Why Brexit Britain must always remain true to the EU’s values – leader comment

A global illiberal elite wants to destroy the EU because it champions democracy and human rights. All liberals must strive to ensure the post-Brexit UK picks the right side.

The Flag of Europe is also a symbol of democracy, human rights and the rule of law
The Flag of Europe is also a symbol of democracy, human rights and the rule of law

It is ridiculous to write a love letter to your partner of nearly half a century on the day of your divorce. However, the affection that many people in Scotland and the rest of the UK still have for the European Union must be stated loudly and clearly.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the European Union has been a powerful force for good in the lives of everyone in this country for 47 years. Its values are our values.

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The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights speaks of a Union “founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice”.

This simple fact, the acceptance that each and every one of us are individuals – something we all know with absolute certainty about ourselves, but which some seem to have trouble recognising in others, particularly those of different nationalities, religions or spuriously defined ethnicities – is the basis of liberal philosophy.

Whatever the EU’s faults, at the most fundamental level, it means well, its heart is in the right place.

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In 2012, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU in recognition of its “advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee noted that after 70 years in which Germany and France had fought three wars, this was now “unthinkable”; in the 1980s, the former far-right dictatorships of Spain, Portugal and Greece all joined, with democracy made a condition of membership; and then, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, people who had suffered under far-left communist dictators flocked to become part of this union of freedom and prosperity. “The stabilising part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” it added.

There is, however, a sinister alternative to the liberal philosophy championed by the EU. One of its chief proponents is the Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose agents were responsible for the Salisbury poison attack that failed to kill its targets but caused the death of an entirely innocent woman, Dawn Sturgess. Russia’s military has also supported Syria’s brutal tyrant Bashar Assad and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, where armed conflict continues.

In June, Putin declared liberalism was “obsolete” and that multiculturalism was “no longer tenable”. He idiotically claimed liberals allowed migrants to “kill, plunder and rape with impunity” as if all migrants are criminals and liberals don’t believe in the rule of law he flouts so openly. It is no surprise that Putin enjoys warm relations with Donald Trump or that the US President’s favourite British politician is Nigel Farage.

Brexit is a devastating defeat for liberals in the battle for the hearts and minds of the world against the global illiberal elite. Putin and Farage both hope it will lead to the destruction of the EU entirely.

The task now for all those who share the values of the EU – democracy, human rights, the rule of law – is to remain true to them and to work to ensure the UK stays on the right side of this historic struggle.