So, here we are. Tomorrow we will all be going to our local polling booths and casting our vote for the most important decision in recent memory. I have decided to write this blog post to make an ideological argument for why we should stay in the European Union. Most of the people I have spoken to (working class, white, Welsh voters) are not concerned with the economic or political arguments for remaining or leaving the EU. The agenda in my part of the woods seems to be immigration, immigration, immigration… And the threat of terrorism that that brings. If you would hear me out, I’d like to take you through another perspective and hopefully open you up to a different point of view on the subject. I will not be arguing with facts or abstract statistics that most normal people (like me) cannot really visualise in our heads. This is an opinion-based argument for why the people I see in my community should reconsider their stance.
The crux of the reason why many pure-blood Labour voters are not following the party line seems to be distrust with the political elite and the fear that immigration and open borders will lead to terrorism and a burden on our public services. I will discuss these points in turn.
The Political Elite – Who needs em?!
I hear you, I hear you. Wales has suffered hugely at the hands of Tory governments and you can see the poverty all around you. Walking through the streets of Swansea, it is normal to see way too many homeless people lying in the street, left behind by a government who walks all over Wales without a care in the world. On my first day back from Nepal, I walked around the city centre and saw three men stumbling across the road with cans of cheap cider in their hands, clearly with a drug addiction, being loud and unruly. Even above that, those of you out there who are doing your best to pay the rent on a tiny council house to send your kids to school or help raise the grandkids. You work your arse off to scrape together enough money to pay the rent and the council tax, and the shitloads of other debt you’ve built up trying to raise a family. You’re angry with the government, you’re angry that you turn on the news or flick through the newspaper and you see David Cameron and George Osborne bragging about how they’ve improved the economy that Labour wrecked. It’s infuriating that these posh boys down in Westminster act like they know anything about the way you live. Maybe you still remember Thatcher, and you’re still reeling from that. Westminster doesn’t represent you. Politics is a world that you feel more and more excluded from. Really, I get it. But you are picking the wrong fight.
I come from one of these families – a working class, average little family in Swansea. I live in Townhill – one of the scariest and (arguably) most unsafe and underfunded part of the city. My mother works two jobs to keep the house running – one in a school as a TA, and the other cleaning our local market. My older sister had a kid at 16 who we are all collectively doing our bit to raise in whatever way we can – to give her the luxuries in life that a child deserves. A lot of the time it feels like there isn’t really much hope. The opportunities that the government tells us are all around simply aren’t there. There is very little space to get away from Swansea, and even if you could, you’re probably afraid because the education system let you down, you don’t really feel like you have the ability to move away from everything you’ve ever known. A holiday once a year to a nice warm beach is adventure enough for you.
I am extremely fortunate as I was able to get away. I detached myself from that kind of lifestyle at a young age, I was naturally good at exams (it’s not down to working hard and being a bookworm, trust me) and I scraped the grades to get to uni. There, I was educated in more depth about the world and why things are the way they are. It is not because of the EU that your life is not where you want it to be. The EU stands for all the core Labour values that the Welsh are fond of – workers rights, equal pay, social justice. They are improving welfare for people like you.
Maybe you have read arguments online that the EU actually stands for creating a free market and in that respect is actually interested in creating ways for massive corporations to make as much money as possible. Even if that were true, you need to ask yourself: who do you trust more? The EU or the Tories? If we leave the EU, we will have no protection from them as they introduce a British Bill of Rights to replace the current Human Rights Act (below). Many of the freedoms we take for granted, such as a right to free education, would no longer be guaranteed. Do you really think the Tories, who tripled the tuition fees for university, bang on about the reintroduction of grammar schools/academies and have a long history of privatising public services, care about you or your children’s right to free education? Consider the lack of opportunities out there for young people now, think about future generations, and ask yourself whether you feel safe with the Tories being left to their own devices before casting your vote tomorrow.
Immigration & Terrorism
Something I have been hearing a lot since getting back is that the open borders that the EU grants European citizens will lead to an increase in terrorism. I am sorry, but that simply isn’t the case. First, we have to split terrorism into two categories: domestic terrorism and international terrorism.
