Today, in what can only be described as the Cuban Missile Crisis in ballot-box form, Britain is voting in a national referendum on whether or not the UK continues to be a part of the European Union. This is a dramatic turn of events, as economic and social problems – either perceived or tangible – here in the British Isles, have culminated in our government deciding that this country’s entire future as a member of an international body that is indispensable to its economic viability and smooth functioning should be put to a vote after what seems like an eternity of domestic populist campaigning and demagoguery. This has been partially emanating from the ‘Vote In/Remain’ camp, but it’s mostly coming from the pernicious miasma of Donald Trump-style scapegoating politics at the hands of xenophobic, fundamentalist white libertarian politicians such as UKIP (the misleadingly-named ‘UK Independence Party’ – for readers not from here, think of them as the British version of the Ron Paul followers in the US – disciples masking an insidious fear of foreigners and the working-class behind staid, cosmetically neutral pro-capitalist rhetoric) and more overly racist groups such as ‘Britain First’, which can only be described as the latest ugly permutation of the pedigree of white supremacist nationalism that began with the BNP (British National Party), before transmuting into the more flamboyant but slightly-less-viable-politically EDL (English Defence League). ‘Britain First’ is currently grabbing headlines not just here in the UK but internationally as well, given that one of their followers is responsible for the terrorist attack and subsequent killing of pro-Remain Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen Jo Cox last week.
It is absolutely vital that British citizens vote to keep Britain in the EU; the fact that we have even reached the point in our political and social consciousness where we’re allowing the entire collective economic, transnational and social health of this country to hang in the balance in such a superficial, imbecilic and downright shallow poll is beyond belief in a country that has such a high rate of literacy, education and social consciousness as ours. We only need to look at the fact that the toxic rhetoric in the campaign onslaught has resulted in the cold-blooded murder of a British politician in broad daylight to see how we’ve devolved into a degree of fear and separation that is wholly unbecoming of us as a human community.
Firstly, I should say that it is unfair to tar all Eurosceptics under the same brush as those, such as the corporatist extremists of UKIP to the more overtly separatist militants of Britain First, who have been pushing for the UK to Leave the economy. There are many valid reasons to oppose the European Union and to call for serious reforms and even to propose alternative international models to the EU that give the UK more economic and social autonomy to draft and implement policy on a local level. A lot of those people will be voting Leave today, and understandably so.
However, on ultimate balance, I argue that, until such time as these alternative models to the EU are proposed, or at least substantive reforms to how it functions, it is profoundly irresponsible to the point of being suicidally dangerous for the UK to leave the EU at this time.
If Friday begins with the news that the UK is to leave the European Union, a few things will hang in the balance.
- Freedom of movement and immigration into and out of the UK between EU member states will be severely hampered.
Why is this a bad thing? Well, put aside the fact that because of our collective hubris, we’ve reached a state of affairs where the entire functioning of our country depends on people from countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Romania and Turkey (countries where the British pound sterling is, incidentally, worth so much more) doing the kind of nitty-gritty jobs like housekeeping, construction, hard labour, and personal care for the elderly (I can testify from personal experience to the fact that the last occupation in particular is a cumulatively growing sector that can be very psychologically distressing for the unprepared) that most of the bourgeois population of Britain are unwilling to do. It is patently bad for these migrants who, even if they are doing the kind of work that they wouldn’t be inclined to do in their home countries, are nevertheless able to make more here that they would at home. However, it is also bad for us privileged UK citizens, because if they’re compelled to leave as a result of Britain ‘Brexiting’, their exodus will both tank the economy and leave a gaping void in some of the most essential employment markets that won’t be eagerly filled.
We will also be unable to accommodate refugees coming in from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, which I believe we are duty-bound to do until such time as our government decides to materially support the people of these countries in getting rid of the local despots causing them to flee in the first place.
- The pound will almost certainly be devalued to the point where it will be worth almost as much as the precarious Euro or the perennially and typically useless US dollar. Even Brexiters, though they claim it will be temporary, acknowledge this.
This will have the most tangible effect on every UK household immediately as their spending power is dramatically reduced, and because the devaluation will be a response to the exit from an EU that injects the UK with billions in sterling, an immediate solution will not be forthcoming. How will this income be matched? The Brexit camp have not provided an alternative; it is certainly not on the cards as far as this referendum is concerned.
- The present and the future belongs to the under-30s who are the economic, creative and ideological driving force of this country. It does not primarily belong to the over-55 group that comprises the majority of the electorate.
In many ways, I am the quintessential example of why referendums such as these can be so precarious; I was complacent and did not register to vote in time, even though I am fully eligible and could easily have participated. Young people are the heart and soul of this country’s present and future. The (mostly white and middle-class) elderly are important and have rights, but it is not unreasonable to state that their political say is not as important as that of the younger generations. The elderly have lived longer and have a larger quantity of experiences, but are existentially living in a different time and space, one that is no longer relevant to the stability and health of society in its current stage of development. Leaving the EU is even against the interests of the elderly themselves; if Britain exits the EU, the increasingly in-demand sectors such as personal care will be found wanting. Most of the people doing these jobs here (at least in South-East England) are not British citizens. However, even though the generally reactionary voting arcs of pensioners are wantonly pernicious and needlessly disdainful of the youth & immigrant-comprising majority (group who, due to their mostly home-bound lifestyles, most over-55s have almost no contact with – until they become invalid, that is!) , we are mostly to blame; our complacency and lack of unity is a greater risk to the economic viability and transformative future than the fact that the elderly always go out and vote. The solution, therefore, is to get better mobilised!
The UK is one of the freest democracies in the world; partially bolstered by its participation in an evolving Europe, the level of inter-racial and inter-sectional communion on display here between people of all walks of life is everything America wishes it could be but does not implement in practice. This is an amazing country, one that, right now, is hugely and importantly served by being part of an EU that makes us the envy of countries like the US that only pay lip-service to values that we demonstrate naturally. Let us keep it that way.
Don’t make the same mistake as me; if you can, go out and vote to remain in the EU before it’s too late!