As Britain approaches a crucial vote on whether to leave or remain in the EU, there is no doubt about how far-reaching the consequences could be for future generations. While some may be reluctant to be drawn into the debate, I believe the stakes are simply too high to remain silent.
Whether the question is seen as an economic one, centring on what Britain gets out of being in Europe, or whether it is the more profound issue of how to maintain security and strength in an increasingly uncertain world, the case is more compelling than it has ever been.
Britain already has the best of all possible deals with Europe. It has access to the single market, where nearly half of UK exports go, while it is not weighed down by the burden of being a member of the Eurozone.
Earlier this month, almost 200 countries came together to agree how best to safeguard the future of the planet in the fight against climate change. As with many such agreements, it is far from perfect — but this illustrates the issue at the heart of the Europe debate: by working together, countries can achieve so much more than they can achieve alone.
The managements of multinationals that have built up their manufacturing capacity in Britain as a spring board into the single market are reluctant to say so publicly because they do not want to get embroiled in a political debate where their customers have divergent views. But ask them privately, as I have, and they will readily confirm it.
The Leave campaign has tried to convince the British public that it is safer to stay out of the single market than to be part of it. It has had the field to itself because the government wants to give the impression that it is holding out for the best deal from the EU. Taking advantage of these constraints, the Leave campaign has deliberately misled the public.
My pro-European views on the British referendum have been greatly influenced by my personal experiences. The year when the Nazis marched into Hungary, 1944, was the formative experience of my life. If my father had not secured false identities for his family, my chances of survival would have been rather slim.
The main lesson I learnt from my father is that it is better to confront harsh reality than to close your eyes to it. Having survived the war, I moved to England in 1947, again under my father’s guidance. It was while at the London School of Economics that I read Karl Popper’s book, Open Society and Its Enemies. I came to see what became the EU as the embodiment of the open society and became its life-long supporter.
That does not mean that I have closed my eyes to its weaknesses and shortcomings. On the contrary, I recognise them completely. Europe cannot afford to be complacent about its security, and neither can Britain.
It would be a strategic mistake of epic proportions to underestimate the ambitions and the intent of President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Europe’s leaders may comprehend the scale of this threat, but so far their response has been characterised more by confusion than by coherence. They must understand that, until their energy dependency is addressed, Russia will not be afraid to use its petro-power to threaten both eastern and western Europe.
Today Europe is under attack on many fronts. If Britain were to leave, Europe would be fighting for its very survival. Those of us who feel passionately have an obligation to make our voices heard, and argue more confidently that Britain is stronger, safer and better off in the EU than it would be out on its own.
The EU is imperfect but it is preferable to a Europe dominated by Mr Putin’s Russia. Europe’s very imperfection is the reason we must endeavour to improve it.
The British public did not share my wartime experiences but I am enough of an Anglophile to believe that it has sufficient historical memory to take the same position as I do. I find reading the British press encouraging in this respect: it seems fully aware of the danger emanating from Russia. I strongly support Britain staying in the EU, not only for economic but even more for political reasons.