Domestic terrorism is what has been plaguing Europe recently, with the shootings in France, the bombings in Belgium etc. These acts were carried out by individuals who lived in Europe before the killings. I was recently in an airport, and let me tell you that the border controls that are already in place in British airports are far stricter than any in the rest of Europe. It is with the help of our European partners that we have already foiled many attempted terrorist activity in the UK – do you think they will support us quite so much if we choose to leave? It won’t be a simple cutting of the ties with Europe, but we’ll still remain buddies. We will trade, sure, but we will still essentially be telling other European countries – who work hard to make the EU work – that we don’t believe in their passion project. There will be political fallout. They will have less reason to help us in matters of national security. We will be even more at risk.
And now international terrorism. Leaving the EU will make absolutely no difference to terrorists who travel from the Middle East to carry out these acts. It won’t make any difference to our immigration figures in anywhere other than the EU. There isn’t really much else to say here. Leaving the EU will make zero impact. It’s as simple as that.
Don’t let the terrorists win! They attack our Western democracies and openness to other cultures. By voting to leave the EU, you will be saying that you wish to become a more isolated country, a more self-serving nation. A country that is closing off from the rest of the world. This is exactly what these terrorists want. We have to stand together and deal with terrorism and the reasons for it, not run away from it because we are scared.
Immigration & Public Services
This issue is actually similar to the first one. It is true that our NHS and schools are under intense pressure because of high patient numbers. And yes, part of this is inevitably because of immigration. But take a look at what brought our public services to this point – funding which has been reduced over the years by (primarily) a right wing government who believes inherently that our public services should not be run by the state. Education and health services have been neglected for years, and I am not saying that this is the only reason that they are struggling right now… But surely the right way to correct a problem when you have sick or injured people in need of help is to give them more money, not take it away from them. Your anger here should be directed at the government for not doing more to help those in need, not the EU or immigration.
The UK is a strong country. It is our responsibility to help those less fortunate than us. If people from poorer EU countries move to the UK, contribute to their community and country, and are in need of public services (like anybody else), then where is the problem in that? The ‘benefit scrounging’ argument that is under everything is, for the most part, a myth. Sure, there probably are those who come here to take advantage of the system, but I know plenty of people who have taken advantage who have lived in the UK their entire lives. But even then, it’s not as rampant as it made out by the UK media who have a specific agenda – class war. They seek to turn the lower classes against anybody who is lower down the pecking order than them – immigrants, the homeless, those on benefits. Don’t believe their lies.
Then what reason do you have to vote to REMAIN instead?
Take a moment to consider the future. America is a massive superpower. China and Russia are also absolutely huge. Tensions between countries become more apparent as natural resources run out on this planet. If the EU was just a band of individual countries, we could be squashed as the world moves on without us. But the EU gives us a way to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Make no mistake, the UK will tank if it leaves – in every way imaginable. We will become the old disgruntled man, still bitter about that car accident in the prime of our lives that means we didn’t make it onto the football team. We’ll be alone – and trapped. I’m not interested in this ‘project fear’ garbage. I’m talking 500 years down the line. I’m talking about how the history of the world has developed, how countries have operated in the past, and how exposed we will be by leaving.
I would also make this case. I think most people can agree that tolerance and acceptance of other cultures is a virtue. Right now, there are so many clashes with our European counterparts when it comes to culture. It is slightly unnerving to see your city change as new kinds of people come, who look different and practice different beliefs. But the EU is a relatively new institution. If we remained in the EU, within a few generations the idea that these people are different and ‘other’ from us would be laughable. The world is becoming increasingly connected, cultures are mingling more than ever – and at an increasing rate. Don’t close yourself off from that and stick your fingers in your ears. Embrace it. It is a good thing. Maybe you don’t feel that, but your grandchildren will, and their grandchildren definitely will.
There is a wider context to this EU referendum. It’s not just about whether you want to stay in the EU, it’s about who you are as a person and what you value in life. Place value on being connected with those around you. With empathy and love. I know that might sound like hippie BS, but come on! Think about humanity and where it’s come from… Our bloody history of violence and hatred. Of drawing up borders and boundaries around us. Of persecuting others for being different. We are reaching a point of civilization now where the world has a lot of soul searching to do… Do we finally throw off the shackles of our ancestors and become a more united earth, trying to save the environment and create happiness for all, or do we continue to squabble over queueing before getting to see a doctor? Do you see yourself as someone who thinks the world should be, above all, good? Or do you believe that countries should fend for themselves? There is a bigger picture. There is a brighter future, if we want it. We just have to not just stand for these principles, but fight for them too.
Please, vote remain on June 23rd.