Call your mum.
This week, I received a response to my first post from Roger, my friend Sam’s dad. He’s a retired civil engineer and his message shows why it’s so important to keep talking about how we feel about being European not just with our friends, but also with our family members and older relatives. Roger’s message shows what we have to gain by listening – He offers some real insight and I would love to ask him more about being in Berlin when the wall went up in 1961. I fully agree with his point that Brexit is a distraction from many of the social issues we desperately have to address. Roger’s message makes it clear that being part of the EU is not just an important part of identity for the younger generation, but for many who witnessed the first referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Economic Community in 1973 (with a 67% vote in favour of continued membership).
As HMS Brexit trundles slowly towards the iceberg, a People’s Vote is maybe more likely than ever (56% of British people now support staying in the EU, 17th Jan). That’s why we need to start having positive conversations about Europe now, not just with our peers, but also our family members and wider social circle.
If they feel the same, perfect! Commiserate together (this is how I spent my entire Christmas holidays at home), watch some May-Bot memes and write to your MPs. If you don’t agree – listen to what they have to say, but also lay out what being part of Europe means to you, which opportunities you feel you might miss out on and what you’re worried about. It might feel like a drop in the bucket, but we can all help to change the conversation.
Roger’s dispatch from Brexit Britain
So much of what has been written [in the original blog post] mirrors my own feelings. As a war baby and having a very clear memory of the physical destruction of parts of London and other UK cities I saw the EU as integral to avoiding another European bloodletting. So ideas of minimal borders, freedom to travel and work etc. seemed a wonderful and necessary part of a safer Europe. With the fall of the Berlin Wall ( I was in Berlin when it was going up) and the Iron Curtain, the necessity of adding more old democratic countries, which had been subsumed into the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II into the EU was a part of post war reconstruction (albeit delayed).
The period of Thatcherism here preceded globalism and had a huge impact on many old communities and skilled industries in the UK, so we were already were already destroying, shipbuilding, coal, steel, aircraft, furniture, textiles, fishing (aided by the EU in this case) and successive governments did nothing but-pander to “the market”. So there was a large number of deskilled and ignored communities who could see immigrants taking some of the houses and jobs they thought were theirs by rights. So along comes a group of people saying it’s all easy – just take back what’s yours – Jobs , skills, pride, – vote Leave. If I was one of them I would have too. What would I have to lose?
For me, the constitutional chaos [following the meaningful vote] is basically a burning emblem for the need for systemic change in our parliamentary system, which is clearly not fit for purpose in a rapidly changing world. Brexit itself is a giant, untimely distraction from the domestic policy areas that need to be completely overhauled and imbued with a more cohesive and progressive sense of investment in the future. Housing, health and social care, the NHS, education, transport – they’re all hugely, hugely dysfunctional and as such, this is hugely damaging. Might we grow back the State, in a genuinely innovate way and tackle these enormous problems holistically, rooted in compassion and not the search individual and corporate profit. I feel like whatever happens Europe-wise, the cat is out of the bag. More and more young people – some of whom were too young to vote in 2016, will not accept the status quo much longer.
So yes , it is a huge task to redress the balance. And leaving the EU won’t help, though change does liberate energy. The EU needs the unity of purpose – renewed and refreshed – like after the end of World War II, so it can help to respond to the gross inequalities unleashed by globalism, as well as dealing with our social needs, so that we as a country can meet our responsibilities to the rest of the world.
If the parliament can unite to agree to a people’s vote, it may be a People’s Vote can also reunite the people.
So where are we now? We have a disparate parliament united in in opposition to the May option but it will not unite on another solution other than either a general election [note: this message was received before the unsuccessful no confidence motion] or a request to the people to say which of the possible outcomes they want. This must include exit ‘no deal’, May deal and stay. You could even include other options like Norway type or Canada. If the parliament can unite to agree to a people’s vote, it may be a people’s vote can also reunite the people. Otherwise look at where parliaments at war with the executive have taken the English people in the past. The resurgence of Parliament as decision-taking rather than just legislating body could just be the boost democracy needs to make it more responsive to people. I am going to watch the spectacle from afar for the next few weeks.
[Roger is currently travelling Australia].
The message has been edited for clarity. If you have a Dispatch from Brexit Britain you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about how to support a People’s Vote here.