I am European

I’m not British or French.  I’m European.

That does not mean that I belong, or want to belong, to a super-nation.  Far from it: Europe is a collection of disparate countries which firmly keep their own identity and have a history of not getting on with each other which goes back centuries. Exactly – we share this troubled history, we know each other’s warts, we may admire, laugh at or be irritated by each other.  There is a familiarity.

By stating that I’m European I’m stating that I don’t want to be thought of as British – or French.  Of course there are places in England and Scotland which I have called home. My family and very best friends are still there, my family roots go back centuries in England, Scotland and Ireland. I belong to these countries and their past. But I skirt away from concepts of pride of nation.

For me the three main contributors to conflict are wealth inequality, religion – and nationalism. I’m ashamed when I turn on the radio and hear the voice of Little Englanders wishing to pull up the drawbridge to the world’s problems and suffering people.

Of course the main arguments for staying in the EU are economic: there are the jobs that depend on membership, Britain benefits from the many able Europeans who come to work (and study) in the UK, the EU is the main market for British goods and services, and Britain benefits from the many EU trade deals in world markets.

But Britain has benefited politically and socially from EU membership. However much everyone hates Brussels bureaucracy – and yes, it badly needs reform – European legislation has an impact in many spheres of life, such as protection of the environment and financial grants to universities, and more often for good than not.

It’s not just the economic arguments that convince me.  I would like to see a Britain which looks outwards, seeing the benefit of living and working with neighbours, rather than turning its back on them.

Typical of the depressing comments I read which make me cringe is:

“Let’s have our country back and be BRITISH once again. …”

What –  little Britain – alone and battling against the world, rebuilding its own trade agreements, making new friends, finding new markets?  Or maybe hanging more tightly onto America’s coat tails? Of course the comment above conflates European migrants with immigration in general – or does the speaker feel that with European ties cut it will be easier to turn away the world’s refugees?

So — I would prefer a grown-up rather than little Britain, working and talking with its neighbours, learning to make compromises, not always sneering or thinking it is superior.

Of course I have selfish reasons for opposing Brexit.  It is not at all clear what rights Britons living abroad will retain if they lose their European citizenship.

Freedom of movement in the EU goes both ways: I can choose to live in France because we are in the EU.  If we leave, I may not necessarily have residency rights.  My tax bill could go up: for example at present I don’t pay CRDS (a tax which looks like increasing) because I am protected by the EU double taxation treaty. Most important of all for me, I would no longer necessarily be able to benefit from the EU reciprocal health agreement which means I enjoy all the benefits of the French health system.

In other words, I might have to leave France and return to the UK, along with many of the 1.8 Britons living in other EU countries.

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