So, What Now UK?
Who Am I? I’m suddenly not sure!
As a kid I was very lucky to enjoy family holidays across Europe. My parents worked hard, and we enjoyed visits Spain and France. The first place I got sun burnt was in Puerto De La Selva, aged 5! We were lucky. Not everyone got to travel and enjoy what Europe has to offer. It wasn’t easy, as we didn’t speak the languages at all. But I felt lucky to see different parts of Europe. I spent so many teenage years trying to learn to speak French, but despite my efforts, and doing well in other academic areas, and visiting France I wasn’t very good.
How did this happen?
Is the problem that we’re too self-selecting in our audience? We post to facebook to only our friends. It’s not surprising that opinions from either end of the spectrum go unchallenged, and just ‘liked.’
Is the problem that as people gain education, they tend to associate with people with a similar level of education? Is the problem that there’s not enough assistance for adults to learn further throughout life? Is the problem that not enough British people are getting to meet people from other countries in the EU? Or is the problem more fundamental, in that the opportunities available are not evenly distributed across society. I don’t have the answers, but it seems that a large part of society feels sufficiently disenfranchised that they no longer care for factual arguments. It took seconds for most to dismantle this “£350million a week saving” claim. But at the same time were those factual arguments just given to our self-selecting audience? How many people had conversations with elderly relatives about their hopes to remain within the EU? How many people had conversations with people outside their current city?
Is it that the pro-EU arguments were too blind to the aspects of the EU that needed reform? Unsure. Feels like some were. I can’t say I full understand all the issues now, and I did try. Removing the monthly commute to Strasbourg seems an obvious simplification & saving though. Perception of immigration seemed wildly different to reality, but listening to the issues around it would have been a start? I felt strongly pro-Remain, but that there was a good case for reform. Would the vote have been different if there was an option for ‘Remain, but reform?’ The campaigning reached new low levels of standards on both sides. I saw more intelligent debate amongst my friends, than I did on tv from the political elite. I briefly looked up one of my MEPs. Did I send him a message? No. Would that have helped? I’m unsure. Why wasn’t he interviewed more often on the local news? Unsure. I’d have not seen it, because I felt extremely disenfranchised from the main political debate, which mostly seemed to have turned into the hokey cokey, done at ridiculous volume.
But, Who Am I?
I honestly don’t know. I was born in England. Paignton to be precise. I lived in a few places, but spent most of my adult life in Manchester. I’ve had spells working in the South East, and London. I worked hard in Manchester to support the tech start-up scene. It is still embryonic, but getting better, and has plenty of ambition & intelligence within it. Am I Mancunion? Am I British? Am I English? Am I European? I don’t know.
For certain, I have felt more European in recent years.
This year I visited Munich and Austria. It was a mixed trip; bit of work, bit of a holiday. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know how the co-working in Munich would go, but despite my lack of language skills I felt included and productive. Actually ridiculously included. Sure it was a social impact co-working space, so again with the self-selecting audience, but it felt like you could go, make efforts with people and they would reward those efforts ten fold. Speaking English, it didn’t feel the lack of German was a barrier, though obviously it’s an advantage to be able to speak it, and I did pick up a few phrases and “Die Immer Lacht” ;)
I was at the heart of Europe. People were inclusive. People were proactive in solving the refugee crisis. Incomers were included.
I felt European. I liked it. I felt I could do that again…but now???
So, What’s Next?
I’m unsure. At the point of feeling the most European in my life, I find that the country I was born in will no longer be part of the EU in 2 years. It was a democratic vote. There’s unlikely to be errors in the counting process — a mate witnessed them, and they were extremely robust. The UK has yet to invoke ‘Article 50' but it will no doubt do so soon. Or maybe the EU will infer it has observed a democratic process, seen the results, and begin to invoke it in the name of democracy? There’s many unknowns. There’s reassurance that European law will still be upheld during this unknown divorce period.
The split in the UK is dramatic. It’s not 90% leave, 10% remain. I wonder what amount of the UK electorate who voted for remain, feel sufficiently European for their to be some attempt at achieving an accommodation of this from the EU authorities? Perhaps within the next two years those who have enjoyed freedom of access, and working abroad, can become a ‘European Citizen’ and continue to enjoy these rights?
Is the concept of European Citizenship an idea that has been discussed previously? I don’t know. Is it something that you feel is worth discussing now? I’d love to know…
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Ian Of Europe.