I encourage British readers to consult the site People’s Vote and The Independent March for the Future scheduled for 20th October in London. All details about locations and logistics will be found on the page. It is an opportunity for large numbers of people to demand a second referendum on Brexit to undo the present deadlock in negotiations and the real threat of a no-deal Brexit. I would go myself, but I don’t have the money, given that I need to travel next month for a Diocesan Council of Advice meeting.
When the referendum occurred in 2016 I was disenfranchised from voting by the British law that says that anyone living outside the UK for more than fifteen years no longer has the right to vote. A revision of this law is presently going through Parliament, but it will take a long time. I don’t know how I would have voted at the time, given that the EU was being blamed for everything. It is only now that people are becoming informed that the promises at the time over Brexit were deliberate lies and that the present process towards a no-deal Brexit will be catastrophic both for the UK and Europe.
Anyone who reads the news, not only from the mass media but also in blogs, will see how complicated it is all becoming. The Tory Government and its far-right extremists are behaving like a blinkered horse. A no-deal Brexit seems only to be of interest to obscenely rich and powerful people. See this sober analysis.
As I have mentioned before, Brexit is a black cloud over us British who live in European countries. Just as EU citizens living and working in the UK, we are living in paralysing incertitude. My parents and grandparents lived through World War II, and we know that the European Union was about stopping wars for good and working together for the common good of all the countries. Now, with this gamble by the bungling David Cameron who ran from it like Blofeld knowing that James Bond was going to give him his dues, families are divided.
I write as one whose situation in France is assured by French law on account of my uninterrupted living here for years and my being in the French social security system. I am applying for French nationality, something I should have done years ago, because I fulfil the criteria for citizenship by declaration and not by decree. The situation of many other British people here is much more delicate. Will retired people get their pensions? Will British banks still be allowed to send money to the Continent? Will our driving licences still be valid beyond next April? Will people still have health coverage on British schemes before going into the French system (which is not that easy)? Dreams will be shattered and newly renovated houses will have to be sold at cut-down prices. Some people might have to go back to England with nowhere to go and a long wait to get benefits.
Those of us here in Europe can only prepare for the worst by applying for the residence permits provided for presently under French law for EU citizens (we still are until 31st March 2019). Those who have been here for long enough and have the right papers can apply for citizenship and recover the right to free movement we presently have.
I am aware that many British people who read this blog probably voted “Leave” two years ago. I might have done so too at the time, given the propaganda about there being so much more money for the ailing National Health Service. It must have seemed the patriotic thing to do, in the spirit of the old days of the Empire and national pride. I am convinced that leaving the EU without a deal will cause a catastrophic recession in the UK, worse than the 1970’s, poverty and inaccessible health care for poor people. We will be poorer culturally and closed to the input of people from other cultures. Unless the country becomes a full-blown totalitarian dictatorship, there will still be people from India and Pakistan, from the West Indies, many fanatical Muslims – but Europeans would be penalised and stopped at the borders.
I believe our patriotic duty is to do everything possible to stop the madness of something that is a human invention. It is not inevitable or predestined from the foundation of the world. It can be stopped, preferably by the same people who put it in place, and our country given time to re-evaluate our relationship with other countries speaking different languages and with other cultural references, time to challenge aspects of the EU that need reform and more accountability. I once believed the old cant about the EU being a blind bureaucracy, an Orwellian monster – until I saw the old totalitarian demons in some of our own British MP’s and Cabinet Ministers. I give my voice to the “Remain” campaign, without any hatred in regard to those who voted “Leave”, but so that sanity and reason may prevail.
Nothing is graven in stone, and every human institution and law needs to be adapted to the historical context and the needs. Certainly, with the UK in the EU, greater progress can be made in realising the aim of the EU which is the fostering of peace and human rights. I would prefer this work to be done in the context of the present status quo rather than having to return to the EU in ten years’ time with a begging bowl.
For the sake of many people who may find themselves out of a home and livelihood, in the name of God and human decency, I ask you to protest against this black cloud and ask for an end to this nightmare. If you can go to London next weekend, give your heart and voice for our Queen and Nation.