At a meeting of the full City Council on 18th April, the Council unanimously backed a Green motion, proposed by Green Group Leader Cllr Craig Simmons and seconded by Cllr Elise Benjamin to stay in the EU. The full text of the motion can be found here. The Greens accepted a 'friendly' Labour amendment to secure cross-party support on this important issue. Read the full text of Craig's powerful speech here...
Full text of speech given by Cllr Craig Simmons
"You have seen the long list of reasons set out in the motion that the Greens believe justifying an IN vote. I welcome that the Labour Group have offered to second – this is an occasion where we need unity. Not because I don’t believe that the good people of Oxford will overwhelming vote to stay in Europe but because we need a high turnout in Oxford to counter the little Englander mentality that seems to prevail in the rest of the region.
On 22nd April, Earth Day, the Paris Climate Accord – the document agreed in principle by 195 countries in Paris last December is open for signing. There is more that links this event with the EU Referendum on 23rd June that may first be apparent. And it provides what I think is the greater justification for the UK to remain in the EU.
The Paris Accord and the founding pact of the European Union, the post-war European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty, share much in common. Both involve the coming together of many nations to agree a common set of goals. Both involve fossil fuels. Both challenge long held views on governance and sovereignty. And both were signed in Paris.
I consider myself a Euro-sceptic (I am similarly sceptical of the long term impact that the Paris talks will have) but I am equally convinced that both the EU, and the Accord, offer the best hope we have to make progress on issues dear to my heart. [Of course, that is not to say that I won't continue to vigorously oppose deeply flawed agreements such as TTIP (which, incidentally, the UK Government supports - so the issue of EU membership is irrelevant)].
Many have written about the what the fragmentation of the EU, whether through BREXIT or other means, would mean for the UK. Only today another report came out stating the cost to UK households, more than £4,000 a year, of leaving.
But History also has much to teach us and the reasons behind the formation of the ECSC provide some interesting parallels. The ECSC brought together France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries with the aim of organising the free movement of coal and steel as well as common access to the sources of production. Although on the face of it an economic union, the main driver behind the ECSC was to secure peace in the region in the aftermath of a bloody second world war. French minister Robert Schuman, architect of the ECSC, could not have been clearer. His aim was “to make war [in Europe] not only unthinkable but materially impossible".
Is it too much to speculate that the break-up of the EU could see us slide back into a Europe of Nations fighting over the allocation of resources or over a race to the bottom on social and environmental legislation?
The fact is that global agreements whether the Paris Accord, agreements on fair trade or human rights cannot hope to survive in an unstable world. Good governance and peaceful co-existence are necessary pre-conditions for successful cooperation. And the European Union is providing just that. So, setting aside the many good social and environmental regulations that have come out of the EU, we should remember the reasons why the EU was founded in the first place. To bring peace to Europe. Long may it continue and let the people of Oxford turn out in unprecedented numbers to vote to STAY IN EUROPE."