EU referendum: no pressure 


“Tough” she said. “If you want to vote in the referendum, you should have taken the British nationality”. 

I should have seen it coming. And to a point, I agree with her. How I hate to admit it. I don’t need to give away my Frenchness to have a British passport. I can have a dual nationality. 

I could have my cake and eat it, if only I’d played the game. 

Thing is, I would have to swear allegiance to the Queen. I’m quite happy to volunteer to help my local community, to swear I will not knowingly do anything that could harm the British people, but the Queen? I am French for goodness sake. You’re asking me to lie. I care a lot, on the other hand, about the British people. I married one, gave birth to a couple, and have built my life in England surrounded by wonderful British friends and extended family. Infuriating friends, sometimes, and family headaches, at times, but still, I love them with their imperfections. As I hope they love me with my countless foibles, French and otherwise. 

My not wanting to pretend I am British for the sake of a vote comes at a cost.
I gave away my right to vote in matters that affect me, and my country of adoption.
I have no idea what the consequences of my choice will be for my living in the UK. 

Tough. That’s the rules.  

When the French president said there will be consequences to Brexit, he also said there will be consequences to staying in. Hollande was only stating the bleeding obvious, just as the papers only chose the narrative that suited their Brexit story and foreign bashing agenda. Of course there will be consequences, surely a trading nation such as the Brits realise that when you negotiate a deal, it’s give and take. There will be “general presumption of continuity” in law if the UK leaves the EU, it won’t all crumble overnight and the UK is not going to fall in a dark hole. Equally, deals may not remain the same as now. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. Probably either and both. 

The question is, will pro-Brexit politicians please send answers on a postcard, what will the consequences be? 

Presumption of continuity is not the same as guarantee of continuity. So nobody knows and Brexiters have different agendas within the common ‘life after EU’ scenario. I love the optimism of the Brexiters, and respect the pride they have in their country. But in reality, will there be lower wages to be competitive with Asia, will taxes rise when the poorer areas of the UK are no longer helped by the EU, will there be more tax cuts to multinationals to keep them here? 

Yes there are monetary savings for being out of the EU, but where will these millions be directed? Brexiters can dangle them in front of the nose of all who shout, but all Brexiters sing different songs, and most of them won’t be the ones deciding where the money goes. Who will win this EU money windfall? The ones who need it, or the multinationals via their lobbies? 

I understand claiming sovereignty as a reason for leaving. But no Brexiter can tell us the cost of leaving. Just looking at the EU, why should any country be able to trade within the Common Market of old, the European Economic Area of now -with its rules- without applying the rules of that European market. The British would not let another country come in now and be let off the rules, so why should the UK be any different once out of the EU but in the EEA (favoured by many Brexiters)? I know the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and therefore has clout, but does it really have enough clout to convince Germany, France and the 25 others that they can dictate deals on their terms without being part of the gang? 

It’s like me wanting to vote in the UK without being British. If I can’t have my cake and eat it, why do Brexiters tell us they can? It’s great to believe your country is great, which it is in many ways, whether it is great enough to eat the cake, I do not know any more than they do.  

But it’s not just about trade.  

Beyond commerce, however important it is to feed mouths, politics are at play. Our global political system is changing, groups of young people all over the world are no longer accepting the status quo, the ridiculous differences between the richest and the poor. Some do want to fight for the future of the planet when their back yard is being destroyed by corporations. Indigenous people all over the world are fighting for their right to a clean land and for their survival, against governments and corporations, against what they see as colonialism whether of old for which the UK and France have a lot to answer for, or of corporations. Many tribe or group leaders have lost their life, making their brothers and sisters all the more determined to keep on fighting, finding strength from like minded people on the other side of the world, working together. 

The left is shifting, however hard the press tries to discredit or ignore Corbyn, Sanders, Podemos or Syriza. The right is crumbling with the far right gaining ground all over Europe, and the US. History teaches us about similar turmoils. That’s how the world has evolved to where we are now, totally imperfect but a damn side better than it was when we had kings with everything and peasants with barely a roof over their heads. There always were consequences to change, the 20th century is not that far in the past that we cannot remember the millions of lives lost. Only now, communication between people with similar beliefs is possible like it never was before. Now there is hope that people can shift the direction of travel without as much bloodshed. 

When deciding which way to vote on the referendum, how many people will vote against Cameron, against Brussels diktats, or vote to leave for fear of a migrants’ crisis that can only get worse whilst the countries they come from are still at war, armed by the countries who now refuse to take in desperate families. Will voters look at the bigger picture and wonder: will the EU without the UK lead to a better Europe? Will a politically crumbling EU without the UK lead to a safer neighbourhood for the British people? 

Like it or not, the United Kingdom is part of Europe. Europe is in part ruled by the EU. What needs to change is the EU, not the important place of the UK within Europe. Should the UK fight for a better Europe via its MEP and its national government, or give in and say “Not my problem”. If the UK says “Not my problem” how will the UK be perceived in the rest of Europe, and the changing world, and what will the consequences be when negotiating deals? In or out, Europe’s future is as much UK’s problem as it is France’s, Germany’s or Poland’s. Like it or not, the UK referendum is like the Scotland’s one, the Scots (as well as Commonwealth and EU nationals living in Scotland) got to vote for the future of the whole of the UK. They’re still Scots. They can still change their mind if they think it’s got worse for them and demand a new referendum. Cameron and Johnson might say there won’t be another referendum. It’s not up to them. It’s up to the people of the United Kingdom. If they demand one, surely their elected leaders will have to deliver one. Now that’s sovereignty isn’t? 

How the EU moves forward is now in great part in the hands of the British and Commonwealth nationals living in the UK. 

23 June 2016: no pressure. 

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