Sunday, June 12, 2016
Dinner with the Leavers
I promise not to write another long tirade about Brexit, because I'm sure it's not nearly as interesting to people in other parts of the world as it is to us here. But it's really been heating up lately, with both the "Remain" and "Leave" camps leaving fliers in our letterbox and trying to spread their message.
I've heard that Londoners in general tend to favor Remaining more than people elsewhere in Britain. Perhaps that phenomenon is what I'm witnessing.
Last night, Dave and I had dinner with our friends Chris and Linda, who are solidly in the "Leave" camp. I was really looking forward to our meal, because I wanted to talk to them about their reasons for voting "Leave" -- especially Chris, a former political journalist who is socially quite liberal. (Some of the momentum behind the "Leave" movement has come from right-wing and far-right political leaders.)
At first, Chris argued that Europe is undemocratic, that laws are made by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg and inflicted on the British. But I pointed out that there is an elected parliament, and we went back and forth about its effectiveness and responsiveness. I essentially argued that if the structure doesn't work, the appropriate response is reform, not bailing out.
I also pointed out that the anti-immigrant scaremongering of the "Leave" movement, particularly with regard to the pie-in-the-sky likelihood of Turkey joining the EU, really turned me off. (Being an immigrant myself!)
What became obvious as the evening wore on is that Chris, who is in his 70s, is looking backward -- to the Britain of decades ago, the wartime and postwar Britain that he holds in such high regard. His parents, he said, fought and sacrificed for British sovereignty and the defeat of the Nazis, and would be appalled to know that Germans are deciding laws that affect the British. When he says the EU is undemocratic, what he's really saying is that Britain gets outvoted.
He repeated his mantra: "We are an island nation."
(It seems to me that Britain's status as an island is often emphasized here. The other day I picked up Antonia Fraser's autobiography and saw that she learned to read using a well-known children's history book called "Our Island Story." It made me think immediately of Chris.)
Anyway, it was a fascinating conversation, and I like Chris and Linda because we can all disagree and, at the end, walk away smiling. Which is what we did.
The other night, some "Remain" campaigners came to our front door. We explained that although we support staying in the EU, we can't vote in the referendum. They gave us a "Remain" sign for our window. So we may not be voting at the ballot box, but we're still expressing our opinion!