK due to “freedom of movement”. She was one of thousands of people from other European countries doing similar, essential jobs for which we have a shortage of workers in Britain. Thanks Magda.
Better Football Teams: “Freedom of movement” has been a boon for our football clubs too. Several of Leicester’s key players this season, for example, would not have qualified for the work permits they would have needed to play in Britain if they were not EU citizens.
Holiday Pay & Maternity/Paternity Leave: None of the leading “Leave” campaigners, such as Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith, are noted for pursuing the rights of ordinary working people. It is hard to imagine that their vision of turning Britain into Albania includes providing reasonable levels of holiday pay and maternity/paternity leave. Fortunately, such things are already secured for us by EU-wide agreements.
Jobs: Three million British jobs depend on us being part of the EU’s Single Market. The “Leave” campaigners suggest some of these jobs could be saved after exiting the EU but they cannot explain how many or how they would do it. Multi-millionaire “leave” campaigner Arron Banks does helpfully say that “freedom has never been so cheap”. It might seem cheap to him. But unemployment is not my idea of freedom and I would not like to pay that price.
It’s Boring: As I may have proved with this article, the EU is a staggeringly dull subject. I know this because I spent many hours in Brussels trying to stay awake through tedious meetings as a British government representative to the EU. But boring is a good thing in this case because Europe was violently exciting for centuries until the EU was formed. The famous Chinese phrase “may you live in interesting times” is a curse, not a wish. Which brings me on to….
Staying Alive: Whilst working in Brussels, I realised that I was a bored, faceless bureaucrat and would never be remembered by anyone. But I also understood this was preferable to the fate of previous generations of people like me who had been sent to pursue Britain’s interests in Europe. They are immortalised in the numerous nearby war cemeteries around Belgium.
Paul Knott is the author of The Accidental Diplomat: Adventures in the Foreign Office