“This is undoubtedly the most important vote Britons will ever cast in our generation; and Muslims should use their vote for a stronger Europe.” President of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, made the remark when questioned about the 23 June referendum to decide whether Britain remains in, or exits the European Union.
While acknowledging that the EU is not a perfect body, MAB believes Britain will be much stronger as a member state for the following reasons:
A vote to remain in Europe will, in the present climate, safeguard the integrity of the United Kingdom. A vote to leave will revive calls for independence in Scotland and other British Isles.
The EU plays a major role in consolidating and upholding democratic values. Its Convention of Human Rights offers a viable framework that ensures every European citizen is treated with dignity and respect. Claims that the Convention is a foreign imposition are manifestly wrong, given that the chair of its drafting committee was Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, a distinguished British lawyer.
Apart from personal security, the EU also helps with ensuring environmental security by placing strict limits on various types of pollution.
Membership of the EU has brought other benefits. There are 1.4 million Britons living in EU countries. Approximately 3.5 million British jobs are directly linked to our membership of the EU’s single market. Exit from the EU would put 1 in 10 jobs at risk. It would, further, jeopardise the interest of 74 per cent of British exporters and over 300,000 British companies who operate in EU markets.
Exit from the EU runs the risk of perpetuating rifts in British society, which would increase levels of hate crimes against British Muslims. The past few years have witnessed a disturbing rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in our society. Sadly, the recent London mayoral elections have highlighted the extent to which the vilification of Muslims has become part of mainstream political discourse.
Similarly, issues relating to immigration and refuges should not be conflated. Recent studies show that between 2001 and 2011 immigrants from the original 15 EU countries contributed 64% more in taxes than they received in benefits. They contributed more than £20bn to the UK public finance during the period. While as many as 37% of UK-born workers were receiving some kind of state benefit or tax credit; European immigrants were less likely to collect them by nearly eight percentage points.
Furthermore, employment rates of the foreign-born workers have been lower than those of their UK-born counterparts. This was especially the case during the period 1993 to 2007 when the employment rates for both male and female migrants was lower than the corresponding rates for the UK-born.
After the financial crisis of 2008, the UK recorded low and negative employment growth for both UK and foreign nationals. However, in the period up to 2013 the majority of employment growth (92 per cent) was accounted for by UK nationals. Thus, a study by the London School of Economics found no evidence that immigration actually responsible for the mass displacement of UK workers or lower wages.
As for the refugees, they are the victims of war and persecution. So, while membership of the EU offers opportunities for a multilateral approach to the crisis, leaving the EU still does not relieve Britain of its international obligations toward them.
Staying in the EU ensures freedom of movement within EU countries and The European Arrest Warrant protects the individual’s right to justice should the perpetrator of a crime flees the UK to another EU country. Even consumer rights are enhanced by membership of the EU – the reason we are entitled to a 14-day return on any product we purchase is because of EU consumer laws.
Not only has the EU contributed to the health of our economy and environment; it has given Britons opportunities to live, work and study in member countries. It has made Britain more diverse and safe. For all the above reasons the MAB believes leaving the EU will not only result in economic, environmental, corporate and security risks, but could also seriously undermine social harmony in Britain. We are stronger, safer and better in Europe.