For many centuries the United Kingdom has traded with its European neighbours. A well-known and effective precursor of the European Union was the Hanseatic League - set up in 1241 by cities bordering the North Sea and the Baltic, the League promoted international cooperation, established reliable seaborne links and developed secure warehouse facilities.
Its success riled potential competitors. The Dutch were especially annoyed and ensured by the sixteenth century that the League lost its dominant position. In the United Kingdom the League’s legacy is preserved in Kings Lynn where medieval buildings identify its importance.
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, understands the issues. As a Polish citizen he knows only too well how Hitler oversaw the murder of millions of his compatriots and how after the Second World War the doctrines and privations of communism were imposed from Moscow.
He and the people of Eastern Europe recognise the United Kingdom as a friend and a necessary bulwark which must be strengthened if they – especially Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine - are to maintain their cultures, freedom and independence.
It is increasingly clear that home grown political parties, internet activists and extraneous nation states would welcome fragmentation or dissolution of the European Union.
That would be disastrous. The Union has proved itself as an effective force for good. It has established CE standards, encouraged and funded educational and scientific collaborations and facilitated inter-governmental transfer of information and malefactors.
It has set out sensible protocols and standards promoting both inter-state and international collaboration and has supported learning on a previously unimaginable scale.
Certainly, it has problems, but with good financial management and effective political oversight they can and must become remediable.
Whenever and wherever I have travelled in Europe over half a century, I have been made very welcome. I have been recognised as representing a country respected as a bastion of decency and integrity, a country which has deployed service personnel and support facilities into Europe when required and which can be expected to do so again if necessary. .
The EU and the UK need each other. Schuman, Churchill, Adenaur and Thatcher understood that collaboration across a spectrum wider than ‘trade’ was critically important – and more so now with such a range of people recently settled in or settling into the continent.
Emlyn Williams has been a Conservative Party activist for forty years – during which the European Union has promoted and supported numerous mould-breaking ideas and worthwhile projects. He acknowledges that the EU could be better managed and believes that the United Kingdom remaining in Brussels and Strasbourg would facilitate any necessary redirection and renewal.