Voting on the historic decision whether to remain or leave the European Union is now just days away. If polling is correct, the UK is far from united over where its future lies. Some 15 percent have yet to make up their minds and this last-minute appeal today is directed at you – those who will have a critical influence on the outcome this Thursday.
In these last months of heated campaigning, the leading messengers of both the Leave and Remain camps have abandoned fact-based argument and instead resorted to savaging each other’s personal motives. Raw, misplaced patriotism, or doom-laden forecasts have been the order of play.
The result? The clarity needed in this important democratic process has been lost and replaced with confusion and frustration at the lack of honest information.
As European citizens who have made Britain our home, we will respect and embrace the democratic outcome of this referendum. We have no formal electoral input into this process, but believe our voices should nonetheless be heard, especially in these important last few days when minds will be made up.
Like you, we work in Britain, pay taxes which contribute billions to the Treasury. Like many, we are both employed by companies and often run those companies which provide a livelihood to hundreds of thousands.
As Europeans in Britain, our jobs are diverse: scientists, doctors, farmers, cleaners, university professors, architects, lawyers, investors, financiers and much more. We are often highly skilled and valued in the economies of the developed world. We send our kids to school here, build homes, and participate in all aspects of life in a country we have come to love.
Some three million people from European countries are proud to be part of this United Kingdom, a place where we have chosen to live our lives, whose customs, heritage, institutions and culture we respect and value.
If the result is close, as some forecast it down to a difference of a 100,000 votes, then the input of Britain’s European citizens should be heard and acknowledged. Our joint future is on the line.
Throughout the nations of the European Union, with a total population of 500 million, some 2.5 million British citizens have chosen to live their lives outside the UK. What does this say about us? It says we, all the nations of Europe, are one family, yet each enjoying a distinct personality, diverse history, and differing cultures and each united in the faith we now place in our democracies and our belief in the rule of law, both national and international.
This has not always been the case. Britain has a long earlier history of difficulty and unease with its European neighbours. But post-1945, what unites us rather than divides us, has become the cornerstone of our common success. And that unity will be at risk if Britain votes to leave on Thursday.
As part of the false outrage of campaigning populists, immigration has become a scaremongering selling point, leaving those who question the numbers thrown to us, as being “out of touch”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As Europeans living and working in Britain, as people with a naturally international outlook, we believe a collective solution can and will be found within the borders of Europe. But Britain simply leaving the EU will not help find answers.
The economic benefits of Britain remaining inside the EU, or the advantages it could gain if it decided to leave, should naturally have been part of the arguments heard over these last critical months. Do the economies of collective scale help or hinder trade? Does the EU assist in improving infrastructure? Does the free flow of a professional and skilled European workforce deliver benefits for all member states of the EU? Is the EU bureaucracy out of control? These are all important points that merited a detailed and forensic analysis of the economic facts. Sadly, the technical debate we all deserved did not happen. Instead we were often served up an overtly patriotic substitute that at best masked the economic reality, and at worst were simply broadcast lies. Britain does not pay the EU £350 million every week, and a new hospital will not be built every seven days if the UK detaches itself from Europe.
The inside perspective of Europeans contributing to Britain’s future, often means we see damaging tribalism for what it is – a destructive, faux-nationalism that can, if left unchecked, come with a very high price for Britain. Britain deserves a better future than to retreat from Europe and risk losing the increased international status it has achieved as a leading member of the EU.
The fears generated by the Remain camp have been equally unnecessary. If Brexit happens, the UK will of course and at some stage eventually conclude new trade relationships, including deals with its former European partners. Britain, as a major economic power, simply cannot be sidelined.
But there is wider loss to be considered and one that is as huge as it is irreversible.
The vote on Thursday is not the once-every-five-years decision of a general election. Europeans living in Britain have to respect the democratic outcome and the changing political weather of the UK. But watching this great country succumb to populist, demagogic voices of isolationism and pseudo-protectionism has been difficult and this is the primary driving force of our appeal to you today.
Europe, without the influence of the UK, will be weakened as an institution. British insight and pragmatism has shaped the journey of the Common Market to the current union. States like Greece who have recently flirted with exit from the EU and disaster by listening to populist, simplistic, pseudo-patriotic appeals that dismiss the significant positive influence of the wider European family, should serve as a warning for those who want to isolate Britain.
Britain, for many European citizens, represents everything which is moral, honest and reliable; all that a truly open, just and modern society should and can offer. Pluralism, both economic and cultural, are hallmarks of the way Britain works. A retreat from Britain’s role at the heart of Europe is being presented as an opportunity for global expansion. That is an outrageous falsehood, an economic lie exposed by all the major international institutions. Yet the myth endures simply because the populist politicians know some people will want to believe it. That is the dishonesty at the heart of the Leave campaign. The reality? Britain’s future lies inside Europe. It will not be easy or problem-free or paved with gold. But as citizens of Europe living in Britain we know a future together will be better than one lived apart.
In a century that endured two world wars, Britain never stood apart as an isolated nation-state. It opposed the forces of fascism and did not at any point consider leaving continental Europe to solve its own problems.
When the brutality of war concluded, Britain, along with the United States, helped rebuild the nations it had fought with or against. The free-thinking forces of Europe and America, worked together, as one family.
In that same spirit, we urge you today not to go against this core value of what it means to be British but to ignore the noise of the voices of isolationism and protectionism.
The nations of Europe have become one family, facing the same evolving challenges. Our aims are the same – achieving prosperity and the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Like any family, there will be challenges ahead, such as globalisation, how we control immigration, how we resolve economic crises within member countries. These we can solve – but all together.
Europe’s dazzling capitals such as London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Berlin, Athens, Amsterdam, Vienna, are cities of the world. They are beacons of the possible, all distinct in their different identities and all European in their DNA.
We, the citizens of this European family who live in Britain, and work in the UK’s great cities, choose willingly to be here. We were not born here, but have come to value the open nature of the British soul that has absorbed centuries of the ebb and flow of different cultures. It is truly a commonwealth of peoples and a dynamic part of the brother and sisterhood we call Europe.
Today we urge you to stay an organic part of this family, to build a future together and to avoid the building of unnecessary and ultimately damaging fortifications that will serve only to isolate a great state and a great people.
Your vote can make a difference and we have faith you will make the right decision.
The European citizens of Britain.