Wednesday, 22 June 2016

I am voting REMAIN

I'm a bit upset to find that my post in which I expressed my doubts about the EU has widely been taken as an indication that I was in favour of Brexit. It is true that I was leaning that way, but all in the end I said was that "I ha'e my doots". Since then I have clearly said that I am going to vote to Remain. That however has not had such wide circulation.

So I want to make my position quite clear. As the final days of the campaign have unfolded, the barely disguised racism and xenophobia of the Brexiteers has more than saddened me, appealing as it does to the basest tribal instincts in us. Moreover, although they talk about the fear tactics of the Remain campaign (with a modicum of justice), their scaremongering is even worse. As a Christian one of things that most saddens me is to hear other Christians implying that the middle-east refugee crisis is an Islamic plot to flood "Christian Europe" with Muslims, and thus imperil the Church in this country. The corollary of this that they would choose a religion-based immigration policy (similar to Donald Trump's "no Muslim" policy). It seems to me that this totally fails to see the fact that the refugees are not seeking to invade but to escape unimaginable destruction and suffering caused in part by so-called Christian powers. It seems to me utterly inhumane. It's also a failure of faith in  Christ's promise that not even the gates of hell would prevail against his Church.

That is to say nothing of the immorality of the Brexit cure-all for immigration, the quota system. This is based on a points system such as the one used in Australia, which is designed to limit entrance to those with skills that are needed here. Skills like doctors, nurses, teachers, for example. Sounds sensible - until you take the trouble to think of the consequences for the émigrés' nations. These will generally be poor and developing countries who have funded these professionals' training and who need their skills more than we do. In fact their development depends on such people far more than on aid. What the quota system does is contribute to increasing the rich/poor divide in the world. It is the epitome of unneighbourliness.

It is a pity, it seems to me, that we have not heard more of the positive reasons to remain, which I briefly alluded to previously. The best summary I have come across is this.

"We are convinced that working together is vital for our human family. Our vision is for a world where all people live in peace with the opportunity to thrive. We believe that Britain’s membership of the European Union is a key way we can help make that happen. Here are five reasons why:
1. Peace and security. The European Union was established in the aftermath of two world wars to build and maintain peace in Europe. In 70 years, it has made European war unimaginable by bringing together leaders in co-operation, not conflict. Against the borderless threat of terror, the people of Europe are stronger together. By remaining in the EU, Britain will not only continue to be a part of this project but help lead it.
2. Community. Through our membership of the EU, Britain belongs to a community that crosses national borders to work for our mutual benefit. A community that celebrates inclusion and diversity enriches all its members.
3. The environment. Climate change and air pollution do not stop at borders. Every nation needs to take action to tackle them and protect our environment worldwide. The EU has taken a strong lead through binding agreements that commit its members to specific action leading to lasting change. Our membership of the EU has the welfare of all humanity in its sights by protecting the planet that is our common home.
4. Human dignity and social justice. The EU was founded on a strong emphasis on the solidarity that promotes and protects human rights. By being part of the EU, many basic rights we now take for granted have been protected. The EU also stands up for justice for those outside the EU, for example in relation to international development and human trafficking, matters that can only be tackled with international cooperation.
5. Prosperity. Inside a free trade area with access to its markets, British businesses – small and large – are able to export goods and to prosper. Millions of jobs have been created, and hundreds of billions of pounds of investment have helped strengthen our economy." (from Christians for Europe)
That the future of the planet could be affected might seem far-fetched, and yet it is true that global warming knows no boundaries. A friend, Martin Hodson, who's a leader in environmental studies, wrote this, "I work a lot in this area, and the EU has been very good for the environment. We need to work together to tackle problems like climate change." 
I watched John Snow interviewing the war veteran, Franklin Medhurst, on Channel 4 last night. His message was clear. He wrote it in a moving letter to the Guardian. 
"It is helpful to be old, for in my lifetime I have seen world population increase threefold; a stable seasonal climate become wildly unstable with drought, forest fires and floods; the pollution by humanity of the planet’s earth, air and waters to a stage where all life is threatened; and violence become a permanent, continuous tragedy in a world of great uncertainty.

The only stable community in this universal upheaval has been the European Union, formed from the wreckage of a continent for which I and millions of others fought six years of war. I write as a former airman, having flown well over 2,000 hours against three despotic enemy nations. That victory for the democracies has given Europe 70 years of peace and security in a widely unstable world. The “leave” chancers are campaigning to abandon this steady progress, citing values false or irrelevant, while they have no plan of what to do after jumping ship.
If the nation should fall for this deceit I can only conclude that the lives of my comrades – Irish, Scots, Welsh and English – were lost in vain. They will be rattling their bones, wherever in the world they fell, at the loss of the beliefs for which they fought.
Britain in Europe will enhance progress to higher values in the greater world; Britain out means a return to the early-20th-century chaos of warring states against each other.
I am 96. I remember how far we have come. I know what we stand to lose.
Franklin Medhurst, DFC (RAF 1939-46)
Carlton, County Durham"
It seems to me tragic that so many are now wishing the break-up of the union that rose from the ashes of two dreadful wars and has been the basis for peace and stability since then. I know it is dressed up in jingoistic language, like taking back control and Britain being great again. But actually it is such a little vision. As the great poet said, "No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in MankindAnd therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee." The fact is that Europe needs us - and we need Europe. It's not that the EU is perfect. No one on either side of the Channel believes that. So we need to be a part of it in order to be part of the discussions which will contribute to its reform and improvement, for our neighbours' and for our own sake. We will be better remaining together. 
Hence I shall be voting that we Remain.

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