Why I'm Voting Remain

by - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I was in two minds about writing this post. I HATE (repeat, hate) the idea of forcing my political opinions down the throats of others, of coming across pretentious or even the idea of nailing my thoughts to the mast on an issue that I'm well aware I don't have all the answers on. That said, in the wake of the terrible, tragic, attack upon Jo Cox in my own city (an act of Terrorism, no matter how the right-wing media want to dress it up), I've also resolved to stand up for what I believe a little more, so at least I can sleep soundly at night knowing that I've made some small steps to try and change what I can for the better. Despite the one-sidedness of this post, I want the takeaway point to be that it is so, so important to exercise your democratic right - people have died and are dying for you to have your say, so PLEASE do not let this opportunity pass you by.


So the EU referendum. It's taken over our TV's, our commutes and our Twitter feeds, and rightly so. I've argued with family members, with long-forgotten school friends and occasionally even taxi drivers about how I think it's going to go. At the moment, I'm really not sure, but I do know what I'd like the result to be - this girl is firmly in the 'IN' camp.

To me, wanting to leave the EU is a bit like saying you're such a good footballer that you want to take on a team of 11 on your own. Of thinking you're the toughest kid in the playground so you may as well not bother making any friends But how great can we truly be if we turn our backs on the countries who have been our allies for so long? Leaving the EU has the potential to unleash a whole realm of unknown outcomes. Trade agreements that we've known for decades will need complete renegotiation. Work to protect our natural environment and prevent climate change is likely to be shifted to the back of the priorities list  as we will no longer have to abide my EU standards. And it's very possible that we will take multiple steps back in our battle for equality as we'll no longer have the support to ban workplace and employment discrimination on grounds of age, gender, race or sexual orientation.

The UK is currently the second-largest beneficiary of EU research funding for Universities and Companies. Life-changing developments in medicine and academia may well fall out of reach at the hands of us throwing our toys out of the pram in an desire to be independent. 1 in 10 british jobs rely on involvement in the EU - the entertainment industry will likely falter (see this cracking article by Laura Snapes), funding for forward-thinking workplace conferences will fall and that cheap package holiday to Spain will suddenly be a month-in-the-works VISA expedition. Indeed a lot of these factors are 'ifs' and 'could's and I am far from being an economist, but I do understand odds - why take the risk?

In a world that grows closer technologically every day, and yet more fragmented by hate, terror and violence, what can really be gained by isolating ourselves from those who need us most? And from who we need just as much? So much of the 'Brexit' propagandering relies on the idea of us going it alone as means of protection, of cutting ourselves away from the bad. But bad happens here on our very own streets. Can we rely on our political leaders here in the UK to steer us through on their own without any wider intervention? I'm not so sure. Just last week a good, hard-working, honest woman was killed at the hands of somebody who has internalised all of this hatred, all of this foreigner-bashing rhetoric, to the point that it motivated them to murder. To the point of killing a fellow Brit in an attempt to make a point about britishness. How is this so different from the european and middle-eastern violence that leave voters believe we are so separate from?

And there is the huge elephant in the room - immigration. It's an argument much bigger than I'm willing to get into right now, but having witnessed some appallingly prejudiced racism across social media, fuelled by tabloid scaremongering, I do feel like I have to pay it due diligence here. Again, the Brexit strategy informs us that leaving the EU will help solve the migrant crisis, close our doors to 'undesirable' immigrants and ultimately 'protect our own'. Ignoring the hugely problematic undertones of these 'us and them' statements for a moment, what Brexit doesn't acknowledge is that migration comes about as a serious of push and pull factors (thanks GCSE Geography). While the pull factors to Britain are plentiful (and something to be proud of), for most migrants it is the 'push' factors that ultimately force them to make the move - civil war, oppression, lack of opportunities. If we remain in the EU, I believe that we are much better placed to do our part to help improve living conditions for these people and allow them to flourish where they are, which will ultimately help our own alleged over-crowding issue. We're constantly told by the media that we're handing too much out and not looking after our own - but why is it so hard to see that by doing our part to make things better for our EU cousins, we increase the chance of peace and harmony on our own streets?

I don't believe for a second that immigration is as responsible for this country's ills as the likes of Nigel Farage would have you believe, but rather a wider issue of intolerance, snobbery and assumptions - it's very easy to look down from your place of relative privilege and sneer when you don't know somebody's else's story. A family friend recently complained on facebook that Britain was 'going to the dogs' as they had walked through London and failed to hear a word of English from passersby - what harm are these people doing to you? I can only presume that this person speaks a multitude of languages perfectly fluently whenever they go abroad, or else they're just like so many amongst us - scared into believing that diversity is a threat instead of an asset.

So much blame over our struggling NHS and housing system is attributed to an increase in immigration, when actually our own naturally ageing population is just as large a concern. And why do we have an ageing population? Because we offer a quality of life that means people are living longer, which is surely something to be proud of. Further irony comes from a quick search of the statistics for just how many of our older citizens actually spend half their year in holiday homes across the EU, nipping back and forth to use the NHS in the same way we so regularly bemoan of others. And therein lies my biggest fear for an exit vote -  that it will only serve to bolster the opinions of the racist and xenophobic who see a leave vote as endorsement, further aggravating the tension that is already such a threat to our way of life.

I know that people are angry. I know that Britain has it's problems. I understand, and I don't have all the answers. This isn't about me going all Mean Girl's happy cakes and rainbows. But it is about choosing the safest option. Let's not choose change for change's sake - let's work together to improve what we've got. We are only as great as the sum of our parts; we can be leaders - but we need something to lead. We live in scary times, and I completely understand the impulse to opt for something drastic in order to escape, but running away just isn't the answer. It's important as young people (who I presume make up the majority of those reading this), that we don't just sit back and allow our elders to make a decision that we then have to live with the consequences of - I really do believe that we have the potential to turn this around. Currently it costs us 1p per pound we pay in tax - isn't that a small price to pay for a shared police intelligence system, a single trade market and security for workers equality and rights?

So when you roll up to that polling booth on Thursday, I want you to have a good hard think about why you're about to do what you're about to do. Are you voting out of anger and fear? Or are you voting because that fear is fuelling you to do what you can to help protect yourself and your fellow human? The EU's formation came as a direct result of the atrocities of war, and while nothing is ever perfect, there is no denying that it has been a force for so much good that we shouldn't forget about. I'm totally proud to be British, but I'm also proud to be part of something bigger. I don't want to be part of a country that celebrates chauvinism and turns it's back on those less fortunate than ourselves. At the moment at least, our horse just can't afford to be that high.

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