To EU or not to EU (that is the question)

This last weekend I did the usual things people like me do. I went to Waitrose wishing I’d brought my Aldi bags so people would regard me as “dangerous” and “a maverick”. In my new found capacity as a garden-renter I pulled up some weeds, watered some inexplicably expensive plants I’d been forced to buy and used some mint from my new herb-garden to add something extra to my boiled potatoes. I also wore shorts, with converse and socks. Like I said “dangerous”.

It was all going rather well, I’d read The Guardian, Independent (sport only) and then flicked around on Lifehacker.com to discover how I can become, well, even more me when the doorbell rang. It was a Leave campaigner.

The bald 60 something man was very jovial and he, like me, expected that the interaction would last less than 30 seconds. He’d ask me if I could help, I’d lie and say I’d think about it and then he’d leave happy that a tiny step had been taken. It’d be like the Oxfam people all over again just with less guilt about children dying as a result of wanting to get back to, well, anything.

“Hello, I was wondering if you knew which way you were voting in the upcoming election” he said, smiling and handing me a flyer. “Oh I think so” I replied with a knowing smile. “Right” he said, taking out his clipboard on which a list of houses with either ticks or crosses was fixed, “can I ask which…” It was at that point that something broke in me, I looked down at this flyer in my hands, at the lies printed there for all to see, at racism and mistrust disguised as fact and I thought, no, not today, we’re going to talk about this.

The conversation lasted 20, maybe 25 minutes, all conducted on my doorstep with both of us feeling irritation but, towards the end, perhaps admiration towards the other.

It didn’t start well. After he’d explained that he’d lived in Spain for 15 years after buying a house over there with a carrier bag of cash (it’s how they do it), and how he’d never heard anyone speak Spanish once (I didn’t ask if he’d in fact moved to Essex) and how it was better we left because of the USSR (not sure about this one, it just came up), we chatted about how the EU had offered protections to workers that UK governments were against in the past, how tenants were better protected than ever (at which point he told me he was a landlord…), how only 12% of our laws were really influenced by Europe and they tended to protect worker rights, and y’know, do good stuff.

We chatted about how the £350 million figure was clearly not true and that the EU helped regions that would never get the support of central government (particularly Tory governments who have a habit in not investing in a place unless you vote for them). We talked about how everyone who is a respected, analytical, intellectual thinks remain is a no-brainer.

We talked and nothing changed. He told me about how the problem was immigration (apart from the good ones) and how it was the English language that was the problem. Being the best at music and culture had taken its toll, encouraging people to want to live here (said the man still tanned from 15 years in Spain). He left convinced that I was an idiot firmly putting a cross on his form and shaking his head, asking to take his leaflet as he shook my hand.

I realised that the arguments I’d given for staying in the EU however were those largely given by the media and started to think about the reasons I believe we should stay in the EU. So, here they are – agree or disagree, that’s your prerogative, comment below if you’d like.

My five reasons for voting to stay…

  • I believe that bridges are better than walls – I want to live somewhere connected, friendly, where access is easy and simple. I don’t like nationalism but I like cultural differences. Walls breed nationalism, fear and hate and I don’t like it.
  • Many of the EU’s laws protect me, in work, from the UK government, from multinational companies. The powers of the future are not nation states but global corporations who can buy and sell influence. A group together is stronger than an individual.
  • I resonate more strongly as European than as an American. Yes we share a language, but I believe in universal healthcare, socialism (not to be confused with communism), a less litigious society, a world of us rather than me, also I really like nice Italian and Spanish tapas.
  • I like to think that we are a nation that helps people. There was a celebration of a man who died who during WW2 organised Kindertransport to save hundreds of German Jewish children from certain death. They were refugees. I’d like to think as a nation we still have that will to help those less fortunate – if only we could see through our insecurities.
  • We live in a more connected world than ever before. Technology is changing how we interact globally. It’s breaking down barriers. So why erect more of them? Both reform and leaving are hard to do. But reform offers a chance to work collaboratively and that’s where great ideas happen. The best creative and innovative work I’ve seen has been cross-cultural and cross-age. That’s where invention happens, where dreams, ambitions and change happens. But it needs to be incubated, supported, and I think that is in the EU rather than alone.
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