Saturday, 28 May 2016

Encore la EU! Oui pour la continuee de uni! It's obvious - init?

Dear Reader,

Way back in the 1960s, I used to do a lot of hiking - hitch-hiking mostly - on the continent of Europe, mainly in France and Italy. There are many tales I could tell from those days concerning my great experiences, but the one that is relevant to this article - and which sticks out as much as the others in my memory - is the impact of returning home to Blighty (the UK) after one of those trips abroad.

When getting back to Dover the first thing I would do is get a train heading to London, but I immediately felt the impact of the sheer ordinariness of Britain's transport infrastructure compared to that on 'the continent'. Over there, trains were not always smart but they were interesting; over here they were very staid - designed by engineers (and accountants too, probably). But the main variance was that the continental trains ran well, and on time. 

The people, too, were more colourful, and expressed warmth and generosity that - to be honest - I'd never experienced in the UK except, possibly, amongst family.

And it was some years after those experiences that the question of entering the European Market (the forerunner to today's EU) came up. Of course I voted Oui! After my experiences 'over there' I felt nothing but admiration towards Europe; compared to the staidness that existed in the UK at that time, even after The Beatles had become popular, they (the continentals) had life, and seemed to think more maturely too.

Fast forward 40 or 50 years, and,frankly, what I see in the Brexit camp is mainly the runt of those old, staid representatives that I'd rather did not exist, led by a Trump-like figure that (thankfully) differs to Trump in personality but is markedly more capable of changing his tune every few months.

But let's try to put personalities aside. The Brexits are most likely lovely people, inwardly, but (to me) they just can't see the wood from the trees.

However, can the "Remain" camp see the position more clearly? Actually, not a lot. Though I tend to agree with their general sentiment, there is nothing that they - or either side - can say that anyone looking for facts can get convinced by. Either way is going to be a murky journey given the state of the world (and Europe) today. And both sides exaggerate in so many issues in trying to convince us. It is a shambolic exercise on both their parts.

So my vote is going to the actual experience of the last 40 years in Europe. No, it's not the bureaucracy and red tape that genuinely does exist, but the actual improvements in the UK that have mostly come about as a result of our inter-action with Europe. No longer do I experience the staidness of those times of yore in the UK, and thank that same inter-action that has seen my home city of Birmingham brighten up with its Victoria Square pedestrianisation that came about through European funding; its new trams that are colourful and look like something from any city in Europe, and the German Market that always visits the Birmingham city centre around Christmas time.

Staying in Europe is also the direction for me precisely because of the uncertainty of going either way. Going the Brexit direction is definitely a leap into the unknown, and one that could have a very negative economic effect on ordinary families - particularly in a 2 to 5 years period whilst the UK readjusts itself to deal with the world by itself. It is also logical to me that we are not big enough a country to negotiate by itself with the rest of the world, despite the talent and the facilities that exist. It is far better in my view that we deal with the world as Europeans, and not as Brits, especially as the car manufacturing companies in the UK today are Indian, German and Japanese owned. That was not the case 40 or more years ago.

Norway and Switzerland can succeed by themselves because they are small and supply a niche market. Neither countries have ever been part of the EU, whereas the current generation in the UK have never known anything else. We, unfortunately, are too diversified and in any case rely a lot on outside investment. And leaving the EU will make it harder for our farmers as it is by no means certain that a UK government would supply them with the financial support they need. Farmers are going through enough troubles as it is, yet we seem to forget that we need them! Today's world uncertainties mean that we need more home-grown.

As for the Brexit statement emblazoned on their Battle Bus that the EU takes £50 millions per day, well that's just totally misleading. Today's 'i' newspaper gives a detailed account as to why it is misleading - because Brexit chooses to ignore all the returns we get that actually causes the balance to be in the favour of the UK.

So, it is 'Oui', 'Ja' and whatever other language I can use to emphasise my support for staying in the EU. Not simply for economic reasons, but because I believe in unity and because I have seen the UK improve over 40 years in how we live as a result of our European connection.

Thank you for reading this, and my felicitations to you whether you vote for out or in!

Sunday, 22 May 2016


Dear Reader,

My apologies ... an emergency or two has occurred this week-end, so no post until May 28th, I'm afraid!