It seems strange to be writing this on the very eve of the EU Referendum vote. I’ve wrestled with writing something for weeks now but this debate has made me so angry, depressed, upset and fearful there just doesn’t seem to have been a right time to do it. I’ve feared I’d slip into some sort of blinkered, personalised rant; filled with the very ire that to be fair the majority of the last 10 weeks of campaigning has been littered with.
This has not been the United Kingdom’s finest hour. Language on both sides of the debate has been at best highly charged and at worst fuelled by hate. I would argue that this type of discourse hasn’t started with the EU referendum campaign. The bile, veiled threats and gutter politics has been growing for well over a decade now. We’ve just seen a crescendo over the past 10 long weeks of which I personally, haven’t seen in my lifetime and I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from it in the near future whatever the result. More on that in a future blog I feel!
Putting all of that aside though, yes, I am a remainer! Feels good to write that. It’s a perfectly innocent word. To continue to be. I’m in and not out. I’m a British, English, Scouse European in no particular order of merit. I’m happy to embrace all sides of those cultures together with any remaining trace of Irish ancestry embedded within my own and many Liverpudlian’s DNA.
There’s no treachery there. There’s nothing unpatriotic about that. Nobody can seriously claim otherwise.
There are lots of reasons why I’ll be voting to stay in the EU. I won’t go through each of them here as over the last 10 weeks people far more eloquently have put arguments across that I’ve shared through social media. I will just touch upon the ones that I feel most strongly about.
Firstly, I’m from Liverpool. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the European Union saved the city of Liverpool. The EU saved it from a Tory government with a Thatcherite policy of “managed decline”. Under that government Liverpool qualified for European Objective One status. Reserved only for the poorest parts of Europe as a whole. Just think about that for a moment. Our own government let Liverpool and other areas of the UK rot until they were officially the poorest regions of the entire EU. So much for the 5th most prosperous economy in the world! Europe bailed us out. You can’t walk around Liverpool without walking past something that is there only because of European funding. It’s a vibrant centre that millions visit. The bars and hotels are full every weekend and there are just so many of them now! It’s not Utopia but just what would have happened to Liverpool and other vast swathes of neglected, typically working class areas, without all that money from Europe? (Note to Frank Field: Can you actually remember how run down Liverpool and the City Region were? Are you sure you’re in the right party? Maybe you should take your own advice and “think the unthinkable” of a Merseyside devoid of all those European millions begging for the crumbs off the Tory table?)
Secondly and following on from above, the UK will not be able to get a better trade deal than almost an entire continent. There’ll be no special treatment for us from the rest of Europe if we decide to go. Quite the contrary. We’ll be made an example of to quell any other nations who may question their European status. The “5th largest economy” is a misnomer. The majority of that wealth sits with the top 2% of our population anyway and that’s not because of Europe! To suggest we’ll still have access to the European market on our terms because we’re Britain and they need us is nonsense. Leaving Europe will be like a bitter divorce and asking for free trade on only our terms would be like asking your ex-wife to have free access to her home and complete use of all the facilities whilst expecting to continue to make love to her on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Bank Holidays!
Thirdly, you simply have to look at who wants us to leave. On the face of it that’s a point based on personalities but it’s far deeper than that. It’s about their political DNA. Anyone contemplating voting to leave the EU has to at least stop for even a second and think about the long-held beliefs of those campaigning for Brexit. Why are this lot so keen to leave the European Union? Really, think carefully about it. Why?
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith, Nigel Farage, Priti Patel, Paul Nutalls of the UKIPs, Toby Young, Katie Hopkins, Neil Hamilton, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Rupert Murdoch, Liam Fox, Nigel Lawson, Chris Grayling etc. Not one of them have done anything for or have any good will towards the working class. Between them their policies include, privatising the NHS, dismantling the BBC, scrapping workers’ rights, commercialisation of the education system, relaxing gun laws, denying climate change, further austerity, reducing public services even further, supporting bankers’ bonuses (yes those people who caused the financial crash in the first place!) banning satire, scrapping social housing, attacking the disabled, protecting tax havens, scrapping support for legal representation to those who cannot afford it, defending zero-hours contracts… The list goes on.
Why are those people with their track record so desperate to leave the EU?
Finally, I’ve seen so many people viewing this referendum as some sort of vote to get rid of the Conservatives. There’ll be no General Election as a consequence of this vote. We have fixed term parliaments now. You might see the back of Cameron and Osbourne only to usher in the new dawn of Johnson and Gove and strengthening the position of Farage and the far-right.
This isn’t about anything other than our future in Europe, potentially our future as a United Kingdom and protecting our children and grandchildren’s rights, mobility and influence on our own continent and beyond.
It really is no time, with all the issues facing us as a planet, never mind Europe, to be isolating ourselves on an opportunistic right-wing whim.