At the moment you are sleeping soundly, blissfully unaware that tomorrow is a historic day for the UK. Once you’ve finished your breakfast in the morning, your Dad and I will be taking you with us as we cast our votes in the referendum on EU membership.
Don’t be fooled by the term ‘historic’ though. The classic use is to describe a historic victory, but remember that to others that same day was a historic defeat. Over the last months passions have been running high. Recently, this has meant a lot of insults flying about as supporters of each stance dig in ahead of the referendum.
The question of whether to stay or go is complex – economics, social responsibility, justice, immigration and climate are just some of the battlegrounds of the debate.
Whilst the ballot is secret I’ve decided to post my reasoning and decision here so that you can read it for yourself one day as, whatever the outcome, it will have implications for you and all your generation.
My first reason to remain is simply that I love being a part of Europe. Having easy access to travel and meet so many people, experience so many cultures, hear and attempt so many languages is a great gift. I’ve visited many European countries and enjoyed each one. There is always something new to explore and to inspire. You will find that we have adopted some of the customs we’ve learned about here at home! We have family who have moved to Northern Europe and spent happy holidays visiting them and spending time exploring their new country. Over the years we’ve worked, studied, socialised and made friends with people from the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Lithuania. This would not have been so easy were we not part of EU and I would very much miss the openness we currently enjoy.
Secondly, I appreciate the value the EU places on equality, especially for women and families. Today I have emailed my employer requesting a career break so I can spend more time with you. Things like paid maternity, paternity and parental leave, adoption leave, career breaks for caring responsibilities, national minimum wage, equal pay for both genders and protection from discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, ability/disability, age or marital status are all part of the EU ethos. Given the disgruntlement of some UK politicians and citizens, we might never have had these things were we not in Europe.
My third reason is a business one. Your Dad currently runs his own small business. One third of his business is with Europe. Being within the EU allows his business to compete on a level playing playing field. Leaving the EU is likely to increase costs and make it much harder to trade with customers still in the EU. Your Dad has put so much work into starting his business it would be awful to see it fade due to the UK stepping back.
The fourth reason I have is around tolerance and respect. The topic of immigration has been synonymous with the referendum. Many in the Leave campaign want to close our borders to refugees and economic migrants as Europe is currently experiencing the biggest influx of refugees since World War Two. Refugees are coming here because our governments have decided to bomb their countries in the misguided belief this will create peace. Others want to come here because they have few prospects and little hope at home. One joke doing the rounds is of Schrödinger’s immigrant who simultaneously steals your job whilst living on benefits and not working. It isn’t funny but it does highlight the absurd position taken by Leave. I won’t go into the arguments here (you can research those yourself!), but I will say that the NHS couldn’t function without doctors, nurses and support staff coming to the UK from abroad. The NHS is amazing and I’d hate to see it deteriorate as a result of xenophobic policy. Whilst I’m not blind to the concerns and difficulties of a (potentially) rapidly rising population, I’m well aware that many opponents of migration speak with hatred. Unfortunately the far right is gaining popularity across Europe. Their belief in superiority based on skin colour and religious belief is both absurd and dangerous. I fear for you should their hatred continue to spread. My feeling is that if we close ourselves off we’re not only ignoring the very human consequences of our governments decisions, we’re also missing the potential and the variety that other people can offer. Staying in should help us to keep our minds open, this is essential if bigotry and hatred are to be overcome. I’m sorry to say it but several of the politicians surrounding the Leave campaign hold some very unpleasant views and I cannot possibly condone those by voting to leave.
Finally, like many parents, I want my child to have as many options and opportunities as possible in life. I want you to be able to easily share with peers across the continent and, just as importantly, be able to positively influence our future. Because your future really is what the vote will affect the most.
As you grow I hope you will come to understand and love the values that we hold. These include being open to cultures and ideas, being respectful and courteous of people – even if you don’t agree with them, maintaining a love of learning which never stops, valuing knowledge, honesty and integrity, and above all, trying to love your neighbour because it is the first (and sometimes the most difficult) step in making the world a better place.
I’m writing this very late at night so forgive me if things have become a little rambly. Hopefully you will get the drift of my thinking.
In case it isn’t clear, I’m voting to stay in Europe because I love you and I believe this will give you the brightest and best chance for your future.
Love, Mama xx