cover_solidarietaBeing British, I am been asked a lot what I think about the so called British question and Brexit… obviously this is not an issue that Eurodiaconia will be working on as such!  However, much of the debate around the question concerns the issues of social rights, particularly access to child benefits and ‘in work’ benefits for low paid workers – and social rights is something that the membership of Eurodiaconia cares about – in all countries in Europe, not just one and not just the 28 of the European Union.  In among a lot of hot air on both sides of the argument the debate on Brexit does shine a light on the huge social divergence in Europe.  The scale of inequalities is huge and specific things like minimum income and access to services are incomparable in many ways.  There is also a sense that social concerns are simply no longer a priority, neither at European nor national level and that people are simply units of productivity.  A debate is needed on what now constitutes social Europe and what Europe needs to be to meet the social needs of people all over the continent – EU citizens or not.  The increase in asylum seekers, refugees and migrants shows the disparity between domestic social policies and migration policy when it comes to accessing services.

Discussion about indexing child benefits reminds us that across Europe there are too many children living every day in poverty and the debate around in-work benefits tells us that still people are not paid a living wage nor does social protection provide an adequate minimum income.  It should not take an issue such as Brexit to bring these points to the fore of the political debate in Europe.  They should always be at the fore, always a priority for heads of state.  If Europe is not social, how can we expect it to grow?  If we are not social, how can we lecture other parts of the world on their social policies?

No doubt over the coming months there will be much posturing over ‘in or out’ but I hope we will all seize the opportunity to broaden the debate into one about the type of Europe we want – one that puts people first and ensures their social wellbeing.

Have a good weekend