Brexit is undemocratic, built on lies

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First up, let’s get one thing straight, as if you haven’t already guessed it; I hate Brexit. I hated the idea of a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. I hated what David Cameron stood for, as a politician, and I hate what the Tory party stands for. I voted Remain in the 2016 Referendum, because while I believe the EU needs major reforming, I think Britain is – and will become – little Britain – if it isolates itself from Europe. And I will be proved right. On that I am certain. I never wanted my blog to be political, because I have reached an age where politics exhausts me, but I consume politics daily and my desire for this blog was always to peel back the bullshittery of the press and really talk to people, just talk – get their story. Here’s something I wrote 18 months. All this Brexit stuff still hurts. I don’t think Brexit will happen, because I don’t think it’s possible. And I will state, that I believe Brexit is the most undemocratic thing I’ve seen in my lifetime – top of the list. A referendum is advisory. It could have been used as a tool to for push for changes with the European Parliament, to work with other countries to inspire change where change is needed in the European Union. If Remain had won I would say the same thing. It’s nothing to do with sides. It’s about the lies of politics, and how it all affects us all.

June 26, 2016

 I wrote the article below on the 4th February 2016 and posted it on my other website

In light of Thursday’s devastating Referendum result and the chaos that’s ensuing, unravelling on a minute-by-minute basis, with the politicians in Westminster eating each other alive, with the violent murder of Labour MP Jo Cox at the hands of a Right-Wing anti-Europe nutjob such an achingly awful recent event; with racism in rural England rearing its ugly head and the United Kingdom splintering and shattering into a form that none of us want, asked for or recognise; with Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister calling for a second independence referendum for Scotland, I wanted to republish my blog on the EU Referendum below.

Tomorrow – the 27th June – 15 years ago – my father died. He was at the coal face of Britain’s new membership into the EU in 1973. He was a Francophile and a Europhile. He would have been highly disturbed at what’s happening right now. He lived in France for the last 12 years of his life, and prior to that – for 30 years, he lived in Brussels, Belgium.

This blog is for you, dad.

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When asked my nationality, I say I am European. If language experts try to stop me, and tell me that this is an incorrect use of a nationality definer, and that nationality comes down to nationhood – of belonging to one nation with its laws and cultural idiosyncrasies, I ask them to be patient with me and let me explain. I was born in a little country called England but moved to Europe when I was a small child. I was a student at the European School of Brussels, Belgium in the 1970s.

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Although I was born in a country called England, I became European the moment I went to live in Brussels as a young girl. In the 1970s the European School in Uccle, Brussels was a school that housed around 4000 students. We were separated into country streams, so we learned alongside our peers hailing from the same original country as us (sometimes), but had to learn certain subjects in other languages. In every other respect, in the playground, in detentions, during lunch-breaks we were Europeans together, with no marker as to where we were from other than tentative and failed attempts at learning the languages of our friends and sometimes becoming fluent in those languages and sharing our own.

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My best friends included Dutch kids, Italian kids, German kids, French kids, and other kids from Africa and the Middle East whose parents were working at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. I became bilingual in French and learned Italian, Dutch, German and Latin at school. In the playground, we flirted with the idea of all speaking Esperanto – to dispense with this hard-work language stuff. The idea of the Euro and European Union passports was still a long, long way off but both would have pleased us enormously in the 1970s, as further proof of our need to ‘be together’, Europeans together. As a small child, I became aware that the concept of being English or British sat firmly behind the concept of being European. Your country of birth became something you whispered back then, something you were shy about. You felt an innocent pre-teenage pride at being a European. You whispered the country of your birth, as something that didn’t really matter.
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And that’s the point; that the final game-plan of the European Union – whether or not it really was just a financial experiment (a Common Market or the European Economic Community – EEC) or the finance bit was just used as an overarching tagline for togetherness, the ideology had found a place in the hearts and minds of young children in the capital of Europe, Brussels. As young children, then as teenagers, we had zero concept of the grand plan of the European Union. It didn’t matter to us. What mattered was the bond we were forming with other teenagers from other European countries. Our world was one of friendship, parties, excursions, innocent love affairs, fun with language, struggles with academic subjects; it was an intoxicating world of comradeship where geographic boundaries simply didn’t exist. This was the mission of the European Union and the European School; that we become European citizens first and foremost.
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So what, you might say, with a big shout out that I was some super-privileged, ignorant kid who was being fed through some weird propaganda machine, but bear with me a little longer because there’s a point to this passionate plea. Something has been forgotten in the ‘to Brexit-or-not-to-Brexit’ scenario, and the point is that human togetherness, the stripping away of cultural and language barriers, the fostering of cooperation and the ending of those divisions that spark wars and tragedy has to be the only way to progress beyond war, disaster, hatred and backwardness. The European Union idea has, so the media tells us, been sorely tested in recent years and months; the Greek crisis, the shutting of borders by some Eastern European countries to those escaping the horrors of Syria and other politically unstable places, has allowed those who are against the EU to justify their Brexit wishes; but these horrors have been perpetrated by governments, not the general European populace. The voices of ordinary European women, men and children remain largely unheard.
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The issue of terrorism, Charlie Hebdo and the Paris attacks on 13th November 2015, cannot be brought into the In/Out European argument; that terrorists operating in Europe were/can be/are European-born but murder Europeans is irrelevant, and is in itself dangerous propaganda and fear-mongering. Terrorism affects all nations.  To use these examples to show that the European experiment has somehow failed, is to miss the point completely. But use these examples, people will.
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I had conversations with two sets of people recently – older people – who said there was no such thing as being a European. Europe was a geographical landmass comprising many countries with separate identities – as if I didn’t know – and as such it was impossible to be a European. I had to respectfully disagree. I consider myself European before British. The reason? My upbringing made it impossible for me to see a difference between the overarching community that was pulling European countries together and my own country of birth. My first boyfriend at the European School back in the 1970s was Italian but European. This meant he was born in Italy but his present and future were rooted in a Europe that wanted to be war-free and prosperous. As a kid I didn’t see the people I was mixing with – the kids – in terms of their nationality, only in terms of their Europeanness.
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The European In-Out question in the UK is always framed in terms of economics, except for two points which relate to laws and free movement of people. Cameron has renegotiated his EU wish-list to get it to a place where it has become a ‘protecting the UK’s money’ wish-list; recalculating child benefit for the absent children of European workers living in the UK; limiting top-up benefits for Europeans working in the UK; sticking to the Pound Sterling and getting any money spent on helping out other European economies in distress paid back; protecting the financial service industry of the City of London; removing excessive bureaucracy that impedes market competitiveness.
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Only two points of Cameron’s wish-list are non-monetary; protecting the UK Parliament’s right to make its own laws and its sovereignty; strengthening the right of country parliaments to object to pieces of EU legislation; and putting down some limits on free movement around the EU, for example in the case of a non-EU national marrying a EU national.  This really means then, that despite Cameron’s wish to stay in the EU, his referendum is about money and being separate to Europe in almost every sense of the word. Cameron wants the UK to stay in Europe, but his wish-list make it difficult to believe this.
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Our lives are about so much more than just money. This is being lost in the In-Out question and in Cameron’s stance against Europe. The European Union was born after the Second World War with the idea that countries that trade together will be friends and not go to war, but quickly grew to encompass every facet of what makes us all human, to include free movement, human rights, justice, health and opportunities. This is what a European identity is about, recognising life beyond the economic; recognising and celebrating our unique smorgasbord of cultures, ideas and values; recognising the fight and aspiration of each culture within the European Union as it seeks out progress, a shared European ambition.
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