Dear President Jean-Claude Juncker,
I am a 25 year-old British woman from London. I was born in Kings Cross and was raised there. Cyclists drive me crazy. Tourists who walk slowly up and down Oxford street when I am late getting home from work even more so. London transport makes me grumble because you would think that a city so used to rain would be able to cope with it. So very many things make me curse and frustrated but I love this city like no other because it is my home. I was more proud than I had been since the 2012 Olympics when the city spat in the face of divisive Zac Goldsmith and voted in its first ever Muslim mayor in Sadiq Khan. Just last weekend was Pride and the city, having gathered in mourning for Orlando just a short time ago, this time celebrated its LGBTQI community in rainbows and fervent love and respect. I stop half a dozen times a week to give directions to tourists (they almost always want to get to Primark or Waterloo, which I find charming). My barista at my daily stop for coffee is from Hungary and has the most delightful foul mouth and it makes me chuckle every morning. London is my sanctuary and I could not imagine living anywhere else. It fills me with immense pride to be a Londoner – from this place that welcomes anyone and everyone and no one person is the same. In this one city is everything that is beautiful and representative of Europe. It has its faults just like Europe but it is ultimately the better for it.
I am mixed race. My mother, a French woman, settled here and raised my sister and I alone in her early twenties. She had nothing when my father left us, no job, no qualifications, nothing but two little girls and a future of uncertainty. She worked hard, so very hard to make sure we had everything. Was she on benefits? For a short time, yes. They helped keep the lights on and our tiny little flat warm. But she worked two jobs instead of relying on government money and she went to night school to earn herself a degree. She is successful and I am immensely proud of her. Her status as an EU citizen enabled her to do this – to stay in this country, to raise her children, to work hard. She has always contributed to the country by paying her taxes and has raised us to be honest and kind people. She preferred to work than to rely on benefits and never spent a penny of the small amount of child benefit she was paid when we were children, keeping it for us as a nest egg (I used mine to pay for my Masters degree, it wasn’t enough to pay for the whole thing but she gifted me the rest out of her own pocket). She worked to make it and was never on jobseeker’s allowance, which isn’t to say there is anything wrong with being on it, but she is a European national and she felt it was her responsibility to contribute to the country, not live off it. She never abused the benefits system here. It’s important to me that you, and everyone else, knows this. Because I am sick of hearing about how immigrants in this country abuse the benefits system and that this is the fault of the EU. Not true at all.
Terrorism is so heavily linked with immigration too. Why? Why don’t people understand that most terrorists are in fact homegrown? They are British. They are Europeans. What is so broken about Europe that our countries do not acknowledge this – that they choose to blame others instead of looking inside their own borders? Why is this happening?
I have struggled over the years with who I am. My racial mix is such that I grew up confused about my place in this country. In time, I grew up knowing that London is so diverse and mixed that I had nothing to worry about. I am a Londoner. And my mother, who is also mixed, is French. She says so always and very proudly: “I am French.” So I have always felt that I am a Londoner and a European. My Britishness has been slow in coming but it came through my identification of being a European. I am a Londoner, I am a European, I am French and I am British too. These things are all intertwined when it comes to my personal identity.
So in 25 years of existence, never have I felt so utterly displaced and so full of despair than last Friday, the 24th of June 2016, when 52% of the citizens of my country voted to leave the European Union. I am as devastated as I have ever been. I feel stripped of my identity, as though a part of my very Self has been forcibly taken away from me using lies, fear, racism and fascism on a scale that truly terrifies me. I am so afraid that I wept on my way home from work that day and then again in my own mother’s arms just an hour later. There I was, in tears in the middle of a pharmacy, unable to see beyond anything else but the fact my own country hated me. She asked me what was wrong, I told her I was afraid, so very afraid of everything now and felt helpless to do anything about it. I felt like the security I had so taken for granted had been stolen from me because this Referendum had not been conducted with any sort of clarity or education. They had stolen from me and I had no hope of getting a fundamental part of myself back. She told me it would be ok and that I couldn’t control the result. Why couldn’t I? Am I so unimportant that those who had lived the best part of being in the EU could now take it from me? Am I, and the rest of the 48% and the 16 and 17 year olds who were not allowed to vote on their own future, so unimportant that you and the rest of the EU Commission would turn your backs on us? We were supposed to be the future of Europe. Why don’t you care? Has British arrogance damaged things so much that you would just let us go too?
