On the anniversary of D-day, we need the European Union more than ever

The Guardian-4 years before

The next day we have our last chance to register to take part in one of the most important decision in our lives. Why do we make a link between those dates?

last chance to register It is because tens of thousands of our citizens gave their lives in that war, and the first world war, so that we and our friends in the rest of Europe could live in freedom, peace and harmony. What is no... the European Union came into being as a way of bringing the nations of Europe together and stopping centuries upon centuries of European wars, bloodshed upon bloodshed. The white rows of gravestones on the cemeteries of France and Belgium are testament to their sacrifice.

European Union As the heroes of D-day found all those years ago, working together is the way to defeat evil and pave the way to peace

The reality is that since Europe came together into a trading and economic bloc the dream of peace has been largely realised and that where there has been conflict in recent decades, as in the Balkans, the EU has helped to end it.

We believe very passionately that it would be a reckless leap into the dark to walk away from an organisation that, despite all its imperfections, has helped us to live in peace, and has made us safer from the threat of terrorism.

Many of you will take a different view, and we respect that. What we ask today is that you vote. So, if you have not already registered, time has nearly run out. You have until midnight on Tuesday. It’s simple. You can do it on your mobile phone – just Google “register to vote”.

register to vote And if you registered, that’s not enough. You have to turn up at the polling station on 23 June and vote. It’s your future. Don’t let others decide it for you.

We believe there are many good economic and social reasons why you should vote to stay in the EU.

But before you consider those, think back to D-day. We did not know it then, but the war had only a year to run. Many many more of our brave allied troops were to die in Operation Overlord and the Battle of Normandy. They died to keep our continent safe. We owe it to our fallen heroes to think carefully before we cast our votes. If you believe, as we do, that the EU has at least contributed to our safety and security, think carefully before turning your back on it.

Operation Overlord Battle of Normandy The Stand Up For Europe campaign was launched because we should not be apologising for Europe, but thanking our lucky stars that there is an organisation covering virtually the whole of the continent that can bring people and their leaders together to discuss our common problems.

Stand Up For Europe campaign We understand people’s worries about immigration, and we are not in favour of a free-for-all. We agree that migrants should not be able to claim benefits on arrival in Britain.

But where migrants work hard and pay their taxes, they should be welcomed. Our health service would be in a sorry state without them.

The EU is a package. Freedom of movement, which means we can travel where we like and work where we like all over Europe, goes alongside the single market which gives us access to Europe’s 500 million consumers. One goes with the other, and even if we were out we would still have to be in the single market and allow freedom of movement.

The leave campaign is somehow suggesting we could simply walk away and negotiate our own trading arrangements outside the single market. We know, and they know, that they are talking nonsense.

Just 71 years ago, Europe was at war. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that working together, sitting at the table together, stops the wars. Let’s not turn away from it.

For us the lowest moment of this referendum campaign was when a prominent leave figure compared the ambitions of the EU with those of Hitler. It was desperate, and beneath even the leave campaign. Our heroes fought against that regime, the most nationalistic and xenophobic in history. It would be dangerous to assume that the sentiments that gave rise to that hateful tyranny cannot resurface. But it is far less likely that they will if the EU stays intact, with Britain as an influential and important member.

compared the ambitions of the EU with those of Hitler Europe needs to stick together, and the world needs to stick together, to combat the threat of terrorism and rogue states.

The development of technology is largely beneficial to the world but it has already made it a more dangerous place. If bombs can be triggered by the use of mobile phones, if terrorists are thinking of using radioactive material in their campaign to bring down the present order, then we cannot afford to go it alone. We must share our resources to prevent the worst happening to our world. The world may now be in its most perilous century. We pray we get through to the end of it. But we won’t if we don’t work together, tackling the haters and extremists.

The world is a smaller place. The speed of travel and new communications technology means that more than ever we are a community of nations in which our young people, in particular, feel increasingly comfortable.

Surely this is how we should continue. Cooperation between nations means advances in science and medicine.

As the heroes of D-day found all those years ago, working together is the way to defeat evil and pave the way to peace. Now it is the way to keep the peace.

Harry Leslie Smith, 93, is a popular author. He served with the RAF in the second world war.

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