Monday, 20 June 2016

Positively the Last Word on Brexit

As the day of the great referendum approaches, Britain finds itself baffled, bamboozled and bored to buggery. For what now seems an eternity we have been assaulted by so-called experts warning us of the terrible consequences of leaving the EU and by so-called experts warning us of the dire consequences of staying in. Immigration, jobs, trade, recession, house prices and public services are the main topics that are being whacked about like wildly wayward tennis balls. These are all massively complex issues which have been massively over-simplified and ‘emotionalised’ in the debates. I’m not going to go into them in detail yet again because everybody’s heard enough of them already. Suffice it to say that the British electorate are not so naïve as not to realise there’s a lot more going on here than our membership of the EU. Poor old Cameron is wetting his political panties while that nasty, dangerous lunatic Boris Johnson and his bunch of gruesome cronies are jockeying for power. If we vote to leave, a general election could be in the offing – so yet more of the same. Please God, no!
As to the most emotive issue – immigration – let me just say this. I don’t approve of it. Not at all. Okay, my mother was part-Welsh, part-Irish, part Hugenot. My father was part Jerseyman, part French. My wife’s Australian. Her Polish-Jewish grandparents fled to England to escape Nazism, were welcomed and built a new life here. Her father came here on the Kinder Transport, was welcomed and built a new life here. Our children are a jumble of racial genes – as are most of the British nation – but I still don’t approve of immigration. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I feel strongly that we should have denied entry to the Iberians, the Celts, the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Danes, the Vikings, the Normans, the Hugenots, the Hanoverians and the citizens of our former colonies, leaving Britain to its rightful owners – the homo erecti who invented afternoon tea and cricket. Oh no, hang on, they walked here from France when the Chanel was a land bridge. Damn! We should’ve built an immigration-proof wall from Kent to Cornwall! And we should send our Royal Family back to Germany.   

In that wonderful comedy series ‘Frasier’, Frasier’s dad – a jaded, retired policeman – tell his son he needs “a bite of reality sandwich.” I think that’s what this debate urgently needs. The reality: Our very existence as a species is threatened by global warming and depletion of the planet’s resources. Consumerism is running riot in the wealthiest nations while the Third World sinks deeper and deeper into poverty and deprivation. The gap between rich and poor is ever widening even in the First World. Multinational corporations are becoming wealthier and more powerful than nations – a process intensified by TTIP. The West’s arrogant mishandling of the Middle East since the end of World War One is coming home to roost in ways which are unimaginably horrible – both for the Arab nations themselves and for the rest of us. Over vast parts of the planet, half the human race – women – are being denied education, dignity and their rightful place in society. The most powerful job in the world – President of the United States – is in danger of being occupied by a raving lunatic who makes even Boris Johnson look sane. China – a vast totalitarian state that has never known democracy – is now a world power. Since the thawing of the Cold War, the world has become a powder keg which could ignite at any moment. Meanwhile Britain clings pathetically to its mezzotint memory of Empire, as evidenced, for example, by the squandering of precious billions on our very own nuclear weapon which even military experts agree has no strategic purpose whatsoever.
The LEAVE campaign speak cosily of “wanting our country back” and “making our own laws for ourselves.” We don’t make our own laws for ourselves anyway – our laws are made for us by an elitist government which most of us didn’t want (due to our archaic electoral system) and which has one agenda: to dismantle the NHS – our most precious possession – to bleed our cultural life and public services dry by “necessary” spending cuts and recreate a world in which the ‘Haves’ can lord it over the ‘Have Nots’ for all eternity. Our parliamentarians of all parties - as proven by the expenses scandal – are every bit as corrupt as anything you can find in Brussels. While individuals cling heroically to their beliefs and values, our society as a whole has lost its moral compass. What we – and the world – desperately needs is leaders of real moral courage and moral vision but instead we are governed by lightweight amateurs whose vision does not extend beyond the next election. In what kind of crazy world is our health service run by a man with absolutely no medical training or our education system by someone who has never known the hell of teaching Shakespeare to a class of thirty fifteen-year-olds?   

What, I hear you ask, has all this got to do with our leaving the EU? Well, not much really, I suppose. Just this: Given all that we’re facing, given all the challenges, would it not be better to maintain unity and co-operation where it exists, to try to work towards a better world from within a large body of nations than from a position of isolation? Of course there are faults and problems with the EU but in our inter-connected world it is naïve to imagine those problems won’t affect us even if we leave. It’s just that we won’t be able to do anything about them because we will have put ourselves in a position of powerlessness. It’s argued that we can’t do anything about them anyway but that’s actually not true. Much is made by the LEAVE campaign of our powerlessness within the EU as though we’re somehow helpless victims of our European oppressors. A lot is also made of the threat that, by remaining, we will someday lose our national identity and become absorbed into some vast, featureless federal Europe but that seems to me nonsense. Countries like France, Germany, Spain and Italy maintain intimate ties with one another and are not even separated by seas, yet they all maintain a distinct and individual national character.
You will probably have gathered by now that I am going to vote to Remain in next week’s referendum. I wouldn’t presume to try to persuade anyone else to do the same. Everyone will vote as they see fit. We’re still a democracy, after all. More or less. Let me just leave you with one sobering thought – one that will strike terror into the heart of even the most ardent LEAVE campaigner. If we give up our membership of the EU, we may not be allowed to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest!