So you might have heard that there’s a referendum afoot here. The UK will decide on 23 June whether or not it wants to stay in the European Union.
I’m one of the lucky foreigners because I get to vote. My American friends here can’t because they’re not Commonwealth. Don’t ask me to explain it. I don’t understand. The Europeans who live here can’t vote, even though it affects their lives. The Irish can vote for reasons unknown. And also the Maltese and I believe the Cypriots. And the British, of course.
Having lived, until ten years ago, most of my life in Canada, I’m used to politics that are more sedate. I’m used to them being so boring that you’d slip into a coma listening to the debates. So the EU referendum is a bit more like American-stlye politics. It’s gotten very shouty, vile, and unpleasant and it shocks and disgusts me. The level of xenophobia and rightwing extremism it’s allowed to become part of the discourse has led to the death of an MP – a lovely woman by the name of Jo Cox, who was previously a campaigner with Oxfam for refugees.
I try to explain the importance of this to The Mom, and it’s not that she doesn’t get it, it’s that the American election will affect her more. But I live here. And the fact that Donal Trump is an idiot and people might actually elect him isn’t as shocking as it ought to be. But for me, as an immigrant here in the UK, and as someone who comes from a country where pluralism is the norm, staying in the EU matters.
I’ve been vociferous in the run up to the referendum. Making videos explaining some of the misunderstood facts with friends of mine and putting them up on YouTube. Spending a Sunday on a bank holiday weekend going to hear Yanis Varoufakis speak – he was brilliant as you’d have expected– charming, funny, astute, and spot on. I’ve been actually reading up on what we’re talking about. And that’s a first for me. Normally I vote with my gut – yeah, that person doesn’t look like they eat baby hamsters, probably not horrible, they can have my vote. But not this. This is too important. So I’ve been arming myself with facts. And calling out people who are telling outright lies – like the £350million a week Boris says the UK pays the EU. That’s a number that is such a bald-faced lie people left, right, and centre are calling him out on it.
Recently, things have taken a turn for the even more absurd. You have to first understand that sometimes the UK is a bit weird. Weird in a way that if you didn’t grow up here it doesn’t make any sense. Like Eurovision weird.
The Leave muppets got themselves a flotilla. Like actual boats. Launched them on the Thames with Nigel Farrage at the helm. If you don’t know who this man is, he’s head of UKIP and a man so idiotic he’s recently gone back to smoking saying he doesn’t think the doctors have got that whole smoking causes lung cancer thing right. He’s also been doing some PR in front of a picture of refugees that looks an awful lot – no, it’s actually almost an exact f*cking replica – of some Nazi propaganda. Total shunt of a human being. Anyhow, he got himself a boat and took to the Thames to shout about how leaving the EU will help fishermen do something. It was almost certain to help them deplete the over-fished areas of EU waters but in a nice way. Anyhow, there they were on their boats, heading up the Thames.
Bob Geldof had been tipped off – does he have a tip line? I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised. He got some boats of his own, and being Bob Geldof, he also got a massive great sound system that completely drowned out Nige. And then they all chased each other around the Thames for a while as the rest of the world turned away in embarrassment. There was a comment in one of the papers saying that one of the judges at the Old Bailey mentioned it because it was so loud court was being interrupted.
So that’s what i’ts come to here. Rich people are in boats chasing each other up the Thames. This sort of thing hasn’t happened since late in the 1700s. But you know maybe it’s time we bring that back. It certainly got people’s attention.
But the sad thing is that I worry it’s only done that. And that people aren’t bothering to find out how bad this could get if the UK does leave the EU. To say we’d be fucked is to put it mildly. When Stephen Hawking tells you you’re about to get stuffed, believe him. Same with the IMF and the Bank of England. But people here, like folk in America are tired of experts. WHY? Why are we tired of experts?? They’re the people who ought to know what’s going on! I want experts to explain things to me. I mean, my dentist is an expert, you don’t see me going: ‘well, what does he know?’ I can just pull my rotting teeth out myself. Actually, that’s a bad example because people do that here, because there aren’t enough NHS dentists.
Yanis Varoufakis made an interesting point about that. People on the Leave side are banging on about how if we leave we’ll have more money for the NHS, more jobs because we’ll have fewer immigrants taking them. But he pointed out that actually it’s the Tories at fault for the lack of NHS funding and the lack of jobs. It’s their bloody austerity. Not the EU. Because though we do pay for the EU we get money back. A LOT OF MONEY BACK.
I hope that on the morning of 24 June, we wake up and find that we are still part of Europe. That we haven’t made a terrible, terrible decision. All I can do is cast my vote to Remain. Along with the UK’s leading scientists, economists, artists, thinkers, and hopefully citizens.