Glenys Kinnock: A vote to stay in the EU is a vote for mercy in action


British people are among the most generous in the world in supporting international development and humanitarian aid.

Millions of British people of all ages, backgrounds,and political inclinations show every day  their commitment is “mercy in action”. They do it in the most practical way with contributions to charities in money and kind and through voluntary work. It results in donations that match or exceed any in the world.

They understand that individual action goes hand in hand with action by governments and international organisations.  

“Giving to show you care” is a vital, personal way of adding to the efforts of Governments and organisations to relieve suffering and to overcome the basic causes of endemic poverty across the World. It’s why international development is a vital part of the debate in the EU Referendum.

Whether inspired by ethical or religious conviction and from the humane instincts of decency it demonstrates empathy with the  women, children and men who are destitute, victims of warfare, epidemic diseases, climate change and disasters of nature.

What’s really significant is that it is sustained year after year. That’s because people understand that humanitarian emergencies have deep causes. They are rooted in long term systemic underdevelopment which often worsens the effects of an emergency.  

In my view all those who practice “mercy in action” should join the campaign for Britain to Remain in the EU in the referendum on June 23.

Inside the EU, the UK is a leading partner in the most developed regional co-operation association of democracies in the world, the largest international development donor, and one of the biggest and most effective providers of humanitarian aid, on the planet.

Inside the EU, we have the right to help to shape policies and priorities, to extend the achievement of our national efforts, to amplify the voice of the UK in the UN and other global institutions, and – by those means – to increase the impact of the charitable agencies striving to free our fellow human beings from want, ignorance, disease and disaster.

Outside the EU, we would lose the essential strength of combination, the reach of development efforts, the power to directly influence the direction and emphasis of strategies.

The generous spirit of the British people would doubtlessly continue. But Britain walking away from the EU would gravely diminish its effects. Every giver, every fund-raiser, every volunteer who wants to combat and conquer underdevelopment should be aware of that.                                           

When you look at all the challenges facing our world then “Going it alone” just won’t do. We have to act together to combat the causes and effects of poverty, want, climate change , chronic disadvantage and inequality. Effective action to tackle realities of economics and politics, of war and peace, of globalisation and interdependence must be multilateral.

On June 23 there will be no “pick and mix” option on the ballot paper. We are in or we are out.

An “in” vote makes us part of the EU, the External Action Service, the Development policy, the European Community Humanitarian Aid Organisation (ECHO), which supports NGOs and the UN and co-ordinates the work of European Civil Protection bodies in emergencies.

It also means that the UK is in the world’s  largest tariff-free single market which has the international trade negotiating capacity commensurate with that size, and vital to development.

An “out” vote loses all of that capacity for essential collective action. We would exchange a central role for a marginal one, influence for isolation, rights for desires.

It is surely in the national and international interest of the UK to continue to magnify the effectiveness of our development work by being significant players developing the the policies and on the ground work of the EU.

British engagement in the EU greatly expands the results of our country’s commitment to international development and humanitarian aid and extends our relationships and influence. It helps us to safeguard our own economy and security, to benefit from access to co-operation and commerce, and to exercise real sovereignty – our effective power to act in defence and advance of our needs.

Politically, economically, morally and realistically we simply cannot afford to abandon these strengths by leaving the European Union.

That is why we must Remain.


This is a shortened version of an article for the Labour Movement for Europe.

Glenys Kinnock is a former teacher, Labour MEP for Wales, Co-President of the EU-Africa, Caribbean Pacific Joint Parliamentary Assembly, FCO Minister of State for Africa and the UN.

More from LabourList