When did xenophobia become OK? Why has an ugly little party suddenly gained wider support in the UK? Why the strange terror over the possibility that some Romanians and Bulgarians might find jobs in Britain?
Throughout modern times, there has usually been some semblance of a political party that advocates isolation, or Britain for the British – read white protestant – and all the racist nonsense that accompanies it. The NF, the BNP and yes, back in the 30s, the black shirts that supported the Nazi world view. But these groups, thankfully, have usually been on the side lines; never a real political force, a refuge for those terminally afflicted with bigotry, fear and the inevitable accompanying hatred.
Until now. Now the UK has a party that is seriously advocating a burn-down-the-house exit from a unique European political and social accord. Nothing new there; crass, baseless arguments that incite a mob frenzy are a perennial feature of democracy. But now, Monsieur Farage and Ukip are being taken seriously, which is seriously worrying.
Ukip has one policy: exit from the EU, and it has one campaign strategy – if you don't like foreigners, whoever they are, vote for us. It gets worse. As the Daily Mail reports, the Tory backbenchers are now threatening PM David Cameron with a revolt and defections to Ukip if he doesn't sign up to an in-out referendum on EU membership.
Ask the question: what has the EU done to personally damage anyone in the UK? For those who don't like foreigners, EU or no, there has always been some group of people in the UK who are slightly different. Religion, color of skin, language or even accent, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, the supporters of the neighboring town's football team. No doubt they've all stolen jobs from good white folks. So xenophobia aside, what has the EU done to damage any UK citizen? Has José Manuel Barroso stolen Christmas gifts? Has Olli Rehn borrowed a tenner and not paid it back?
Apart from disliking foreigners, one of the most frequent criticisms of the EU is the financial burden. This argument, for the ordinary working citizen, is a joke. It seems pretty obvious that an EU exit would not put any more money in the pockets of British taxpayers. Anyone who believes that leaving the EU would suddenly make them wealthier is, arguably, delusional. Except, of course, those who make money via international markets. No doubt the banks, the city, those who sacrifice being human beings for a Mercedes-Benz, would make the infamous quick buck, they always do, but for the rest of us, what on earth would we gain?
Or, more importantly, what would we lose? Quite a lot: right off the bat, the right to live and work anywhere in the EU, access to EU funds when starting a business, or, simply, a hassle free retirement in Mediterranean Europe. The government, the IMF and the rest of the big political and economic institutions don't care about these details, but the rest of us perhaps do.
The EU isn't perfect, surprise surprise! Cash prize for anyone who can name a political system in the last 3,000 years that was or is. Some of the media tirelessly perpetuate the phantasm of a Brussels dictatorship, but for a family in Lancashire or Tyneside, for example, is central government in London more sensitive to local issues than a European institution that consistently promotes the idea of regional independence and prosperity?
Given that the UK is a long standing member of the EU, would it not make more sense to tackle the very real and important issues that face all European countries via cooperation and mutual accord? And, along the way, we would all get to keep some of the really quite handy benefits of being EU citizens.
Liam Lever, [email protected]