Ethics Corner 2016

As the referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union approaches, and bearing in mind that I have spend most of the last twenty-five years working more closely with European institutions than most people have any reason to, I feel it my duty to present what I hope will be a well-balanced assessment of the ethics issues involved. My aim is not to tell people to vote one way or the other, simply to provide some clarification that might assist in this and other decisions of similar significance.

As a charity, we believe that people are stronger together than apart: our entire ethos depends on that principle. It can be shown that the sustainability of the human race depends upon that, not just at a European level but on a global scale. Without sustainability there is no future for my descendants. For me, therefore, the question of “in” or “out” – or of any similar decision in whatever context – reduces to this: which option better aligns with the principle of sustainability through supporting each other in pursuit of the common good? If you apply that criterion, then all other considerations become irrelevant because without sustainability, decisions and politics are ultimately meaningless.

globePeople differ in their perceptions of what is “common” good. People pushing to leave the EU, for example, are giving greater weight to UK citizens than to citizens of other Member States. People wishing to remain are by implication giving equal weight to everyone. More generally, people usually think of “common” as applying only to the largest group of people with whom they can readily identify. For some that’s the UK, for others it’s Europe, but the key point is this: for sustainability it’s the world. In deciding which way to turn, therefore, we need to ask ourselves one very simple question: which option comes closer to taking into account the interests of everyone – the rich, the poor, the dispossessed and everyone in between – in the world?

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