I have generally always been for the UK being in the EU. It’s not something that I often thought about but generally being in a unity with other countries on the continent felt like a good thing to me – united we stand and all that. Not only that but somewhat naively I have always assumed being in the EU is good because most of the Brits that oppose it seem to do so because they are xenophobic or wanting to protect City bankers or any number of reasons that always feel right to oppose. I find I live a lot of my life using the Nigel Farage Barometer. If he says we should do something I tend to think the exact opposite is the sensible way forward for a better world. See also anything Tony Blair, David Cameron or Paul Daniels says, amongst others. But this past week I’ve mostly been gigging in Belgium and The Netherlands and on the whole I’ve realised that I really don’t know whether being in the European Union is a good thing or not and that there are so many elements to it that I can’t wrap my head around. All of which make it far too hard for anyone other than those extremely well versed in it’s pros and cons to make any sort of decision about the UK’s relationship to it.
A large number of the audience in Brussels on Tuesday worked for the European Commission or the EU, yet when I asked them if it’s a good thing, most of them said it wasn’t. Most of them were fairly liberal minded thinkers too. I spoke to a British couple who had moved to Brussels partly for work (they were both trilingual and translators) and partly because they found their children have approached life with a far more open minded view since moving abroad. I have nearly always found that by travelling and meeting people across the world you realise that really, we are all pretty much the same everywhere you go, which can’t do anything other than train you to be less tunnel visioned about stereotypes and easy generalisations. Not only that but whenever I go abroad I nearly always gain a long list of things that other countries are capable of that we can’t seem to manage in Britain. Not to be totally naive, I’m certain everyone does this with their own country too. But I’d have thought that similarly minded people, in the EU capital, working for the beast, would be for it. Yet the complaints tended to be about pointless bureaucracy, corruption within finances, and the fears of globalisation.
The ideal of the world is that we all live in equality, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, eye colour, which of the Star Wars films is your favourite etc etc, and so at first thought globalisation seems great. Everyone as one nation, with one currency and one identity as humans and nothing more or less. Yet the reality is that globalisation isn’t at all like that and is instead a terrifying means of control based on corporate power and finances, which could, and in the case of the EU and the Eurozone has, created greater wealth barriers and discrepancies. But at the same time would Greece have survived at all without the financial support from the other member countries? Who knows. I certainly don’t but I also wonder how many people even pass a thought to this factor when it comes to Euro elections or the idea of a referendum?
A Dutch women who also worked in the department responsible for funding certain projects in the EU told me how she hated her work due to the difficulties involved and issues with financial corruption. She said the fights she has to deal with to get money to areas that need it is extremely tough. But she also said that we always have to remember the EU was created for peace. She went on to say that people complain about what the EU is doing but never remember its main purpose or the good things it does. I went to the Nobel Peace Museum in Oslo and spent ages reading the fascinating exhibition on why it was awarded the prize in 2012. The EU was created to prevent further war within the European nations after the atrocities of WW1 and 2. Since it’s creation it has done exactly that and that is certainly nothing to belittle or begrudge. Anything that prevents senseless deaths and violence is to be applauded. And how many people take that aspect into consideration?
There are tons of other issues in all of this including environmental improvements, workers rights and trade issues*, many of which I can’t even begin to understand or pretend to have any knowledge of. What it has made me realise though is that maybe a referendum on Europe isn’t the greatest of ideas. How can any of us make a just yes or no decision in 2017 if we haven’t got all the issues and reasons as to why? If all we hear are ‘it’ll bring more immigrants’ or ‘but they want to cap City bankers bonuses’ then people will be swayed towards or against it for the wrong and possibly selfish reasons. Really we should be looking at the bigger picture of whether this is actually good for not only the UK but also the whole of Europe and humanity in general. A little while ago the BBC posted this:
I’m sure someone could argue that is filled with left or right wing bias but all in all, it seems to be a fact based table of pluses and minuses. Yet the conclusion is, there still doesn’t seem to be a reason to stay or go. If, with all the facts, that decision isn’t easy to come by, how can any of us, the person on the street, make an informed vote? Is the EU a good thing? I honestly don’t know anymore. However, I can say that a referendum on whether the UK stays part of it definitely seems like a wholly foolish idea indeed.
———————————————————————————————————————————— I’m doing a tour of my new comedy show, all over the UK. Next stop is Bath at The Rondo Theatre on February 27th. Please come. All details at www.tiernandouieb.co.uk.
* Thanks to Emma – @mzlondon – for some important notes to add on this hastily written blog.