The EU debate should be about people, not stats.
A few days ago, I wrote a post looking at all the facts and stats surrounding the EU referendum debate. Examining the facts helped me solidify my own feelings about the UK’s relationship with the EU and I hope others found it helpful too.
But, one thing that post and most of the argument I think has engulfed this whole debate is how our decision has ignored the most important element of all, people.
I attended a special BBC Lincolnshire and Yorkshire EU referendum debate a couple of weeks. My friend, the artist Jason Wilsher-Mills was one of the members of the audience who had the chance to ask a question. One of the points Jason made really resonated with me and it was the fact that most of the rhetoric from both sides has almost completely ignored the actual people affected.
Most of what we’ve heard from the politicians and the experts is regarding the cost of leaving or remaining, the impact on the economy, loss of jobs and the control of our borders. These are of course all important.
But, what’s even more important is that the numbers quoted, aren’t just numbers are they? They’re people, real human beings with real fears and concerns.
If the economy is affected adversely or jobs are lost, that’s real peoples livelihoods, maybe your job. If we have less money, that’s food on the table to feed your family. These aren’t abstract concepts, these are real tangible things.
Where the debate has been most dehumanising has been around the issue of immigration. Numbers of immigrants who are coming to our country are used as a political tool to scare us, the electorate. We’re threatened that Turkey are imminently going to join the EU and 76 million of them will be coming here to ruin our lives. Even worse, Nigel Farage stands in front of a poster of Syrian refugees fleeing their decimated country as a warning of us staying in the EU.
In the debate I attended, the UKIP MEP Jane Collins kept talking about how easy it was for EU criminals to come to the UK. She insisted that she wasn’t saying all immigrants were criminals when she was challenged by the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who was one of the other panel members.
However, what Jane Collins said made me feel uncomfortable. Whether she meant it how it appeared to me, I don’t know, but she fixated on the criminal element of the migrant population. I feel that this has happened too often, our media and politicians are too quick to jump on the negative and ignore the positives that immigration brings, a selective immigration blindness.
Also in the audience that night, was a Polish man who had come over to the UK to work as a teacher. His wife was also Polish and even though they were born in the UK, so were his children. This man expressed his fear, that if we choose to leave the UK, his future here is compromised.
That’s one of the big problems for me, I’m sure I could cope if the price of food went up or the job market became more challenging, but it’s the impact on people, voting leave would have, that makes me want to remain.
My personal experience of immigration from the EU has only been positive, the people I’ve studied and worked with and NHS staff who have treated me. In fact, a recent poll by Ipsos MORI, found that only one in five Britons say EU immigration has had a negative effect on them personally.
Despite this, immigration has probably been THE hot topic for debate. This is in spite of the studies, that say overall EU migrants contribute financially more than they take out from the economy and stretches on public services and housing is down to Government policy and under funding, not immigration.
So, if you haven’t already voted, before you put an X in the box today, think about the people who might be affected by your decision.