At the moment, I am not proud to be British. In fact, I am anything but.
The campaigning around next week’s EU referendum has revealed a nasty underbelly to this country that I am disgusted to see. And with yesterday’s murder of MP Jo Cox, something that has really affected me, the tone has become even darker. While the motives of the killer have yet to be uncovered, and it is rumoured that he had long term mental health issues, there’s no denying that the referendum has become a catalyst for some people to reveal a darker side.
Whenever the topic of leave/remain has come up and I’ve found myself talking to people who want to leave, I always ask them for their reasons. And while I can’t agree with them in any manner, shape or form, I’m pleased, for want of a better word, that none of these have been on the lines of immigration (more on political power, governance and economics).
Unfortunately the majority of the Leave campaign has been conducted around the topic of immigration, leading to a nasty ‘us and them’ mentality that is exposing the racist, xenophobic views that so many people in the country seem to hold. Views that I thought had fallen out of favour in the 70s and 80s, and seem completely at odds with life in the 21st century.
The Ukip poster unveiled yesterday summed up just how divisive and horrible the Leave campaign has become, using the refugee crisis and the misery of millions to score a cheap political shot. All this talk of “taking back control”, “making Britain great again” – it’s pathetic, jingoistic nonsense.
We often joke with our German friends about Europe, winding them up when we say we’re “visiting” Europe when we come to see them, just to hear their comically exasperated cry of “but you live in Europe!” I do think that there is a difference between us and the continental mainland, and I have often felt a gap between the UK and countries such as Germany and France in attitudes towards the EU and the role that our country plays in it. But I still think the EU is a wonderful institution, one that I am fully committed to being a part of; one that has an important role to play. We already have a slight divide due to geographical location, and I have absolutely no desire to further distance this country mentally from our cousins across the water.
If we wake up next Friday and have left the EU, that’s sending a clear message to Europe, and the rest of the world, that we consider ourselves to be superior, different and better than other countries. This is not a message that I wish to be associated with. It makes me sad that so many British people do.