In 2014, a Frenchman, President Francois Hollande and a German, President Joachim Gauck stood side by side, hand in hand, to commemorate the sacrifice their countrymen made in two wars that ripped apart their continent. They met on the side of a mountain at Hartmannswillerkopf, an area overlooking the Rhineland, that saw some of the worst fighting of World War One. The soldiers called it ‘The Man Eater’. 99 years after the battle ended, the leaders of these two great nations united to remember.
In moments like this it is hard not to feel emotional and somewhat proud of humanity; Europe’s darkest days have always been followed by its finest hour.
I am a Bolton Wanderers fan, a flautist and a Briton but I have never considered myself a European. However, I acknowledge that I am linked with my continental brothers and sisters. We breathe the same air, share the same oceans, believe in the same fundamental principles of liberal democracy, with, of course, enough room for lively debate as to its particulars, and rely on mutual trade. Despite not feeling the same patriotic connection to Europe as we do Britain in our hearts, deep down we are still all Europeans.
This makes this debate difficult for the Remain camp, as very few of us have the same emotional connection Europe as we do to Britain (despite it not being an either/or vote). I am on my school’s debate team and if I had to pick a side to argue for I would choose Vote Leave as they have the much easier job. Anyone with a little bit of passion can whip up nationalist sentiments against a flawed faceless body of bureaucrats in voters. Leave campaigners frequently criticize the lack of a positive case for staying in the EU and that’s because it is difficult to be happy with the status quo. Why?
Because it sucks.
I am a member of a generation which is being dragged through the mud by this government and the last. Working people are still dealing with the consequences of the 2008 economic crisis and ideologically driven cuts to public services. A terrible trait of prosperous countries is that, when facing hard times, they blame immigrants and poor people. This time, poor people are being told to revolt against the political class and give the establishment a kicking on an issue unrelated to their hardship. The British public is dissatisfied and so rebelling against the government makes perfect sense. That anger is being used as a pawn to force a possible exit from our most important economic union for the benefit of MPs who would profit from a Johnson administration, xenophobes and self-assured isolationists.
Lies about immigrants, lies about the budget, lies about Britain’s role in the EU have all been used to try to force this anger to boiling point.
Immigrants pay more into the tax system than they take out and if you came across a migrant in a hospital, they are more likely to be treating you than using the service. I usually believe that if you bring up Hitler you’re losing the argument, but UKIP’s latest poster unveiling shares striking resemblance to Die Deutsche Wochenschau (The German Weekly Review), a Nazi propaganda series (the footage can be seen here on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website). Also, telling women there will be more sex attacks if we vote to remain is the real project fear. The BrExit battle bus claims that we pay £50 million to the EU every day. This has been debunked by almost every remain campaigner with a keyboard as it doesn’t take account of the rebate. The real figure is about £23 million, which is 30p per person per day. Leaving the EU, according to the Treasury, will cost £5.36 per person per day. Penny Mordaunt MP, Conservative Defence Minister, went on Andrew Marr and refused to admit that Britain has a veto over Turkey’s membership of the EU. She is either a lying or dangerously underqualified for her job.
I can’t vote on Thursday, but here goes one last plea for you to make your mind up.
A vote to leave is a vote against the principle of pooled sovereignty. The EU is significantly more democratic than the UN, NATO, the WTO and the IMF, all organisations which the leave campaign have praised for performing keeping the peace. You, as an individual, have more elected representatives in Brussels than you do in Westminster. International relations is rarely a democracy and in order to get what we went from the EU, we must make sacrifices. Whether that’s the tampon tax (which, by the way, the government could repay because no countries take it the courts, just as we have ignored the court’s orders to give prisoners the vote) or other unpopular measures, sometimes that’s how it goes. Furthermore, if the Tories want to talk about wasteful unelected chambers we need look no further than the House of Lords for that debate.
A vote to leave is a vote against free trade. The leave campaign is yet to present a viable model for a post BrExit Britain. Instead, they have present a manifesto of sorts on behalf of the government, which the PM is under no pressure to adopt. This manifesto also claims that Britain will be able to negotiate a free trade deal with Europe by 2020, record timing, a claim which is unfounded in reality. When the leader of the free world tells you that a Britain-USA trade deal would take a long time, you should pay attention to what he says. When the German finance minister says that Britain wouldn’t have access to the free market after BrExit, you should also pay attention to what he says. The purpose of the EU negotiating as a block is so that member states have more negotiating power, united we are the power of 28 markets united. This is a power that will be turned against us if we leave. Earlier, Justice Secretary Michael Gove said that the UK, after a BrExit, would be able to control immigration from the EU and countries such as Germany and France will continue to trade with the UK on the current terms. The current terms include the free movement of people, the statement is paradoxical. Whether its still being subjected to the regulation passed by the European parliament (just without being able to vote on it) or being subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice (torpedoing Theresa May’s pipe dream of repealing the European Convention on Human Rights) or the free movement of people (despite some leave campaigners saying that they would want visa-free travel), there will be sacrifices to have access to the common market. In the words of Diane James MEP ‘we just don’t know’.
A vote to leave is a vote for economic insecurity. 3 million jobs are tied to the EU and if you want to risk the job security of millions of people so that migrants can have a smaller portion of those jobs; you’re a fool.
This obviously begs the question, what is a vote to remain for?
It is a vote to stand with our European neighbours and go into the future united hand in hand. Of course no one can predict the future, but I don’t want to face it alone. If we were to leave the EU, we would not be gaining independence but instead we would be losing our identity. Britain should always choose European co-operation over splendid-isolationism. The EU will continue to dominate the European landscape and leaving would cut us off from international dialogues that, regardless of our membership, effect our daily lives. Whether it’s something as big as climate change, tax evasion, the migrant crisis or even something as small as phone bills, we are better tackling it together.
Putting this question to a referendum means that misinformation has the chance to fundamentally change the direction of our country. International relations and the European Union is an immensely complex issue, one that doesn’t have the perfect answer the leave campaign are promising. This has meant that, instead of a debate between the principles of unity and isolationism, it has been fought on fear. Fear of economic catastrophe, fear of immigrants and fear of fear itself. Don’t vote on fear, vote on your values and vote stand with the Frenchman and the German, side by side, acknowledging our shared past and looking towards the future.