My children and their cousins understand the value of their pan-European heritageby Lucy Wadham / June 30, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
My dad, post-war Atlanticist and Empire nostalgic as he was, to my constant irritation would talk about Europe as if it were a continent beyond the Channel to which he didn’t belong. “We’re part of Europe,” I’d tell him and he’d mumble, “Yes, yes.” But I knew he was unconvinced. It wasn’t until 24th June that I understood how deeply entrenched this view still is in the UK. I discovered that my father’s ethos, its nostalgia for the past, its discomfort with the present and its dread of the future, had won the day.
Even when, out of his five daughters, three were living in France and one in Spain, my dad never accepted the idea that the UK might actually belong in Europe. He grew to admire the miracle of his seven bilingual grandchildren, their mobility and their adaptability as they moved through European cities, studying and working in French, English or Spanish, but he never embraced his country’s place in the EU, which irritated him to the last.
I should have realised that the mean-spirited campaigns unfolding in the run-up to the referendum were a sign that the conversation had been hijacked by those, on both sides of the argument, who clung to the belief that Britain was superior to the rest of Europe. With hindsight, of course, we all now realise that both “Leave” and “Remain” were too busy lying to each other—about immigration, the NHS, the cost to the economy of staying or going—to think of arguing for the value to future generations of belonging to, by which I mean being proud citizens of, an extraordinarily rich continent, as opposed to just a marketplace of 500m customers.