By: Florie Merritt, Student in Paris
This is what I will say when people ask me from where I hail when I return to France this coming September. I am European, and I come from Europe. I subscribe to the values that the European Union was founded on: freedom, solidarity, equality and unity. I believe fervently in the union that has resulted in the longest period of peacetime across the continent in its history. I am European.
This vote that has pulled the rug from beneath the feet of those who identify as both British and European has disgraced our country. A country which already had so many concessions in the union, such as not being part of Schengen and the rejection of the Euro as the standard currency. A country which twice came to the aid of its European allies and fought for the right to peace and friendship between nations that it has now callously rejected.
What terrible hubris has brought Britain – for it is no longer great, and when it was it had leached much of that greatness from other nations for its own gain – to reject a union that has enabled such rapid growth and prosperity to a small, post-colonialising kingdom is remarkable. The inane belief that the United Kingdom still holds power in the world in the way it once did as the largest empire in history comes very much from the archaic institutions that run this country. Conditioned to feel inferior to a family simply because of their bloodline, kept in awe of aristocratic Oxbridge graduates and allowing them to run the nation, taught to believe the lies spewed by Murdoch-owned media, the British people have spent their lives subscribing to a particular form of quiet indoctrination. Britain First. Rule Britannia. Take Our Country Back. God Save the Queen. The majority of the nation don’t seem to have noticed that Britain no longer holds any power that has not been afforded to it through history. When those powers are willfully rejected, Britain’s power collapses.
But I am British no longer. By a circumstance of birth, perhaps; but by choice, by belief, I am European. I reject the idea that Britain is or ever has been glorious – to me, massacre and pillaging are not the tools of a good world power – and I reject that by a margin of 4% I must be stripped of my European citizenship. When I woke up on the morning of 24th June, I felt like I had been robbed. More than that, I felt like my whole generation had been robbed. The world suddenly looked darker and smaller, the metaphorical walls shooting up around the country casting a shadow so long it seems ceaseless. During the debates, every time I heard a Leave campaigner talk about their grandchildren and how they were voting for them I thought: they will not thank you. It feels callous to resent people you have spent your whole life loving, but in what to the world must seem like a selfish move one generation has decided to decimate another. Never in British history has the older generation done something so final to restrict the future of the younger. It is, to many, an unforgivable crime.
Those who can will most likely flee over the coming years of financial ruin, political irrelevance and social turmoil. The vote for Brexit has seemingly legitimised the xenophobic and racist in the population, as hundreds of incidents of blatant discrimination have been reported against anyone not white or not born here within four days of the result. As a student of French history I see horrifying similarities between Britain today and France during the turbulent 1930s, a time that ultimately led to the rise of the Vichy regime during the Occupation. Prejudice and scapegoating have seeped like a poison into an increasingly agitated Britain, and this vote is the first decisive step down a path where ugliness seems almost inevitable. To escape that uncertain future, many of the well-educated will leave British shores for good. Some will likely make their way to the union their country has just rejected.
But for those without the skills required to live and work in Europe when free movement has been lost, when the British like all non-EU foreigners are required to prove their value to live under its protective shield, leaving Britain will be a great challenge. With a recession barreling towards us like a train sans brakes, high unemployment figures and an increase in poverty seem inexorable. The ironic tragedy of this vote is that it will cause people to want to leave, but because of this vote many will lose the right to.
I am European. I study in France, my father is Irish, and most of all I believe in the European Union. Britain has voted to cast aside all protections and benefits of this union for the great unknown, but the other 27 countries remain. The challenge for them now – and for us, every young European out there – is to work together to build upon the foundations of the union to create something strong and fair for every citizen. By voting Leave Britain has chosen to remove itself from this future of European progress and allies being able to come to each other’s aid when necessary. It is Britain’s great loss, quite possibly its greatest loss in history, but after what is likely to be a difficult period of European instability it may well serve to be Europe’s gain. If the Brexit vote causes the EU to rally together, bury hatchets that should have long-since been in the ground and come together to reform and promote what they do for the good of every European citizen, we could quite possibly see Europe quash the growing threat of fascism and head towards a brighter future.
This is what I will fight for. Ultimately one can’t know the future, but as this vote has shown it is within the power of each and every person to shape it. That is democracy. After the secession of Britain it should now be our ambition to help heal and strengthen the union that has given us so much and promises a future of possibility.
I am European, and I will fight for the right to be.
I am European. You can't take that from me Reviewed by Student Voices on 20:55 Rating: