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Frumious Brandysnaps

Nailing my (blue and gold) colours to the mast

Nailing my (blue and gold) colours to the mast

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I've not been posting on here in a long time as you've probably spotted - I tend to do most of my internet access through my smartphone these days and that tends to lend itself more towards twitter or facebook use than long-form writings on here.

However, the European Union is back in the news again and once more I feel compelled to write something long-form, again. I had a bit of a grump about British euro-scepticism back on Europe Day last year and this is probably going to be more of the same I'm afraid.

Here's the thing: the prospect of Britons voting to leave the European Union scares me. It literally scares the bejeesus out of me. I see myself as a European, as I've said before, I feel a kinship with other Europeans and I really love having the freedom to work, live and travel freely around the whole of the European Union. I think it's brilliant. There's probably a couple of reasons I feel this way, and I've probably mentioned them before - simply put, the first of these is that for the whole of my life the UK has been in the European Union (or its predecessor, the European Economic Community). I was born in 1977, two years after the last European referendum in Britain - for me, being a member of a collection of European states has been the status quo, it's simply been a given. The second reason is that I spent four years in my teens living in the Rheinland in Germany, and as a result I feel very much at home there. My parents now live in Spain, which as European Union citizens they are of course free to do, and we visit them once a year and so I feel quite at home there, too. Couple that with the fact that my wife Krissy and I started our relationship when she was living in Maastricht and it won't surprise you to learn that I feel quite at home in the Netherlands too. Basically, where I consider "home" stretches a long way beyond the borders of the United Kingdom.

That feeling of "home" as being scattered over a really wide geographical area is probably a personal thing, too - we moved around a lot when I was a kid so I don't really feel a tie to anywhere in particular these days, except perhaps Sheffield where I've settled as an adult after graduating from univeristy.

Sorry, I got distracted for a moment, there. Where was I?

Ah yes. The thing is, I really, really appreciate the freedoms that British nationals like me get from our country being in the European Union, what we as a people get from being European Union citizens - and I don't mean that in a glib way, as in we are citizens of an EU state, I mean that literally, Britons have a genuine European Union citizenship through our country's membership of the EU. There's a page on europa.eu about it, you should go take a look: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/index_en.htm

At least, we have that citizenship for now. If the UK votes to leave then frankly heaven help us - one thing that worries me is that I think that ironically, people in the UK have gotten too used to being EU citizens that they take things like freedom of movement for granted. How many of those in UKIP heartland in the South-East of England also take advantage of free movement of goods to load up their MPVs and Transit vans with cheap cigarettes, beer and wine in French hypermarkets, knowing that there will be no customs charges to pay when they come back to the UK?

I enjoy being a European citizen, I count myself as a European and I don't want to lose that. It bothers me - a lot - that so many of the arguments I hear on the news for leaving or staying are reduced down to material or economic considerations, with soundbites about how the average British family will be so much better off or poorer, or whatever, depending on who is talking and where they stand. There's more to it than that - there's so much more to it than that. I will begrudgingly admit that the EU is not perfect, I know that. But I believe wholeheartedly that we are a hell of a lot better off inside the union than trying to make our way on our own outside of it. I don't know what the UKIP voters think will happen if the UK leaves but I suspect it almost certainly doesn't involve more expensive travel, excise duties, trade tariffs and a reduced standing on the world stage. I don't know if they think somehow that Britain is still some sort of imperialist superpower, lying dormant and just waiting to "cast of the shackles of Eurocrat oppression" or some other nonsense... perhaps they do. If they do, then honestly I think they're deluded. Seriously deluded. Cut off from Europe, nobody will take us seriously - we will be a small island of rapidly diminishing consequence. Frankly, without Britain gumming up the works and slowing down the "ever closer union" the rest of the Union is geared towards, I think we will see ourselves as a small country with a far more powerful neighbour next door.

I believe a vote to leave the European Union is a vote for isolationism, and a vote to step away from the future and live daydreaming in the past while the world moves on without us. I don't want that for my country, I don't want that for me and I don't want that for my children. I really hope we vote to stay in the Union after this referendum. Because the alternative scares the life out of me.
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