Kevin Colyer's thoughts and ponderings

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I am voting REMAIN tomorrow

So after weeks of the campaigns I am going to the polls tomorrow and I will vote REMAIN.

I am unconvinced by the arguments of Brexit that suggest leaving is sufficient to stem migrancy. I am certain that the legal disentanglement from Europe will take decades and will leave us poorer.  We will still be paying money to enter into the market-place to trade and then we will have no say in what happens there. I am not convinced that being British and standing alone is helpful for us. Isolation is not a great strategy.

I am certainly not on the side of Johnson, Gove, Duncan-Smith and especially Farage. I am hoping that a Remain vote will curtail Farage’s voice. I can’t imagine what future will look like in Britain if we leave as he will grow in importance in our politics. I think there is truth in the saying that the way immigrants are treated is how government would treat everyone if they could get away with it. I don’t want that future.

Instead I will vote along with the hundreds of historians, hundreds of economists and the vast group of people who want to be associated with the European project. It is not perfect but has brought peace and prosperity to a continent broken after two World Wars and thousands of years of feuding and strife. There has never been anything like the European Union. I value standing in solidarity with others than being in isolation. Being a part of the EU is good for all the other members, not just for us. It costs us peanuts compared to our ongoing costs for health, welfare and defense and arguably has lowered our defence budget much more than the millions we send each week.

Having live outside of the UK for 10 years I have seen much of Europe. I have visited the EU buildings, interacted with MEP’s and many of the people who work there. I have seen first hand the changes in many parts of Europe that membership has made to the many regions that have been poor and underdeveloped. I have seen the pride and engagement of many Eastern Europeans who have a future of safety and freedom from oppression in the EU. Many of these nations were under Soviet control as I grew up.

In sight of the EU parliament building in Brussels there is a small sliver of graffiti covered Berlin wall; standing next to it I feel relieved and thrilled that it no longer exists and the threat it implied of war and the symbol of division it embodied is no more.

I am proud of my Nobel Peace prize that I share with all European Union citizens. I don’t want to let my share slip from my hands.

Vote REMAIN with me tomorrow.



Staying in: A Strong Britain at the centre of a Strong Europe

Winning the Nobel peace prize was one of my proudest moments. It could have been one of yours too, but you may have missed it. All the citizens of Europe were given a Nobel peace prize. The reason? That the last 50 years since the European Union’s founding through the European Coal and Steel Community have resulted in the single longest period of peace in the last two thousand years of our continents history.

That is quite something.

So it comes as a great deal of sadness that we are having a referendum to consider leaving and joining. I have really no idea what we will vote, but I vote to stay in, to stay right at the centre of Europe and help steer this unique project to a brighter future.

I fear we will vote no. For a variety of reasons. Mostly a confusion of what importance sovereignty should have over our islands, what is in our perceived economic interest and fear of our borders being overrun by refugees. There seems to be a real feeling of insecurity that our way of life will be destroyed should we remain, which strikes me as odd given the potential disruption of departure. I also feel a sense of inevitability as it appears to me that few people in the UK have an understanding of culture of the rest of our continental dwellers, the concerns and common outlook. For most UK citizens history finished when we “won” World War II. Our schools teach nothing at all on the last 70 years west of the former Iron Curtain. We seem to have lost the post-war peace work by Churchill, preferring to keep him to the Downing Street bunkers in the war and forgetting his “Jaw, jaw, jaw, not war, war, war” post-conflict rhetoric.

Our continental history has been littered with the rise and fall of empires, invasions, smaller and larger tussles over land and resources. The Alsace region of France has been at various times over hundreds of years. part of Germany and France

It was in Alsace that the father of Robert Schuman was born. Originally a Frenchman who was became German, and returned to being French when the region was recaptured. Born during a sojourn in Luxembourg, Schuman was a spectator to all this confusion. Schuman eventually became Prime Minister of France twice and held other senior government posts. He was active in creating peace in Europe. And through him one very particular idea came to be.

In Strasbourg, Alsace, in May 1949 he announced the creation of a “supranational association”, the European Coal and Steel Community. This would combine France and Germany’s coal and steel production so deeply that neither could dispute over resources nor use them to produce the weapons of war that were used on each other. He said anticipated “putting an end to war and guaranteeing an eternal peace”.

Schuman’s passion was that in “Our century, that has witnessed the catastrophes resulting in the unending clash of nationalities and nationalism, must attempt and succeed in reconciling nations in a supranational association. This would safeguard the diversities and aspirations of each nation while coordinating them in the same manner as the regions are coordinated within the unity of the nation.”

In a treaty in Paris, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg all signed together to create the European Coal and Steel Community. This community would ultimately lead the way to the founding of the European Union.

So right at the centre of this cause for peace we see nation in solidarity with nation, an economic identity forged (and safe-guarded), the potential for a lasting peace from the destruction of nationalism.

This is why the UK must continue to stay within a very human and imperfect union. We need to continue this solidarity. War may be decades away from us today. It touched our grandparents, but has been locked away from us in school books. War really is truly evil. Evil, not just unpleasant. Our recent recession is unpleasant (and evil in its way: ten’s of thousands of people die in recession’s but put alongside the tens of millions slaughtered in the second world war this is evil with a small ‘e’.)

Immigration may be fearful and shake our sensibilities and securities but the carpet bombing, the battlefield and the atom bomb are far worse.

This is why I urge us to continue our solidarity with the European project. Not that war will break out imminently (perhaps with the French – historically it would be accurate to suggest that!) But with the instability in Ukraine, who could truly predict what will happen in the next five years?

I don’t think it will by the way. But union brings many more benefits. The rich cultural diversity in Europe is far more at our finger tips. I lived in Belgium for ten years and it was a constant delight to join in so much shared culture and community amongst the other Europeans I met there or traveled to meet. I have seen the benefit of the union in Portugal, that once was so poor, but has made huge progress and growth forward. You should ask Europeans how they view the benefits of union – it is always an interesting response.

I feel an exit now would be so short-sighted. It panders to an insecure sense of national interest and retreat. Not engagement, solidarity and progress. A stronger Europe will benefit us long-term. And we will benefit Europe bringing the cultural insights, and the strength of our economy and our unique political outlook to the table. For, “Jaw, jaw, jaw”, really is better than the alternative.