Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reflections on #Brexit and the threat of extremism

When the news broke about the Referendum I was, ironically, in another part of the EU - Majorca - filming the wedding of a couple from Caerphilly. Thank goodness for the proxy vote which Wifey duly carried out for me. The result took on an interesting perspective to me as I wandered among British, German and Spanish holidaymakers all being looked after by hospitality staff not just from Spain but places like Poland (yes indeed - the Poles don't all choose to live in the UK).

To say I was gutted is an understatement. Like a lot of people I was kind of expecting a win for Remain, albeit a very close one. The outcome felt like a punch in the stomach and the resultant shock still hasn't quite worn off. There I was, watching TV in a hotel in an EU country, learning about the most momentous event in British history for almost half a century. Pretty surreal.

I've never had particularly strong feelings about the EU until recently, but my decision to vote Remain was largely a reaction to the Brexit campaign's constant undercurrent of racism and outdated jingoism. The other arguments could have potentially swayed me but using immigration as a way of scaring people into voting Leave made me shudder every time it reared its head. I won't go into the lies and half-truths peddled by both sides but now that it's over I genuinely fear for the way we're heading politically.

Just one look at the reaction from the far-right from Britain and abroad after the vote was announced should be enough to make any sane, intelligent person feel, at the very least, slightly concerned. Echoes of history, anyone? True, they are still a tiny minority but all extreme factions start off small and Brexit could just be the little push that the right-wing snowball needs to get down the hill and become a ruddy great big avalanche of hatred.

As I write this, my plane is making its way across England into Wales, descending into the capital city I have called home for almost two decades. The landscape is the same. The roads, the fields, the cities and towns fascinatingly small below us are comfortingly familiar.

And yet, I am coming back to a country that is forever changed. Its people have spoken and their future is the most uncertain it's been for decades.

Let us hope and pray it all turns out alright in the end.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The EU referendum - why I'm voting to stay #brexit #EUreferendum

The EU referendum is looming and I wanted to share why I'm voting to remain.

Firstly, I should point out that I fundamentally disagree with the idea of this referendum in the first place. The British public should never have been asked to make a decision about something which is so incredibly complicated. Recent general elections have presented us with a choice of parties that are different but not radically so, and choosing between one or the other would not have changed our lives a great deal. This decision about the EU, however, feels like it could have a fundamental impact on our society, and not necessarily for the better. To me, it feels like we are choosing between Totalitarianism and Democracy – admittedly that might be a bit melodramatic, but I don't think it's too far off the mark and it's a scary thought.

The main argument from the Leave camp seems to centre around EU controlling all that we do, and the whole issue of immigration. Those are genuine concerns, but I don't think subjecting the country to catastrophic uncertainty because of those issues is the right way to go about it. The EU has less 'power' over us than people tend to think (that nonsense about 'straight cucumbers' being one of those lies), and immigration is a far more complex issue than one that just relates to the European Union.

I accept that the EU is not perfect, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in my opinion. If things are not right with how we relate to Europe then we should get stuck in and call for change rather than run away in an isolationist paddy.

As far as I can tell, no-one really knows what will happen to us should we choose Brexit, and to gamble an entire nation's future in this way seems irresponsible and risky. We know where we stand with Europe at the moment, but should we choose to leave we really don't know how things will pan out in terms of economy, politics and security.

A strong Europe provides an effective counterbalance to the superpowers of China and USA, something which a single nation (ie Britain) could never do, plus trade with those nations could prove far more difficult post-Brexit (as President Obama has pointed out). Not only that, Britain's exit from Europe could weaken its position with Russia – arguably an unstable and unpredictable entity under Putin.

There's a chance it could lead to the break up of the UK, especially as the SNP is pro-Europe. I was actually curious to see what would have happened if Scotland gained independence, mainly because it would have been such a fantastic snub to Westminster, but if Scotland leaves, why shouldn't Wales or Northern Ireland do the same? That may not be a terribly bad thing perhaps – but to me, Brexit feels like the wrong reason for breaking up the Union.

We do have a lot to be grateful to the EU for in spite of the bureaucracy, especially when it comes to employment law, environmental issues and human rights. Such progressive directives have improved working and living conditions for millions and I fear that breaking away from these commitments could, in the hands of unscrupulous leaders, send us back to the Victorian age.

As for the various heads of the Leave campaign, I suspect they are purely in it for self-interest rather than the wider good of Britain. It's a golden opportunity to divide political parties and whip up the populace into an unnecessary frenzy – all thanks to 'fear', a primal emotion that stifles logic and reason. If the Brexit leaders succeed, it will only line their pockets and feed their desire for power while ordinary people face decades of economic and political uncertainty.

Finally, I think Brexit can only help to stoke the fires of right-wing extremism in this country. The far-right have been gaining ground over the last few years and there's a real chance that one day in the not-too-distant future we will find ourselves governed by them. The implications of this don't bear thinking about.

So, that's why I'm voting to Remain, and my plea to you dear reader is to do the same.

If you want to read more about this, a far more eloquent article can be found here ( which does a much better job of putting the argument across for remaining in the EU so have a look.

As for me, what if Britain does decide to leave?


We could always emigrate to Canada.