Today is apparently a big day for the UK in terms of our relationship with the rest of Europe. Our beloved Prime Minister, and genuine man of the people (you may detect a hint of sarcasm but I offer no comment), is trying to negotiate a better deal for us, with many predicting that the outcome of today’s talks will directly influence the outcome of a future referendum on whether we stay part of the European Union or go it alone in the big bad world.
The trouble with this is that most of us have no idea what a ‘good deal’ actually looks like, and so it seems preposterous to suggest it will directly influence how we vote.
How we vote will instead be decided on how afraid we are of the alternative. Some of us will vote to stay in Europe because we’re afraid of significant change and others of us will vote to leave Europe because we’re afraid of Europe telling us what to do and disproportionately afraid of mass immigration. None of those fears will be particularly informed by facts.
On a personal level, I quite like being part of Europe. But then I don’t set a lot of store by nationality because I’ve never been entirely sure what mine is.
Being British is so complex anyway. For starters you can identify yourself as British, or you can, instead, choose to be Scottish, Northern Irish, English, or in my case, Welsh. I think of myself as Welsh because I grew up in Wales. But actually I was born in England. And I live in England now. And a lot of my family are English, not least my mum. And while we’re on the subject my wife is English. So really my Welshness goes as far as supporting Wales when the national team plays any kind of sport. But when it comes to the Olympics I happily cheer on English, Scottish and Northern Irish athletes who represent team GB. Because as well as being Welsh I’m also British. So it stands to reason, as far as I’m concerned that it’s also possible to be British and be European.
I have the added complication that my dad was born in India. He was brought up primarily in the UK and has a British passport but it’s impossible to ignore my Indian heritage.
So even though I’ve never actually been to India, I am at least partially Indian as well as being Welsh, English, British, and European.
And I lived in France for a few years, long enough in some sports, were I talented enough, to be eligible to play for the national team. I don’t think of myself as being the least bit French, but I feel as at home in Paris as I do anywhere else.
And really, with the Internet and developments in travel and media and imports and exports, aren’t we all just citizens of the world anyway?
So the debate on whether we stay part of Europe will be jingoistic and partisan and probably more than a bit stupid.
A few days ago, actress Emma Thompson was asked for her take on the whole debate. I think it’s important that we do get the opinions of actors on such important political matters. How else would we be able to make an informed decision? Actors form the wisest sector of society. But here there remains confusion. Michael Caine is publically of the opinion that we should definitely leave, but Emma Thompson seems to be firmly in the pro-European camp. Nonetheless she has angered a few people by describing the UK as being “a tiny little cloud-bolted, rainy corner of sort-of Europe, a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island”.
I don’t know why people find those words so upsetting.
She’s right about the weather.
My only criticism is that she has clearly used an oxymoron in her description. How could a country that is ‘cake-filled’ also be ‘misery-laden’?
Seriously, who doesn’t like cake?
Pro-European as I currently feel, it does seem clear to me that I haven’t really given the whole issue enough thought. But from what I have seen the people who want to stay in Europe seem to be represented by a broad cross-section of society right across the political divide, whereas those who want to leave seem to be made up of slightly racist, middle-class, over-privileged baby-boomers.
However I’m not going to let the fact that I disagree with the anti-European campaigners, in nearly everything else they believe in, sway me in this issue.
I will continue to watch the debate with much interest.
Because it promises to be entertaining if nothing else.