This week, the future of Britain has taken what seems like a dramatic turn. For the last few weeks I have been busy trying to convince anyone in my circle to vote Remain, updating my facebook page or liking various bits of information that were meant to prove that Britain is better off in the EU or that the politicians were lying or using over inflated, positively twisted or simply out of context arguments. It would appear that most of you were Remainers too and the arguments missed the other side inputs; at least the sensible arguments and they are a good few. Without them we can become bogged down in our beliefs and, as we are seeing now, intolerant of the other side.
You could argue that I had a very personal reason to support the Remain campaign. As a French national but a citizen of the UK for 40 years, I do not have the right to vote in general elections and referendums. That is a bone of contention for me and for many years I have been hoping that eventually the EU would legislate to give voting rights to EU citizens like me who have put down firm roots in another EU country. No chance of that now.
I have, from as far as I remember, always felt like a citizen of the world and not of a particular country. So another reason is my wish to see the ultimate goal of the EU towards a federal state of Europe come to fruition; something I know most people bulk at. It was unimaginable 20 years ago, but with the nearing completion of the EMU, technically sealing the economic, financial and fiscal arguments, all that will remain is social cohesion; for the heart to follow the brain; possibly the tallest order. But with the English language spreading fast amongst the youth in Europe (all my nephews and nieces speak fluent English) and with their homogenised living lifestyles, it makes the dream of a one nation stretching across Europe a whole lot more plausible in the future. The idealist and optimist that I am sees Europe as one country with a myriad of rich cultures but a common goal, the PPP; Peace, Prosperity & Progress through the sharing of wealth, discoveries and opportunities, Perhaps that’s what young British people were voting for, knowingly or by intuition. Now, it would seem, that dream has moved on for the British youth too. Or has it? Nothing is ever set in stone. People have the power to change things, anything if they join together, preferably across borders.
I was as angry as the next person when the Leave camp looked like a hard cookie refusing to crumble under the pile of “evidence” and “lies” which I was happy to share with my colleagues. But Alan, the only brave Leaver to challenge me was having none of it. So last Wednesday evening I gave some thought to his arguments. By Thursday on my way to the ladies, I jokingly told Alan at work that the Remainers were voting today and his turn would come on Friday. “Don’t care what you say, am still voting Leave” he said. “You know, you’re probably right” I heard myself say before disappearing quickly into the security of the ladies.
I could list here a million reasons why it was un unfair campaign, run for personal reasons by unscrupulous politicians preying on the knowledge that, let’s face it, hardly any of us care to really look at what the EU does or does not do for Britain, let alone the rest of the EU countries. Most of us, Remainers who have had the chance of a good education, have jobs and got used to the freedom of travel across Europe and the conduct of business free of the mound of paperwork and tariffs that used to be in existence think that it’s all down to being in the EU. We also think that we are more cosmopolitan in our views and more sophisticated than those “feckless” leavers. We gave little thoughts to those living in depressed areas, surrounded by an influx of “foreigners” who push their schools, housing chances and job opportunities to the limit. The crumbs of money sent from Brussels in those areas compared to London could not mitigate 20 years of Government indifference. It was easy in those areas for cunning politicians to make the EU a scapegoat. When it seems that you have little to lose, shooting yourself in the foot is no big deal and you might think the gamble is worth it.
When people whose values and arguments you respect because they are always facts based and thoughtfully put together say they have voted Leave, you also have to ask yourself some questions and engage in the debate. It is amazing how many things you remember opposing vehemently, years or months ago but then conveniently forgetting or diminishing in your workings of why it is “imperative” that we remain in the EU. I am still a Remain supporter, but today, in the light of all the vitriol that is being thrown at the Leave camp, I’d like to mention a few reasons that make sense to leave and that have hardly been talked about in the debates.
Britain is not fully part of the EU; not in the Eurozone, not in the Schengen agreement and benefits for many exceptions of all kinds. By 2027, the EU hopes to have achieved its aim of Economic and Monetary Union. In the light of what happened to Ireland, Greece and others, this probably can’t happen fast enough. Since Britain will never join the euro (London being the financial capital of the world http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/11884783/Rule-Britannia-London-overtakes-New-York-as-the-worlds-best-financial-centre.html that leaves it out of what could be a massive economic power. So, in the eyes of Leavers, getting out at some stage is inevitable and doing it now will save years of heartache and will give Britain the push it needs to prepare for it and work out its own future.
What about my biggest argument, the peace that is intrinsic within countries of the EU. If the EU manages not to lose other countries and speeds up its EMU, then the countries with the more fragile social and economic issues are supported and peace within the EU will prevail. For the rest there is NATO. As to the EU being a force for compassion and effectiveness, well the disaster of Yougoslavia, the disgusting arrangements recently struck with Turkey to keep migrants out by paying Turkey to, in the words of one of my friends, “throw them back over the fence” is little comfort to the Leavers. “European governments leading the charge in the ‘war on terror’ have bought the right to turn their backs on its casualties for a cool £4.6 billion by striking their deal with Turkey. In exchange for the funds and loosened visa restrictions on Turkish citizens, the European Union has been able to violate its international obligations and outsource its refugee crisis. For its part, the EU has promised to ‘resettle’ one refugee from Turkey for each one deported back from Greece, trading them like gambling chips across the table until they reach their cap of 72,000: a fraction of the two million refugees already there.” http://www.redpepper.org.uk/the-eu-turkey-deal-is-a-disaster-for-refugees/
I was also reminded of how Germany handed out 1 million passports to immigrants from Syria without consultation. As we know that’s 1 million european passports, not German passports. How undemocratic is that, he said. I am all for welcoming refugees and I believe Europe can cope with more, but for those who will suffer most from the influx, it’s understandably “I want my country back”.
At the end of the day, all the wrongs that can happen as a result of Brexit across Europe in terms of the rise of the far right and the blaming of foreigners can all be dealt with by a strong united voice of the people. Don’t wait for Governments, revolt when needed, stick your neck out when needed, don’t be a Little Englander or a selfish self-centred European.
I’ll say no more on Brexit. Back to reality and raising funds to feed all my 26 orphans in Kenya next month. That in my view will have far more impact long term than whether or not we are in the EU. Probably better for Africa too.