Life Before the EU: Were They Really the “Good Old Days?”
F or those of you that were not around when the UK joined the EEC, or were too young to know what it meant, let’s cast our mind back to the “good old days” of 1970s in the UK.

In some aspects it was a dank and depressing time if you were blue collar working class, and not much better unless you were amongst the elite when compared to the freedoms and choices we have today.

From memory, times were a lot simpler, thats because there was not so much demand, there was not so much choice and because of the lack of choice; the mindset of the suppliers of products and services were simple. This pervaded throughout society; there was a mindset and indifference borne from the war. There was an acceptance that life was finite, and the attitude to health and safety was somewhat less important than it is today.

It was apparent at all levels of society be it at work or at play. This apparent indifference was because it was still ingrained the national consciousness that a generation ago we were being bombed on a daily basis.

There was no sector that was left untouched by an ingrained sense of “them and us” regardless of who you were or where you came from. Your immediate neighbour could be your friend or your enemy but in the working class communities there was harmony in the sense that during the war, it was your neighbour that would be the first to dig you out if you were bombed. The unions looked out for the workers and the establishment looked out for us all within the greater scheme of things.

This however was tinged with the sudden and yet seemingly overwhelming influx of immigrants from the former colonies of the subcontinent and caribbean. The older generation were welcoming, and so were the youngsters but in a climate of unrest, with IRA bombings, and civil disobedience due to poor industrial relations, an oil crisis, a financially constrained nation, quality jobs and housing in short supply, the same old issues were presenting themselves just as they are today.

The instinct to “baton down the hatches” due to the underlying fear of Britain being alone in the world post war, post imperialism, and the economic decline caused by poor industrial relations.

“I was industrial editor during the decade of non-stop trench warfare between the unions and the government in the 1970s”. (Peter Sissons)

Britain was struggling to hold on to its identity, during a time of huge change and mass immigration driven by necessity and a possible acknowledgment that our colonial brethren were more familiar and trustable than some of our European neighbours, given the fact that an Iron Curtain had split the European continent along a line supported by opposing doctrines and a nuclear arms race that was out of control. This line had divided the world which flared up in proxy wars across the globe.

This was also a time where the USA was embroiled with civil unrest post the Vietnam War, along with the oil crisis, the threat of the cold war fear of the enemy within and cultural upheaval from black-exploitation and new musical genres that were seemingly upsetting the status quo. The status quo had changed, the USA just as is today was the global superpower as was the Soviet Union, the era of European colonialist empires had all but ended, now there was a new kid on the block.

There were new players but the game hadn't changed. It was a global chess game, vying for hearts and minds, with territory, resources, and human capital at stake. This was and is still a global game of monopoly but only now the game is even more dynamic, with new players or protagonists entering the fray and vying to occupy the high ground.

Technological advances were driven by the space and arms races; these advances were underpinned by private enterprise and innovation driven by financial reward in societies that worked collaboratively in an environment of freedom and democracy.

Humanity has advanced so much since the end of the second world war, more so than at any point in our collective history and within a century. There is still lots to be done and the younger players are no longer the young upstarts but are the main players.

Entering a free trade arrangement with our friends an allies during this time was a sensible pathway to greater security and prosperity for the large population of Western Europe at the time as there was no appetite for war on the continent again. It was a free trade agreement with the view that greater political union was an inevitable part of that equation.

Britain has led from the front for centuries, former enemies are now among our closest allies, the imperialist past of the Royal Houses of Europe have been replaced with democratic values underpinned with a common value system. That system is in need of maintenance and its for the British people to decide whether ceding a degree of independence and being continuing to be a leader in the democratic world is something we are willing to accede to in exchange for a seat at the table of the EU, or whether we can go it alone in a dynamic digital globalised economic system.

The culture of enterprise and profit in a capitalist society where growth and profit is the key driver is a good thing, we have entered an era where sustainability should be the primary aim because of the threat of climate change and limited resources for an expanding global population. The opportunities for individual enterprise fostered in the UK is a global leader and long may it continue.

There is not a credible alternate system that fosters entrepreneurship and opportunity for growth and collaboration in a meritocratic society and we are best placed to work to humanity’s greater advancement in all sectors with a view to ending poverty, hunger, education and promoting sustainability, equality of gender, faith and orientation. We look forward to a prosperous 2016 promoting SMEs, start ups and entrepreneurs.

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