I’m sure, like me, you’ve been asked this question over and over again. It is a question which can grate when you’ve been asked it as many times as I have but I think it’s important to have a clear justification for your actions. I touched on some of the reasons for my Europhilia in my “European 3 Heart Challenge” video which I put on Facebook earlier this week. However, in this blog post I will explore my reasons for starting this group and fighting this battle in more detail.
I’m Northern Irish: It is completely unsurprising to me that so many of the people in different Remain organisations come from the island of Ireland. After all, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which shares a land border with another EU member state so we see the EU in action on a daily basis. Many Northern Irish people remember the dark days of “The Troubles” when crossing the border involved being stopped and questioned by the British army. Now, people cross the border several times a day without batting an eyelid. The only indicators that you’ve gone into the Republic of Ireland are the bilingual road signs and metric units for speed limits and distances. A member of the 48% group, who’s also from my hometown of Omagh, sent me some great photos of the border as it stands today (see below). Furthermore, a considerable chunk of the Good Friday Agreement, which finally established peace in Northern Ireland, hinges on the European Convention of Human Rights. It is unclear what will happen to this agreement if Brexit does indeed go ahead. I also firmly believe that EU has been responsible for vastly improving Anglo-Irish relations. After centuries of turmoil, the fact that the UK and the Republic of Ireland were both equal member states of the EU did a lot to defuse tensions and pave the way for a constructive relationship between the two countries.
I’m a linguist: Languages have played an important role in my life for over 20 years. I studied French and Spanish at university and, thanks to freedom of movement, lived in France and Spain for a number of years without needing any kind of visa. This time spent abroad helped me not only improve my language skills, but also gain an insight into the culture and mindset of the people who live there. What surprised me more about meeting people from elsewhere in the EU was not how different we were but how much we actually had in common. The numbers of young people studying languages in the UK has been on the decline for the past decade or so. This phenomenon will only be exacerbated if UK citizens no longer have freedom of movement as you can only really learn a language by going to live in the country/ies where the language is spoken.
I’m an ardent supporter of employment, social and environmental rights: What has the EU ever done for us? Well, in terms of employment, social affairs and the environment it turns out they’ve done quite a bit. The UK was of course at the vanguard of employment legislation when it passed the Equal Pay Act in 1970. However, the EU has since introduced a raft of employment legislation ensuring, among other things, a cap on working hours, equal protection for part-time workers, parental leave and health and safety in the workplace. In terms of environmental protection, the EU has also funded projects which encourage biodiversity and the use of renewable energy. Many people who backed the Leave campaign described these rights as red tape but fail to see that these are benefits which have been fought for and acquired over the decades. There is no assurance that we will continue to have these rights if we leave the EU.
I hope that after reading this post you will have a better idea of my motivations. I’m sure you all have your own reasons for being part of this movement. Let us know what they are by taking part in the “European 3 Heart Challenge”.