On June 23, the UK will hold a historic referendum that will determine whether they stay inside of the European Union or exit.
“The Brexit,” as it’s called, has divided the country.
Britain was a relative second choice to the initial family of six countries that formed the early version of the European Union in 1957. The French, under President Charles de Gaulle at the time, had little time for the English, and the English had little time for the French. But England joined in 1973 and became a big player in the EU which now has 28 member states. They also enjoy a semi-unique status inside of this massive economic trading block. The Brits retain their currency and want nothing to do with the open border policy that is known as Schengen. With the exception of the UK and Ireland, the rest of the EU is obliged to adopt.
For most European member states point of view, the Brits are already getting a sweet deal – Trade collaboration, protection, and stimulus of a huge economic block but they still retain sovereignty over their borders and currency. Especially in light of the recent immigration crisis that has resulted from the Middle East conflict.
So which way is this going to go?
Right now current polling suggests that the “stay-in” vote has a slight edge over the Brexit vote.
It’s too close to call but David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, has staked his reputation on the “stay-in” stance. However, the flamboyant Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who is considered to be a potential heir apparent for the Prime Ministership, is on team Brexit. The right-wing UK Independence Party and some would say openly racist party, UKIP, is solidly for Brexit.
For me, I like the European Union. I enjoy the international flavor of London with the open flow of European workers in hotels, bars, and restaurants. I love hearing the languages. On any given day in any given restaurant or hotel, you can speak with a Pole, Slovenian, Italian, or Spanish citizen. It creates a better community and in many ways it teaches us through trickle down to love thy neighbor. Yep, even the French! I like moving through the open borders of Schengen on my Euro passport. I can remember when I was growing up in London traveling “abroad” on our holidays to strange foreign places with sunshine and warm seas called Spain and Portugal. They were third world countries recovering from decades of Fascist dictatorships. Now they are integrated into a powerful block of healthy economies that make them better.
Consolidation is the way of the future; just like airlines and hotels. It is economically impossible to survive and prosper as a tiny island state.
Frankly, to sit on the lawn, looking out across the English channel, lamenting the days when once we ruled the waves, smoking the pipe and sipping the Pimms, talking about India and places in Africa whose names have since changed, is a daydream of colonial bygone days.
Yep, I know the Brits struggle with the French and the French struggle with the Brits but this is the future and that is the past. They gave us garlic, baguettes, fabulous cheeses, champagne, and wine. The Brits have the beer, the aristocracy, theatre, and tradition that still lives. Not to mention the culinary delights and natural wonders of the other 26 European countries. This is not just a powerful economic trading block, it’s a new way of life and I am grateful to be a European. I don’t want to lose the touch of Europe that we would lose if we took the narrow view and leave. We would have to rename the song “Rule Britannia” into “Fool Britannia.” The UK would be marginalized. It would become a niche business! That would be a drag for all of us.