A thought-provoking piece from Roger Porkess

Posted on 8th October, 2019

Why I believe we should stay in the EU

 

In October last year, I had the privilege to be a contributor to an EU statistics conference, held in Bamberg in Germany. The overall theme was the importance of official data and the focus of our strand was encouraging the use of such sources in schools. I spoke about the recent move in England to ensure that students have the experience and excitement of working with large sets of real data. The other presenters in our session were from Sweden and Holland and our chair was a Portugese professor; our audience was from across Europe. We all really enjoyed working together and felt that each of us added to what the others were saying. There were no national barriers between us; we were all EU citizens working to a common purpose.

 

The timing worked well for me as the next day was a big People’s Vote march in London attracting about ¾ of a million people. That too was very inspiring. But then I went home to Totnes where UKIP were actively infiltrating the local Conservative party in order to deselect Sarah Wollaston as our MP. It was an awful shock to return to the ignorance and small-mindedness of a group of people who obviously do not understand what the EU is all about. Fortunately most people in Totnes, and indeed the rest of Devon, are not like that.

 

I did not need a statistics conference or a march in London to convince me that we should be staying in the EU. I have always believed that as a country we should be outward looking, seeing ourselves as part of a community of nations, rather than little Englanders. When the referendum came, I would have liked to contribute to the debate but it all seemed to be about personal finance, whether you were a few pounds better off in or out, and not about the deeper issues that mattered to me. During the march in October I met like-minded people, and made contact with Devon for Europe.

 

I don’t think anyone had expected the level of hate that would be whipped up by the referendum. All our traditional British values are being eroded by some of those who want us to leave the EU at any cost. Who would have expected one of the country's most famous authors to be spat at in Devon, minority groups to feel under threat, MPs to receive death threats or in one dreadful case actually murdered? I have a haiku on my desk which genuinely helps me to deal with the emotions involved.

To save our country

From intolerance and hate

We must stop Brexit.

 

Those pushing for us to leave the EU are led and financed by a small group of very rich people, hoping to turn our country into a tax haven for themselves. They have used their money to fund a cynical campaign to convince ordinary people that the EU is responsible for problems that were actually caused by our government's austerity programme. In a further step in non-logic, they linked this to patriotism. I do wish that those who chant slogans like "Leave means leave" would pause and ask whether they are letting themselves be used as puppets and who are pulling the strings.

 

Sometimes the referendum is described as a great act of democracy but it was just the opposite. People were not told that it was advisory and not binding so they did not know what they were voting for, and there was serious overspending from the leave campaign. It really should have been annulled. With such misconduct it was certainly no exercise in democracy.

 

True democracy is a way of thinking in which you respect other people's views and try to come to a consensus. It is much deeper than "winner takes all". The referendum fell far short of that.

 

 

It would be wrong to see events in the UK in isolation. Many countries now have extremist leaders. Such unscrupulous people, with their own agendas, are not only an immediate threat to international stability but put the very future of our planet in danger.  Donald Trump has reneged on international agreements like the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Iran nuclear deal; in Brazil, Jair Bolsanaro is allowing the Amazon rain forest to be felled and burned; and so on.

 

The whole world is watching the UK. If we walk away from Brexit, we will send out a clear message to everyone that, having looked at the associated bigotry and petty nationalism, we have decided that this is not the future we want for our country. That will be a great example for others to follow.

 

 

Roger Porkess

October 2019

 

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