A little while ago I redesigned this letter my 91 year old Grandad received from Leave.Eu, an unofficial independent campaign, apparently led by some bloke that lives on Catbrain Lane. My grandad believes in the EU, as he understands why it was originally set up in 1945 — as a peace project after WW2. My flippant little gesture feels odd now as the referendum debate gets darker and darker day by day.
I’ve been disgusted and appalled by the images, headlines and rhetoric coming out of the UK (or more accurately, and scarily staying within the UK.) Refugees labelled as economic migrants. Headlines against refugee children. Allegations of EU plots against Britain. Immigrants blamed for the housing crisis. Immigrants blamed for the NHS shortages. My mum told me about a Leave TV campaign that depicts a older white british woman who is supposedly waiting for lifesaving treatment that she can’t get as a direct result of immigrants being above her on the waiting list. The mainstream media engaging in lies, propaganda and inciting racial hatred. The Overton Window has not merely shifted in the UK, it has been violently kicked to the right.
This referendum has been fought irresponsibly, and dangerous rhetoric has incited an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. I thought ‘us’ was the UK and ‘them,’ the EU. But suddenly the ‘us’ is anti-immigration protesters and the ‘them’ is anyone that calls them out on it? Being a pro-immigration politician and vocal about it just became life threatening. Airtime is being given to these far right groups and they are becoming legitimised. 3.8 million people voted UKIP last year, a party whose only agenda is UK independence and anti-immigration. I didn’t want to see it, but a lot of people in the UK are racist and now they aren’t afraid to say it, UKIP is offering them to be part of their “grassroots movement” and the official Leave campaign is exploiting them for personal political agendas and power play within the EU.
1.8 million UK citizens currently live, work or study abroad as migrants. 2.1 million EU citizens currently live and work in the UK. I have a feeling that the Leave campaign, UKIP and groups even further to the right of them are not really concerned with white english-speaking Europeans moving to the UK. Leave is leading a campaign based on the notion that leaving the EU would allow less immigration. So here are the facts. Britain has to let EU citizens come to the UK, and that’s part of the terms of membership of the EU. But Britain has control over immigration from outside the EU, and a say in the policies the EU develops. So, the UK can choose, on a case-by-case basis, whether or not to participate in EU-wide rules on immigration, visa and asylum policies. For example, the UK has an opt-out option on the EU refugee emergency relocation scheme, which redistributes asylum seekers who have arrived in Greece and Italy. So we already set our own limits and they are not controlled against our will by the EU. ( In my view, the UK should be proud to take just as many refugees as any other EU country, because that’s the humane response to a refugee crisis.)
Another key campaign point for Leave is the ‘staggering’ amount being a member of the EU costs the UK. The EU costs the UK government 1.2% of its annual spending. So that’s not really an argument is it.
I am proudly European. The EU funded Erasmus scheme was invaluable to me whist studying. Every year over 3 million students get to study for a semester or more in another country in the EU, bringing and sharing their languages, experience and cultures. And also understanding how it feels to be out of your context, your identity slowly eroding and being reformed. Without this experience I wouldn’t have had the balls to move to study in the Netherlands. I have felt so welcomed, and like being an artist might actually be understood and treated as a thing of value. We don’t know what will happen to EU study fees if Leave wins. UK universities have a 140,000 EU students from outside the UK currently, will they all be going home after they graduate? Will I have to return to the UK after my MFA? Will the fees for UK students in EU universities become ten times higher in 2017, and vice versa in the UK?
I believe in the European Union, I don’t want to be a tourist, I want to be a citizen. Im voting to keep European funding for the UK music industry, I’m voting to keep the jobs created by EU trade links, I’m voting to keep paid maternity leave, I’m voting to keep UK students in the Erasmus programme, I’m voting to keep £66 million of daily investment, I’m voting to stay in because Obama said we should, because the IMF said we should, I’m voting to keep EU funding to fight Breast Cancer and Alzheimer’s, I’m voting for ease of travel, working without a visa, for Climate Change controls and renewables funding, I’m voting for keeping in the EU LGBTI rights commission, I’m voting for £57 billion of research science funding.
Most importantly I’m voting against bigotry, ignorance, island mentality, small mindedness, arrogance and nationalism. I’m taking the opportunity the UK has been given, whether or not it should have been, to show the EU and the rest of the world that as a majority, we are not all these things. We won’t be bought out by Murdoch. We are not ok being used as pawns to remove the hard fought EU rights and protections that are preventing the government from dismantling the welfare state further, and that we believe in fair democratic process and debate.
Written on 17th June 2016