Published on June 21st, 2016 | by Prospect


Xenophobia – A Trendy New Era?

By Leigh Freeman, Prospect National Trust Branch Vice-President

I am a passionate environmentalist, a passionate liberal, passionate about human rights and passionate about trade. I need to be clear that, today, I am expressing my personal views, or rather fears, and that they are not connected to any of the organisations that I represent in any way.

I devote a lot of my personal time towards the causes I believe in, but can’t think of a more important cause to our futures than this one.

Several months ago, I began researching the EU debate, open-minded about what’s best for the UK, the best for our futures and best for our society. I have come to believe that, on every front, the UK’s future is better within the EU, and I am unashamedly passionate about saying so.

On the economy, the arguments for remaining are copious, argued by economists, business leaders and politicians alike. It astounds me how often Leave campaigners tell us how the UK can stand on its own two feet as the ‘fifth biggest economy in the world’.  It’s as if world economics is as simplistic as boiling an egg. No regard for the immensely complex make-up of economic factors that created that wealth and prosperity. The risk to the UK economy of breaking this is, I believe, titanic and permanent. The risks to where I live in Wales, so dependent on EU funding, are even worse.

I read about the Leave campaign’s vision for immigration, and how we’ll take back control and close our borders, as if it’s as easy as making toastie ‘soldiers’ dip into the egg. All of the issues in the rest of the world will suddenly disappear, or won’t matter because they’ll no longer affect us. We’ll have a points system and be like Australia, or Norway, enjoying all of their benefits with none of the pitfalls. We’ll use immigrants on an ‘as need’ basis, as if they are tins of baked beans in the cupboard that we can take out and use when we please.

I am scared of leaving the EU, but I am terrified of what the UK is becoming.

The EU decision has a monumental impact on our lives, and yet I worry that this is just the surface of our problems.

The political system which has made the UK great for centuries is unstable and threatened. The centrifugal balance between left- and right-wing that has kept one another’s imperfections in balance has disappeared.

We have cultivated a political system with left and centre having strong values and weak powers; against a far-right with weak values and strong… such strong powers.

Campaigning on the EU by presenting facts has become futile; too few people caring about facts, and way too much hatred for the facts even to matter.

Our country has de-sensitised to hurt, pain and respect; we’ve lost the line between the right to free speech and the intent to cause offence on both sides of the debate.

I see videos of football fans abusing refugee children at the Euros; a social media full of hatred and racism; pictures of golliwogs going viral; and normal people claiming that we need to ‘take back democracy’, but abusing anyone who expresses a conflicting opinion. I read personal or racist attacks, not written by a few, but by masses, their comments ‘liked’ and endorsed by masses. I love this country and it makes me feel sick to my core.

Realisation sets in of how bad things are when we find ourselves depending on our far-right government to save us from an expanding distant-right political snowball. What’s worse is that our political landscape is mirrored with our friends in the US, a world protector of all of our values. Like a distressingly real episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, the EU could be all we’ve got left to save us.

To want to vote Remain has somehow become anti-British and non-patriotic. I look back to being in London on ‘super Saturday’ during London 2012, and how great it was to be British. I adore the UK and its modern values just the way they are. I love it because it is proud, at times slightly arrogant; but welcoming, passionate, liberal and tolerant, and is prepared to stand up and help those in need in less fortunate corners of the world.

It’s the leave campaign that wants to change the UK, not me; and the EU isn’t screwing us, we’re doing it all by ourselves.

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