Author: Molly Hugh
Since David Cameron proudly announced that there would be a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU or go solo, it has been a hot topic for debate which will continue to be battled out until that fateful deciding day in, or before, 2017. However, the decision isn’t as clear as it might appear and leaving the EU isn’t perhaps a move that would tie in with the principals of global citizenship. So what should the people of Great Britain vote? Should we stay or should we go?
After a momentary dramatic resignation, UKIP’s controversial leader, Nigel Farage, is back on the battlefield, fighting for Britain to go it alone and asking for people to be loyal to their country and join the ‘People’s Army’ (his pet name for UKIP supporters). Before even giving Cameron a chance to renegotiate Britain’s membership, Farage encourages supporters to hit the ground running with a firm ‘No’ campaign, as a result of the ‘sheer numbers’ of people coming to England, the ‘change to communities’ which this causes and the resulting ‘wage compression for ordinary workers’. Farage argues that Britain should be run solely by Brits, and being a part of the EU will reclaim control of British borders and put us back in the driving seat.
But where is the essence of global citizenship in that?
Policy team leader on immigration for the Home Office, Rebecca Handler, pointed out that migrants are actually less likely to claim benefits than the average British national, and the actual number of immigrants living in the UK make up 13% of the population compared to the 26% than Brits guessed in a survey last year. So what does this mean? It suggests that the crisis on immigration that the press so frequently rants about is possibly more fictional rather than factual. Maybe the newspapers are making a mountain out of a mole hill and whipping up a storm that would otherwise be non-existent?
On top of this, if Britain unanimously decides to tick the ‘No’ box then many argue that we will be waving off our freedom to work and live in other EU countries. So say goodbye to dreams of packing up and moving to Spain to escape the dreary unpredictability of our temperamental English weather, as over one million Brits are doing as we speak. Leaving the EU quite possibly will leave us stranded on our rainy island with not even the option of emigrating to sunnier horizons. While the UK hands over a grand total of £65.7 billion per year (according to an all-inclusive study by UKIP’s Gerard Batten) in order to retain its membership, this is only a grain of sand on the beach in comparison to the benefits we gain of trading across borders without the burden of restrictions and tariffs.
While the EU has its faults and people are not satisfied with its out-dated designation of funds (hence the rumour that French cows are living in luxury due to unequal distribution of agricultural funds), the fundamental beliefs that the EU represents are key in promoting the ideals of global citizenship. The EU was first formed as an agreement between European countries that the tragedy of war would never hit them again; it is a declaration of peace and cooperation between states that were previously enemies. One of its many aims is to keep alive the many minority languages that are at risk of extinction, for instance Yiddish and Romany, demonstrating the EU’s commitment to maintaining cultures and being faithful to the people. Furthermore, the EU advocates human rights and demands that all people should be treated equally, and therefore have the freedom to live wherever they wish within the EU.
However, our current government is readying itself to negotiate changes so that British citizens are treated differently to everyone else within Britain. Basically we’re looking at a kind of ‘us’ and ‘them’ system that could potentially destroy any multicultural community cohesion that many people living in Britain now happily live their lives within. Leaving the EU completely could also trigger a similar effect.
But why should the British be treated in a superior way? Why should we confine ourselves and others to borders which we happen to have been born within? The EU strives to create an area in which everybody is equal and in which everyone has the freedom to choose a place to call home. So what is the point of abandoning the liberty and justice that we all possess as a part of the EU? Why be citizens of only our tiny island when we are currently citizens of Europe?
The first step in exercising our roles as global citizens is to accept those around us and realise that we are all the same. So vote to stay in the EU!
With thanks to Filipa Figueira and Rebecca Handler for their inspiring lectures.