The Case for the United Kingdom
Recently there has been some debate from members of the public in Northern Ireland as to the Benefits of the United Kingdom, this got my old grey cells thinking so I have listed a few which comes to mind :
1. Welfare State System : This was introduced from 1906 with continuous further reforms and is responsible for the Health, Education, Employment , Social Security for citizens of the country. Today it is recognised as one of the strongest welfare systems of any country in the world.
The UK is made up of 4 devolved health systems and provides universal and comprehensive access to care free at the point of use without discrimination and based on need and not the ability to pay.
The UK spends more per capita on health care than the EU average.
Life expectancy at birth was 81 years in 2015 up from 78 years in 2000.
The UK comes in 6th as the best education systems within the world.
It maintains and creates massive employment opportunities for its population. Currently Unemployment stands at 4.2%
Social Security includes a range of benefits to the population including State Pension, Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Child Benefit, Housing Allowance etc.
2. Economy : The UK is the 5th largest economy in the world with a GDP of US$ 2.6 Trillion and US$ 39,899 GDP per capita. From 1955 to 2017 GDP Growth Rate in the UK has averaged a 0.60 yearly increase per anum.
3. Stable Democracy : The UK is a Representative Democracy which regularly holds free elections and is home to vibrant free press, while the government enforces robust protections for political rights and civil liberties.
Under the UKs system of “Devolution” the UK Parliament has granted certain powers to subnational legislatures, augmenting the political representation of regional populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The UKs freely elected officials make and implement national policy and corruption is not pervasive. The Bribery Act which is considered one of the most sweeping pieces of antibribery legislation in the world came into force in 2011.
4. Civil Liberties : Freedoms of assembly and association are respected, Civic and nongovernmental organizations operate freely. Workers have the right to organize trade unions, which have traditionally played a central role in the Labour Party. The rights to bargain collectively and strike are also respected.
A 2013 World Bank study concluded that the UKs freedom of information laws are reasonably successful.
Freedom of religion is protected in law and practice. A 2006 law bans incitement to religious hatred, with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
5. Rule of Law : A new Supreme Court began functioning in 2009, transferring final judicial authority from the House of Lords and in 2015 the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, a sweeping legal reform law came into effect.
The police maintain high professional standards and prisons adhere to international guidelines.
Immigrants and their descendants receive equal treatment under the law.
Press freedom is legally protected and the media are lively and competitive. Daily newspapers span the political spectrum.
The state owned British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is editorially independent and competitive with its counterparts in the commercial market.
The government does not restrict internet access. New online criminal offenses were introduced in 2015 under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act including the dissemination of images of a naked person without the subject’s consent, also known as “revenge porn”.
Academic freedom is generally respected, however the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act of 2015 requires schools and universities to prevent students from being drawn into terrorism and to vet the remarks of visiting speakers as part of that effort.
6. Personal Autonomy : Citizens generally enjoy freedom of travel and choice of residence, employment and institution of higher education, Economic activity is not excessively influenced by the government.
The UK Passport is ranked 4th best in the world which gives access to 174 countries without a visa.
The authorities actively enforce a 2010 law barring discrimination on the basis of factors including sexual orientation and gender reassignment while women receive equal treatment under the law.
Abortion is legal in Great Britain though heavily restricted in Northern Ireland.
Same Sex Marriage became legal in 2013. Religious organisations are permitted to refuse to conduct same sex marriages.
The Modern Slavery Act which increases punishments for human traffickers and offers greater protections for victims became law in 2015.
7. Transportation Network : There is 245,000 miles of roads and 10,250 rail networks with many regional and international airports making the UK one of the biggest transportation hubs in the world.
8. Housing & Shelter : There are about 25 million homes in the UK of which 7 out of 10 are owner occupied. In 1918 8 out of 10 homes were rented privately compared with 1 in 10 now. Living Standards and Shelter remain good for the majority of the population.
9. Arts, Literature, Music and Sports : The UK hosts and is seen as a dominating world power house in the provision of such facilities.
10. Defence : The union makes the other British nations substantially safer than would otherwise be the case. Since the 1801 Act of Union no part of the UK has been successfully invaded and occupied. The union pools resources for the defence of the British Isles.
11. Culture & Diversity : Diversity is the UKs greatest strength which has held together the historical cultures of the Celts, Anglo Saxon, Norse, Norman, Gael from the nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. With the further recent settlement of other cultures of people into the Kingdom, the UK is a very strong multicultural society with a vibrancy of an inclusive society today.
Written by : T.E. Lawrence
Sandy Row, Belfast