Primarily, this is an attempt to do something positive about a situation I feel needs action, rather than just me sitting around speculating, complaining and worrying (accompanied by the occasional short, unsatisfactory paragraph on Twitter and/or Facebook). Namely: the prospect of the people of the UK – my country of birth and residence – being given the chance to decide, by referendum, whether they wish to remain in the EU or not.
A big decision, and a complex one. My natural view on the subject is that I wish the UK to stay part of the EU, and I expect this view won’t change. However, by writing and conversing about it, I hope to find out precisely why this is. I have my own, strong, personal reasons for wishing the UK to stay in the EU, but I want to assemble an arsenal of wider, more general, perhaps more sophisticated reasons, if I can. Whatever the outcome: conversation is good, and conversation will certainly be needed over the next year or so, to keep us informed and sane. But the internet can frequently be an aggressive and volatile place, so it’s important that this conversation be reasonable and civilised.
Traditionally, I know next to bugger all about politics and – more so – economics, so I hope to improve this a little. Also, as any glance at the British newspapers will immediately tell you, much is going to change during the run up to the referendum: deals will be attempted, negotiations will be lost and won, politicians will alter stances, opinion polls will fluctuate, news barons will jump sides. Like I mentioned above, I suspect that throughout this process my own position won’t shift: but you never know.
Worryingly little has been written about precisely what will happen to the couple of million EU citizens already living in the UK, if the UK votes to leave. Will they instantly have to apply for visas and work permits? Or will there be some sort of automatic waiver for those who’ve been working, living, bringing up families and so forth, in the UK – for really quite a long time? I want to know.
And the blog title? “Europe Stay with Us”? Shouldn’t it be “UK, Stay with Europe” – or similar? Well, there are a few reasons for this, all of them somewhat wishy-washy, but never mind. It’s party inspired by a Daily Mash piece in which it’s revealed that the “27 member states of the European Union have demanded a referendum on whether Britain is allowed to stay in – voters across the continent will be asked to choose whether Britain should have to follow the same rules everyone else does, or can just fuck off.” Aside from it being bloody funny, I was struck by the unhappy notion that, in fact, the rest of Europe are in all likelihood fairly cheesed off with the UK’s comings and goings: wanting to keep the pound, not joining in with Schengen, and the almost daily bashing the EU receives in the British press. Whatever the outcome of the UK referendum – and I expect whatever it is, it’ll be a close run thing – I passionately want the people of the mainland continent that I love to stay with us, i.e. stay with us in spirit, not to ignore us, turn their backs, pissed off that some of the Brits have rejected them. Also, it’s a prosaic invitation to the same group of people to stay with us, i.e. physically. I wholeheartedly believe that the presence in the UK of Italians, French, Spanish, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Dutch, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Swedes, Danes – you get the picture – makes the country a damn sight better, and the thought of any of them finding it hard to remain here fills me with disappointment, sadness and frustration. Lastly, if the unthinkable happens and the UK really does vote to leave, I do not want the vibe and atmosphere of the UK to return to a more small-minded and xenophobic (as opposed to racist, and there is a difference) era. I was born in 1973, so I have never known my country to be not part of at least the EEC (or “common market”, as I can still hear my mother calling it) – but I do remember what it was like prior to the formation of the EU in 1993, and during the eighties it was a considerably duller, less cosmopolitan and more antiquated place. Nostalgia aside, I personally don’t want to go back there. So, irrespective of the referendum result, Europe Stay With Us is an instruction to the spirit and varied vibe of Europe to remain permeated throughout our land, as I really believe – as a nation – it’s good for us.
Conversations can continue @timwthornton on Twitter.