Alex Orr: The EU is not perfect – but we will miss it

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The EU has, on the whole, proven to be a success ­story. As we go through the process of Brexit we will come to sorely miss our membership of it.

Let us not forget the move to ­create what is now the EU was born out of a Europe that had just come out of the Second World War, a ­conflict that had nearly destroyed the ­Continent and split it between two spheres of influence.

In a desire not to repeat such destruction, there was a great deal of momentum towards European co-operation. The vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production, the weapons of war. This led firstly to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community the following year. It was also the forerunner of several other European Communities and also what is now the European Union.

It has proven to be highly successful in transforming a previously warring continent after centuries of bloodshed.

Nations across Europe have forged closer links to reach common ­solutions to ­common problems, keeping the peace and enhancing our collective security.

The EU gives the freedom to live, study, work or retire in 27 countries and many millions from the UK have taken advantage of this. EU migration to our shores has in turn benefitted our economy and society.

Being able to trade with our EU partners via a single market of more than half a billion consumers, the largest in the world, unfettered by tariffs and trade barriers, is essential to many Scottish businesses. The EU accounts for almost half of Scotland’s international exports and membership of the single market is worth an additional four per cent of GDP to the economy.

Guaranteed rights to paid holidays; maternity and paternity leave; equal treatment for part-time and agency workers – all these are ­contingent upon EU membership. We also enjoy ­consumer protections such as the right to refunds on goods, lower phone roaming charges and travel protections.

Co-ordinated action among 28 member states ensures cleaner water and beaches, cleaner air, tighter controls on new chemicals and reduced waste. Being part of the wider EU is also the best way to address major global challenges – climate change, the threat of terrorism, energy security, the migration crisis and economic problems.

For those fighting for freedom and democracy across the world, the EU has been an inspiration. For those member states ­formerly under the jackboot of ­dictatorship and ­Communism, membership of the EU acted as a beacon of hope.

It does no harm in being reminded what we have enjoyed, the precious gift of more than 60 years of peace, stability and prosperity in a previously war-ravaged continent.

The EU is not perfect – but by leaving it we are sadly rowing against the tide of history.

Alex Orr is managing director of Orbit, a communications business in Edinburgh.