This piece was written before the tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, a woman who spoke beautifully about the plight of Syrian refugees and the benefits of diversity in this country. Our thoughts are mostly with her family and her friends, those who have lost someone important to them, but we are also thinking about the ways that violent rhetoric can inform violent action. Peace and unity must be the target, not each other.
The arena of mainstream politics is an alienating maelstrom of misinformation, the cauldron largely stirred by men who could be aged anywhere between 40 and 70 wearing terrible suits, churning out soundbites with a simple agenda – for more individual power. It’s a pantomime constantly interrupted by boorish political powerplays that offer distraction over distinction – Nigel Farage sailing a pro-Brexit fleet of flotillas up the Thames or Boris Johnson driving a #voteleave battle bus up and down the country. Neither is David Cameron, the man spearheading the #voteremain campaign, a beacon of valour, describing Afghanistan and Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt” not long after being implicated in a high-profile corruption scandal himself.
But Farage and Johnson – like Donald Trump – are IRL caricatures, and while it’s tempting to think of them just as cartoons on TV, the reality is that they are dangerous, inexplicably powerful and startlingly close to having a huge impact on the way that this country’s future looks. The same Boris Johnson that is campaigning for us to leave Europe once described the idea that children should be taught about being gay as “irrelevant homosexual instruction”. The same Nigel Farage that is campaigning for us to leave Europe also wanted a ban on treating immigrants with HIV. Even their most recent campaign poster – showing a crowd of migrants with the words “Breaking Point” – has been called out for its striking similarities to the Nazi propaganda of the 1930s.
The topic of immigration is something that Leave campaigners have used as a weapon during this debate and, as this excellent writing points out, it’s important not to sneer at those who have legitimate concerns over neighbourhoods that have been let down and abandoned by successive governments. But we are stronger as a European country, weaker as a British one – or worse, English – should our neighbours decide that they’ve had enough of us arbitrarily having had enough.
Your vote is so important – our generation is the most likely to want to stay in the EU, but the least likely to vote. If polls are to be believed we’re heading out of the EU, with that decision largely driven by people who probably won’t be around to see the consequences. On June 23, you have an opportunity to have your say on your future – here are the reasons we believe that we should stay in the EU.
The continent of Europe exists in relative harmony, something that we perhaps don’t think about, because most of us don’t remember the Second World War. The European Union’s founding fathers had a vision for a peaceful Europe, and we have one. Our instincts and desires should be based on the simple concepts of togetherness and unity.
Movement across Europe is another thing that we take for granted. Do we want to work in Paris? Move to Berlin? It’s possible that we could lose those privileges in the event of leaving the EU. The freedom to move around the continent excused from the restrictions of red tape and paperwork is something that should be cherished and protected. It works the other way, too – despite scaremongering about the impact of immigration, the vast majority of people that enter the UK actually benefit the economy.
The European Union ensures the protection of workers’ rights. Speaking to Dazed, Owen Jones said, “If we leave the European Union, what do people think a government led by Boris Johnson will do? Scrap them! It will leave younger workers affected.” Do we really want to leave those decisions in the hands of Johnson and Farage, who incidentally is rumoured to have been offered a seat in government in the event of us leaving the EU? Terrifying.
Over the past 30 years, Britain has undergone the most major deindustrialisation of any leading nation. We don’t make things any more. One thing that we do export pretty well, though, is culture. The value of the UK’s creative industries is at an all-time high, and in 2012 made up for nearly ten per cent of all Britain’s exports, with a value of £17.3bn. Let’s not make that harder. Our artists would possibly need individual visas to enter each country, lessening our ability to collaborate via the privilege of movement. Why would we want to isolate ourselves and make creative collaboration more difficult?
We’re stronger and more useful to the world as a European nation. Get a map out. Look at us, we’re tiny, but still one of the world’s top economies. We’re well positioned to use that influence, cash and power to save failing EU economies and also help prevent catastrophes like the immigrant crises and the annexation of Ukraine by being part of the EU. It’s a privilege to be European, and I personally identify far more with the idea of being a European citizen than a British one. Let’s be part of the world.
What do Katie Hopkins, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and the British Nationalist Party all have in common? Well, apart from being comically hellish, all of them want to leave the European Union. Can you see a theme emerging? Yes, it’s simplistic to divide a debate into “us and them”, but seriously – these guys are the ‘thems’ that I never want to have to describe as ‘us’.
Can you imagine a future on this island governed by the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage? You thought David Cameron was bad? Trust us, these guys are worse. There is a pervasive argument that we need to “take our country back”. But to what and to where? A country run by Johnson and co will return our country to the dark ages, to quasi-colonial attitudes. Johnson once described people in Congo as having “watermelon smiles” and suggested that Obama’s Kenyan roots were the cause of his attitude towards Britain and his “ancestral dislike of the British empire” (this is a fantastic podcast about British brutality in Kenya, by the way). This is our future, so let’s walk into it together rather than row back into the past isolated.
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot