Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On #Brexit

It's pretty rare that I deviate from the kind of scheduled programming here on Fuggled, you know the stuff about homebrew, beer, and pubs, to discuss something that is actually important. By 'actually important' I don't mean which overpaid athletes Jürgen Klopp wants to bring to Anfield to rocket Liverpool back to glory, though Mario Götze would be most welcome. No, today I want to talk about the referendum happening back home in the UK on Thursday to decide whether to stay in the European Union or not.

I am going to say right from the outset that I am a firm believer in the benefits of the EU, and think it would be a monumentally dumb thing if Britain were to walk away. It may sound strange coming from someone who has lived the best part of the last 17 years outside the UK, and the last 7 outside of Europe entirely, but that experience has made me appreciate the burgundy passport with the words 'European Union' embossed on the front more than ever.

When I first moved to the Czech Republic, in 1999, that country was going through the accession process to eventual membership in 2004, and as a foreigner going to work there it was a nightmare getting through the Kafkaesque bureaucracy to get a work permit and visa. Like many EFL teachers intending to stay for a year it was easier to go for day trips to Germany or Poland and have the 3 month tourist visa renewed. I decided though that I wanted to stay for more years and so the work permit became a necessity, one that involved early morning drives to Dresden or Vienna and endless queuing at the old Foreign Police headquarters to get the necessary stamps in passports and documents.

On May 1 2004 that became a distant memory. As an citizen of the European Union in the now member Czech Republic, I had the same rights as my Czech friends and no longer needed a work permit, just proof of employment and hey presto a 10 year residence permit was stamped into my passport. Also there was no more queuing at the new Foreign Police headquarters, getting to stroll past the assembled mass of people from further east looking for a better life, and be seen within half an hour usually. Those magic golden words on the front of my passport meant that I was able to live and work without hassle. I could, had I so wanted, have owned property or started a business without having to deal with the onerous processes inflicted on non-EU people living in the Czech Republic.

That freedom to live and work anywhere in the 28 member nations of the EU is by itself the main reason that if I could vote in the referendum (apparently those of us who have lived abroad for more than 15 years are ineligible to vote on whether our lifestyle can be wrenched away from us) I would vote to remain in the EU. Not a single argument in favour of Brexit holds any water as far as I am concerned, and while I am not an expert (which I guess in the mind of Michael Gove means the British people might actually listen to me), I can't see anything other than economic hardship in the event of leaving, as tariffs and the additional costs of being outside the single market take effect and drive prices up for the consumer, not to mention the complete lack of suitably qualified workers to take the place of immigrant plumbers, nurses, firemen, etc, etc should they decide to move to an EU country and continue enjoying the benefits of the greatest source of European peace since the Pax Romana*.

So please, if I may make a plea to my British readers, don't turn this into a referendum on the Tories or David Cameron for that matter, because it is more important than that. Should Britain decide to leave the EU, the country will still be subject to the rules of the European single market, exports to the EU will still have to meet EU standards. If we want to trade with the EU then we will still have to meet the conditions of the EU, and no we won't be able to have trade deals just with Germany, France, or any other individual country within the single market since trading with a single EU country means trading with all of the EU, it's just how it works.

A vote to remain in the EU is a vote that acknowledges, to steal a line from a previous referendum, that we are 'better together' with our EU partners, and that working together can make life better for all European citizens.

* - this may be slightly hyperbolic but given the history of Europe tearing itself to shreds ad nauseum for the couple of centuries prior to the EU, it is only slightly hyperbolic.

5 comments:

  1. God knows what my status will be if the racists win the referendum. That's why I plan taking Dutch citizenship if the vote is to leave.

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    1. Ah, so the entire Leave campaign is comprised of racists? Thanks for the reasoned political commentary there, Ron.

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  2. I thought Europe had generally torn itself apart over someone or other trying to create an overweening superstate.

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  3. Plenty of wars for dynastic reasons sprinkled in there as well. Even during these wars Britain didn't sit on the sidelines in glorious isolation, but was actively engaged in trying to shape the continent, why should today be any different?

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  4. Oh dear.... We are stuck between the EU faceless leaders who wont listen to the people at all and loony xenophobes who think we can go back to the glory days of the empire... and fed us lies to get us to vote. OK that is a simplification, but I think if Juncker et all wont listen to the people, and if Farage et all have lied to us, then please can we have a proper debate and another vote without the bullsh!t, but with the knowledge that the EU is run by unpleasant corporate tax-dodging accomplices...

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