Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Letter to my MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, concerning the European Union and a Parliamentary vote to leave

Dear Jim,

May I add my voice to what I suspect and certainly hope will be the throng of constituents urging you to oppose whatever legislation the Government might bring forward to further the country’s departure from the European Union? I am partly inclined to leave it at that, since you must have heard all the arguments before, yet feel that such would be an act of laziness, shading into cowardice, so please humour me.

To those who speak disingenuously of ‘defying the will of the people’, there are so many responses that it is difficult to know where to start. One might do so by pointing to those prevented from voting, by age or by nationality. One might also point out that this is a parliamentary democracy; not only is it impossible for a referendum to be anything other than advisory, but its advisory nature was explicitly conceded by the Government. There is also, of course, the little matter of the Supreme Court judgement. It is, though, simply absurd for anyone to claim to restore parliamentary sovereignty – not that it ever needed restoring – by circumventing it. There may very well be good reasons to adopt another system, but that is an entirely different matter. Moreover, a crude, slender majority of an electorate, even if it were less gerrymandered than this, has never been considered to offer a mandate for major constitutional change. In any case, the will of all, as Rousseau would tell us, is quite different from the general will.

Perhaps more fundamentally, still more personally, our future is being stolen from us: stolen by ignorant, xenophobic, often downright racist people, a great number of them of an age to suggest that theirs is an existentialistic act of revenge upon generations who have already been many times cursed by their social vandalism. Most of us have no hope whatsoever, especially in London, of owning property. Our financial prospects are bleak, and will be far bleaker in the bargain basement ultra-neo-liberal order the Conservatives have in mind. We shall never be able to retire; we fear the loss of our National Health Service; we worry about being dismissed at will on the basis of gender, race, sexuality, or any other prejudiced whim. The European Union has often been our only hope against the ravages of Thatcherism and its successors. It is far from perfect, and is in great need of reform, but its neo-liberalism is at least considerably removed from that of the Conservative Party.

We are Europeans. We do not see free movement as something to be tolerated, still less attacked. It is for us a blessing to have the right, as European citizens, to live, to work, to study alongside our European brothers and sisters. For many of us, it is our keenest of dreams to do so. We likewise welcome those brothers and sisters with open arms to our shores, and we abhor the vicious, even deadly, attacks upon them by racists. The people to whom this is happening are not an abstraction. They are our friends, our neighbours, our lovers; they are those we pass on the street or sit next to on the Tube; they are our fellow citizens, of Europe and of the world. We care about them and treat any attack on them as an attack upon ourselves. We have no wish to compel those who do not wish to make use of their privileges to live elsewhere to do so; all we ask is that they do not, out of spiteful malice, prevent us from living our lives.

In an increasingly dangerous world, with an outright fascist government now ruling the United States, now more than ever is the time for European solidarity. That need not, should not, betoken insularity, yet it will enable us to help other countries in greater need than our own. Cast outside the European Union, we shall matter to no one; we shall be quite incapable of influencing the EU’s decisions concerning ourselves and the rest of the world. That is not, as some would have it, to ‘do Britain down’ – the very phrase, incidentally, displays a chilling indifference to Ireland – but to attempt to elevate her, so as to play a full role in the world of today, rather than engaging in repellent imperialist fantasies.

Above all, to oppose this would be the right thing to do. Our country, our continent, and, closer to home, our city, our borough, and our constituency depend on it. The alternative is catastrophe of a kind even the most pessimistic of us have not begun to imagine.

Please do what you can.

With best wishes,


1 comment:

David said...

Very well put, Mark. I feel so combative right now. At the time of the Referendum, I could have reasoned talks with would-be Brexiters, trying to correct illusions about the 'unelected bureaucrats in Brussels' and Turks overrunning western Europe, reinforce the rights the EU reinforces in Britain etc. Now I have no patience in the light of the European Union being our only bulwark against Trump and Putin. Since Trump said he was 'Mr Brexit', I call them all 'Trumpites' and deluded and/or stupid. Incandescent at a European Commission gallery event to find two Brexiters there moaning about an MP's speech hotfoot from the Commons on Wednesday, yet consuming the wine - yes, they were very drunk, one was offensive - and leeching off the hospitality.