Tag Archives: EU

Why I’m proud to be European

THOSE of you who know me can guess how I’ll vote in the in-out referendum on June 23 even if I don’t usually talk about politics. Not this time, there’s far too much at stake for another comfortable, evasive silence.

But first some context – this is not a set of arguments about the economic benefits of staying in the EU. I won’t tackle the financial implications or immigration (all well rehearsed, and I value both sides of the debate). I will focus on why I want Britain to continue to play a central role in an important alliance of countries with which we have much more in common than trade.

I am European. My mother is Irish, my father British, and both have travelled extensively. My parents were living in France before I was born, and only returned to the UK a few months before my birth. My middle brother was born in France, my eldest brother lives and works in Germany. He has a German wife and two gorgeous, bilingual girls, Ella and Emily. Between us, we speak French, German, and Italian. My mother also speaks Irish and has pretty good Spanish. I have worked in Italy on bilingual contracts and communications for Italian law firms. I saw the euro established and introduced. I have lived and worked in Wales, where I spent two years learning Welsh.

My working life is focused on France; I run a large research project with a colleague at Toulouse University and regularly travel there and to Paris for work. When the Six Nations Championship begins I can support all the sides – I was born in England, I have an Irish mother, I worked in Wales, I honeymooned in Scotland, I lived and worked in Italy, and I work regularly in France. I really don’t mind who wins (but I have a slight preference for England). I’m not some wishy-washy I’ll-support-whoever-it’s-convenient-to-support kind of person, I have a finger in every national pie. But I am someone who understands deeply how much flex there is in national, cultural, and individual identities. For me, shutting ourselves off from our neighbours and friends, and their cultures, would be damaging.

Of course, my job would be significantly more difficult if we left the EU, I have a vested interest. This also applies to all my students, their families and their futures – and for the future for all Brits. We shouldn’t be short-sighted and retreat, pulling up the drawbridge just because our relationship with the EU is difficult at the moment. If we don’t work together longer term, everyone’s prospects will be diminished. Reversing what has been secured in my lifetime seems nonsensical. Forgetting that the foundations of co-operation were, and remain, the desire for long-lasting peace seems at best ignorant and at worst selfish.

The ability to travel and to work without major bureaucratic hassle or significant financial outlay is amazing. I want other Europeans to come and share their expertise and culture with us Brits too. We are, after all, already European. I am proud to be European, I am proud to be part of something that we work hard at. Walking away would be the cowards’ choice. Let’s accept the challenge, remain a member and lead the essential reform.

[This is an UPDATED POST as at 4.25pm, 30 April 2016, after my awesome uncle Jack did a brilliant copy-edit of it for me (he’s associate editor for the Irish Examiner). Original wording of post is retained below for info.]

[ORIGINAL POST 29 April 2016:

With the upcoming EU referendum on 23 June, most can guess which way I’ll be voting. I’m normally someone who keeps my politics private, but this referendum is too important for me not to share my views. But first I should be up front. This is not going to be a set of arguments about the economic benefits (or otherwise) of staying in the EU. It won’t tackle the financial implications, or explicitly touch on immigration (all of these arguments are well rehearsed elsewhere, and I value both sides of the debate). It will instead set out all the personal reasons why I want us to stay part of an important group of countries with whom we have much more in common than trade.

I am of European extraction. My mother is Irish, and my father British, but both have travelled extensively. My parents were living in France before I was born, and only came back to the UK a few months before my birth. My middle brother was born in France. My eldest brother now lives and works in Germany, has a German wife, and two gorgeous bilingual girls. Between us, we speak French, German, and Italian to a very high level of fluency. My mother also is a native Irish speaker, and has pretty good Spanish too. I have lived and worked in Italy, working for law firms on all their bilingual contracts and communications. I saw the Euro being introduced. I have lived and worked in Wales, where I spent two years learning Welsh. My working life now is focused on France; I am running a large research project with a colleague at Toulouse University and regularly travel there and to Paris for work. When the 6 Nations rugby is on, I can support all the sides – I was born in England, I have an Irish mother, I worked in Wales, I honeymooned in Scotland, I lived and worked in Italy, and I still work regularly in France. I really don’t mind who wins (but I have a slight preference for the England side)! What I mean by this is not that I’m some wishy-washy I’ll-support-whoever-it’s-convenient-to-support kind of person. But I am someone who understands deeply and personally how much flex there is in national, cultural, and individual identities.

And for me, shutting ourselves off from other countries and cultures is damaging. Of course my job would be significantly more difficult if we left the EU, so I have a vested interest in staying. But it’s also for all my students, and for their families and futures, and for the futures of all Brits, that we shouldn’t be so short-sighted as to retreat and close ourselves off just because things are difficult at the moment. If we don’t work together longer term, everyone’s prospects will be damaged. Reversing what was secured in my lifetime seems nonsensical. Forgetting that the foundations of cooperation were, and remain, the desire for long-lasting peace, seems at best ignorant and at worst selfish. The ability to travel and to work without major bureaucratic hassle or significant financial outlay is amazing; and I want other Europeans to come and share their expertise and culture with us Brits too. We are, after all, already European. I am proud to be European, I am proud to be part of something that we work hard at. Walking away would be the coward’s route.]

Advertisements