The UK can and must still hold fast to a Europe of valuesby Shami Charkrabarti / September 15, 2016 / Leave a comment
“I was a remainer” already sounds like the start of a dystopian novel, or the beginning of an anecdote to a grandchild in years to come. Yet I was. Sceptical of aspects of European Union policy and its lack of accountability, I never felt the slightest desire to abandon or destroy it, any more than I would with the UK, about which I harbour many of the same reservations. Ultimately, as an internationalist living in the 21st century, I understood globalisation as a reality and not a choice, and wanted a Europe for people and values—not just money and markets. This remains my hope.
And yet, just as throughout the dismal campaign, the discussion remains strikingly narrow. Anxiety about the economic consequences of “Brexit” are everywhere. Whether here in our shell-shocked divided kingdom, or across the channel in the EU nations that we have half turned our back on, the likely effects of June’s referendum result are ceaselessly calculated via the indices of pounds, euros, GDP and interest rates—understandably so. But what of the deeper, broader and indeed generational dangers? Harder to quantify but no less important to health, happiness and human rights in the continent that, not so long ago, spawned two world wars and the Holocaust.
I was not unmoved by the xenophobia of the “Leave” campaign, nor by the clear wishes of the young with their overwhelming majorities in favour of staying. The result gave rise to stories of inter-generational conflict—even within families. The expressed feelings of rejection and despair among so many who otherwise live, work and rub along together still linger. They must be healed in time by whatever comes next, but in contrast with the referendum itself, this will take longer and require answers that look beyond our borders and presently enfranchised electorate.
It is another form of prejudice to suggest that every “leaver” was a chauvinist or racist. Yet too many with influence over the campaign make casual play with divisive cards. The spike in reported hate crime in public places was as troubling as the stories of friends, families and communities trading insults of betrayal. In the uncertain times ahead for our country and continent, there is an urgent need for an injection of calm…