Thursday, 28 April 2016

Europe - Them Or Us

Where we saw Nick Robinson, captured in Lego

The other day, we encountered Nick Robinson and a film crew trying to find a handbag shop at St Pancras station. We were killing time between trains from Gatwick Airport and onwards to York, and he provided a welcome distraction for my shopaholic daughter, who had already set her eyes on some bamboo socks that cost £4.95 a pair.

The reason for Robinson's handbag shop search became clear during the second part of his documentary series, Europe - Them Or Us. He needed something to introduce Mrs Thatcher trying to get her money back from the Common Market.

The programme was interesting because I learned that around the time I was born, Mrs Thatcher was ardently pro Europe, and the Labour Party were very much against it. How times subsequently changed.

Robinson gave a fairly balanced view and patiently worked his way through Maastricht, Black Tuesday, the Euro, and Blair's bid to be President. It certainly provided a useful historical background.

However, this terrifying referendum on June 23rd, caused by Cameron's own fear that the Tories would lose seats in Parliament to UKIP, will be decided by ignorance. The people that need to find out the facts won't have been watching Robinson's documentary. The sort of people who stand in the street and say "What did Europe ever do for us?" The people who think that Nigel Farage with his pint and booze and racist opinions is a great bloke. The people who think this referendum is about Syria and the refugee crisis and throwing out immigrants. The people who still think Britain has an Empire. The people who have no idea what the Tory Party might to do our country and workers' rights if they are given a free rein to act as they please. The people who think that the country will suddenly be billions of pounds richer if we no longer have to give the EU money, and that a Tory government will give all that money to them. The people sat on their sofas moaning that Bulgarians are taking their jobs while being too lazy to go out and get their own.

I am not saying that the EU doesn't have its faults, nor that these aren't turbulent times. But as far as I am concerned, I am European. I speak four European languages. I went to university in Germany. I love travelling. I want to be free to visit, live, study and work in and be part of places like this:

and this:
and this:
and this
and this:

 and this:
Lake Bled

And these are just the places on water.

The ignorance of voters I fear is summed up for me by two individuals. The first is a man interviewed by Channel 4 News. He was a farmer, in receipt of EU subsidies. He owned a haulage company, whose vehicles were supplied and serviced by Renault in France. And yet he was campaigning to leave, adamant that his finances and his business would not be affected. The second is Scarlett Moffat of Gogglebox fame, who represents the "undecided" camp. She was watching the news when Boris "decided" he would side with the Brexit campaign. Moffat said she thought that Boris Johnson is trustworthy. Now, what exactly about Boris is trustworthy, I ask? But she said that if Boris is telling people to leave, then it must be for a good reason. And not at all because he thinks it will get him an easy ticket to become Prime Minister.

I am genuinely frightened by what Daily Mail and Sun readers and UKIP voters and Johnson & Gove could do to our country on June 23rd. So please, if you care about small things like travelling on holiday without needing a visa or being able to get free emergency healthcare if you become ill in another EU country, or big things like your rights to maternity and paternity leave and equal pay, the need for Europe-wide collaboration on security, trading at competitive prices, or just the fact that there is a mechanism in place to protect us from some of the worst of Tory rule, then don't let it happen. The divorce would be messy, and we would be the suffering children caught in the acrimony.

But thank you, Nick Robinson, for an interesting programme, even if the right people won't have watched it.

I still ended up having to buy those bloody socks though.


  1. Couldn't agree more. I'm terrified by the idea that we'll vote to leave.

    We must disagree on one point, though: I think that those socks are rather fabulous.

  2. Oh, the socks are lovely. It was the price I objected to!