Guest blog post by Koldo Casla, Human Rights consultant at King’s College London.
I have lived in England for nearly five years, mostly in London, but due to personal reasons I have also become familiar with other parts of the country as well. I have always felt welcome here, for which I am grateful. I like England very much. I adore the preciseness of language, the humour, the diversity and buzz of the capital… I don’t even mind the weather! Ideally, I would like to stay for some time.
This is my caveat, which I believe to be necessary since I will argue that the European Union would be better off without the United Kingdom.
The UK has been part of the European Communities and the European Union for more than four decades. In the second half of this time the UK has enjoyed a special treatment granted by the other Member States. It did not adopt the Euro, it does not participate in Schengen, and it can pick and choose from within the areas of security, justice and police cooperation as it pleases. Even the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is not fully applicable in the UK.
But, as is well known, David Cameron promised to get more or leave. After intense talks behind closed doors, last Friday the European Council discussed and agreed on a new settlement for the UK in the EU. Brits will be called to an in-or-out referendum scheduled for 23 June.
I say it is time to fly free both for the UK and for the rest of the European Union.
As a EU citizen (national of Spain) living in London, I urge you to vote for Brexit.
Let me be clear. I believe there is quite a lot to change in the European Union, and hopefully Brexit will be a wake-up call. The grounds beneath the EU have shaken up in recent years, daunted by technocracy, austerity and political ineffectiveness (think of Ukraine, the Eurozone crisis, the refugee situation, etc.). Be that as it may, some sort of integration is more and more necessary in an increasingly interdependent world where European nation-states are decreasingly relevant. And this applies to the UK but also to all other European countries. For better or for worse, the European voice is fainting in the world.
I see European integration as a political necessity for which the UK is a serious obstacle. The British constituency either stops or slows the process down. Britain is a strong voice for a conservative agenda, utterly pro-business but not necessarily pro-liberalism, as shown by Eurosceptics’ insistence on the restriction of freedom of movement.
The EU suffers from many challenges, but its relationship with the UK is the only one that requires a surgeon. I beg you, dear British reader and voter, to vivisection the Great British Isles from the rest of the continent, or the other way around. I really don’t mind how you put it.
I know this may sound more difficult if you live in Wales or Cornwall, two regions that are notably dependent on EU cohesion funds. But don’t you worry, because with his campaign to recover national sovereignty, I am sure the Mayor of London intends to transfer surplus from the capital westwards. If you are a landowner and you are worried about the generous agricultural subsidies you annually receive from Brussels, you don’t have to worry either, since the invigorated Westminster will swiftly help you out. By the way, Boris, if the UK finally leaves, don’t feel the need to return the €27 million you got for the Emirates Cable Car over Thames; a small “cheers” with an EU flag would do.
Changes are always fearsome. Europeans on the other side of the Channel may be scared of the symbolic consequences. The UK would be the first country to leave this club. Yes, we would lose the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but we may get a less conservative and austericidal country in return: Scotland. Brexit could be that little push Scots need to demand a second referendum and put an end to 300 years of marriage.
Am I being too presumptuous? Wouldn’t a UK outside the EU expel me as well? I don’t think so. For every Spaniard living in the UK, there are two Britons living in Spain. Many of them are enjoying the sun in the south-eastern coast, but they are also enjoying the roads, public hospitals and the sense of security and legal certainty provided by police and functioning courts. I myself enjoy similar services over here in the UK, but alas, I am not the one talking about Spanexit, so don’t put the burden on me.
Dear British reader, European companies probably won’t stop trading with British ones, and tourists will keep invading London every summer leaving their Euros in Wetherspoon pubs, souvenir shops in Camden and expensive hotels in Mayfair. So if the fear that any of this may come to an end is making you reconsider your vote, well… keep calm and carry on. And vote out.
To be honest, I don’t think I would do it if I were you. I don’t have good reasons why you should vote out for yourself. But I am asking you to do it for me. Certainly don’t do it for Nigel Farage. He may end up missing the only parliament he has ever managed to get elected to.
This article was published first in Open Democracy: https://www.opendemocracy.