Archive | June, 2016

The EU Referendum. Please think about it

13 Jun

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To begin, it’s worth noting that I have a vested interest in the UK staying in the EU. Since 2013, I have lived and worked in Spain, and have personally benefited from the freedom of movement, free hospital care and lack of working visa requirements that being a member of the EU has given me. Being able to live here has allowed me to find a profession I actually care about, the opportunity to learn a new language (something my 16 year old self painfully struggling to get a C in GCSE French would not think possible) and given me a belief in myself that I certainly didn’t possess before. I expect that many others who have done something similar feel the same. Therefore, as we approach June 23rd and a decision as to whether the UK will stay a member of the EU, I have a profound sense of anxiety. I personally could lose a lot by the UK no longer being in the EU, and it is never a nice feeling to know that decisions about your personal future are out of your hands.

However, I don’t expect you to care about my life and exploits, and nor should you. This decision is bigger than that. This could be one of the biggest decisions you will ever have to make  – be it for social, economic or political reasons. It is also worth noting that it is the younger generations that will feel the biggest impact – it would be them that potentially suffer the most should they be robbed of opportunities that some of us have been fortunate enough to enjoy.

While I don’t feel I’m qualified to speak about the economic implications of a ‘Brexit’ to any great degree, I do feel that it makes much more sense to listen to someone who actually does know about the subject rather than the deplorable Michael Gove. Gove has previous when it comes to believing he knows better than experts. His 2 year spell as education minister was a non-stop tirade of ignoring and belittling people who had spent their lives working within the sector to push through a rushed, ill conceived policy of free schools. The result? Abject failure . Even Gove’s biggest fanboy Toby Young, who opened his own free school in 2011, was eventually forced to admit the whole ordeal was probably a mistake and ‘harder than he thought’. I would hazard a guess that if in the future you were to need major medical surgery, you would probably prefer that a qualified surgeon carries out the procedure than Michael Gove, no matter how vehemently he claims that he would do a better job . I feel the same about economical matters. He, along with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage can simply not be trusted.

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Michael ‘Punchbag’ Gove

While I am admittedly an economic novice, I do have a bit more experience in regards to the other major issue that has sadly come to dominate the debate – immigration. This is due to me being brought up in a city (Leicester, home of the 2016 Premier League champions no less) that I believe has benefited greatly from its immigrant population, and by me being an immigrant of sorts myself in another EU country.

I obviously can’t speak on behalf of every immigrant ever, as everyone has a different story to tell as to how they ended up living away from their homeland and their general day to day experience. What I can say however is that while it may be rewarding, it is never easy. Adapting to a new culture and all the individual challenges that come with it can be exhausting and the desire to integrate yourself can bring as much frustration as it does satisfaction. After three years, it’s something I’m still trying to do – there is no finishing line as such, or even much of a template. What helps enormously however is that very rarely have I felt unwelcome here. I can’t imagine how much more difficult this would be if I was told on a daily basis that I don’t belong and that I should ‘go home’.

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This, for me, has been the most alarming aspect of the entire Brexit debate. Sensationalist headlines with biblical expressions such as ‘swarm’ and ‘flock’, coupled with unashamedly racist ‘opinion pieces’ produced by national newspapers has created a culture of seething anger and animosity, where some individuals see it as their duty to threaten those they don’t perceive to be English enough.

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While I concede that not everyone has become a racist overnight, the ‘go home’ message pushed by the media and nearly all major political parties in recent years has given the illusion of legitimacy to a deeply racist and xenophobic prejudice – that England is “for the (white) English” and all foreigners should be treated with suspicion. What makes it worse is that immigration is an issue in which the public are statistically misinformed on an almost daily basis, as evidenced by the recent findings by Ipsos Mori that show just how off the mark a large number of people are when it comes to knowing the real figures of immigration . It’s an area where politicians and the media will unashamedly avoid the facts, preferring to fuel the flames of prejudice in order to win votes. Despite the numerous studies (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1114/051114-economic-impact-EU-immigration – for one)  that explicitly state that the UK, and most other countries, rely on immigration in order to function (the NHS is practically dependent on it), the message will never get through. Years of slander and lies on the issue from the mainstream media has muddied the water to such an extent that actual facts and statistics will always be buried underneath the scorn and fury of a downtrodden public that have been led to believe that the immigrants, not the deliberate acts of those in power, have destroyed their livelihoods.

On a personal level, it pains me to think that a person who came to the UK with an aspiration to better themselves and who makes a big contribution to society could be on the receiving end of verbal or physical abuse of this nature. In the current climate, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a nurse could help to save someone’s life in the day and end up getting glassed at night for being a foreigner. The language used by the Brexit campaigners on immigration is inflammatory to the extreme, makes little sense and only serves as evidence that a society has fallen to its lowest depth. Irrespective of the final outcome of the referendum, I fear that the ugly head of racism will dictate UK politics for the next few years, as it currently does in the USA Presidential race.

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Donald ‘Punchbag’ Trump

I could finish with a well-meaning but ultimately useless soundbite like ‘love wins’ or write a story of how I came across an immigrant with ‘tears in his/her eyes’ (conveniently without any evidence) in a quest for retweets, but this is a serious issue. Millions of peoples lives will be affected by the decision the country makes on June 23rd. If none of my wet liberal arguments have persuaded you, that’s your prerogative. However, I think the best way to conclude is with a quote from Rupert Murdoch when questioned by Anthony Hilton at the Evening Standard why he holds such an anti EU stance:

“… ‘That’s easy,’ he replied. ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”

If you plan to vote in June 23rd, I won’t tell you which way. I only ask that you make an informed decision.

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