When I think of all that is happening in the world since the vote: the pound has crashed, the economy is in free fall, the world is in shock, trade is uncertain, our own government is imploding, the country is divided, racism is as open as I can truly ever remember it being – so much so that even children have been subjected to it – I am filled with despair and fear. This Referendum appears to have given the people of this country a free pass on racism. The level it has risen in only 4 days is staggering and I am so afraid, so utterly afraid of my own country that has started to against people like me.
Scotland may also become independent. For Northern Ireland the future is equally uncertain but they will and should do what is in their best interests going forward. Because no one listened to them in the first place. They had no voice in this. The term “Brexit” doesn’t even include these two countries in its name! The campaign on both sides for the Referendum was shambolic. It was based on scaring people and appealing to the worst qualities of humanity – racism, xenophobia and just pure hate. I was ashamed of this throughout the campaign but much of me hoped that the British people would not bow down to this – that we were better than this. I was wrong. How could I be so wrong?
I know that the relationship between the EU and the UK has not always been great. In fact, I have rolled my eyes so very many times at the way our government has treated the EU – as though they were better than everyone else, as though they were above them. It was infuriating because my mother has always taught us that we are all equals so I never approved of it. But who am I to judge the leaders of the country I am from for their behaviour? I am no one. That much is clear. Because the 37% of people who reaped the benefits of being a part of the EU decided to take them away from those of my generation and younger. To them I am no one. The entire Referendum for those on the leave side was about them getting control of the country. Nothing more. To them I am no one. Those on the Remain side, including David Cameron, were arrogant in their approach, and then totally irresponsible in their attempts to scare the country into submission. To them I am also no one.
I will lose the right to work, live and enjoy the social, cultural and economic benefits of 27 countries. The LGBT community will be worse off, women, ethnic minorities, low income families – which include single parent households – will all suffer with no one to think about them or to advocate for them.
Over the weekend the Leave campaigners within our government have backtracked on so many huge things. One of the biggest things was placing a supposed £350 million a week we send as EU contributions to the NHS instead. And Iain Duncan Smith even admitted that their promises were in actual fact just “a series of possibilities.” They have no plan. None. What is that if not a serious betrayal of the trust the 52% of Leave voters put into them? What is that if not total irresponsibility on their part? How could they have no plan? How could they play Russian roulette with our lives? How could you let them? Why is ignorance prevailing over common sense? Why is their no protection for us? Isn’t that what you are there for? To protect us?
The tipping point for me on Friday was Google, who released data showing a surge in the search term, “what is the EU?” in Britain AFTER the vote had been decided. The country voted with next to no information on what the EU does, just how much of a force of good it is for the UK. It’s not perfect but it has been a lifeline for so very many people in this country and it’s citizens (those who primarily voted to leave) have no idea. Take Cornwall, their economy is so bad they have relied on a £60 million subsidy from the EU each year. They voted to leave. They, and many others, have now asked for assurances from the government that they will not lose this money. London cannot fund them. This country is over 1 trillion pounds in debt and about to lose our high credit rating (actually we did lose it). Just where do they think this money will come from? It is this basic lack of education and knowledge that is a fundamental ruling on the worst kind of racism and intolerance that prevails in this country. Fact trumps ignorance. Perhaps we deserve to be out of the EU for simply that. I don’t know.
By law, a person can sometimes be deemed to be incapable of making their own decisions, financially or otherwise, whether that be down to their mental health or because they pose a threat to themselves or their estate. The power can be designated to someone more responsible who can, and will act, in the best interests of that person. This country ruled to leave on the idea that the EU rules our country – that they run it. That is simply not true but perhaps the decision making should be taken out of the hands of our own government for a while. Because David Cameron had no business whatsoever for calling a referendum. And our officials had no business scaring and bullying this country into voting to leave the European Union. It was bigotry and ignorance that won. They cannot be trusted to act in the country’s best interests. This country cannot make it’s own decisions and in the interests of keeping it from ruining itself, there has to be something the EU can do to step in and halt this. This isn’t democracy, it is hate. Why can’t the EU band together to save the country from itself? It is being plunged into ruin by buffoons, fascists, racists, ignorant and selfish people who are out to further their own political careers not to make this country better. Why can’t the EU do something to help the 48% of people who are doomed? Are we no one to you?
I know many of the EU Commissioners want this over with and for the UK, which has always (idiotically) thought itself better than the rest of the countries, to make their departure from the EU swift. Please don’t do this. Please don’t turn your backs on the 48% of us who recognise the EU for the good that it does for this country, for the privilege it affords us in every single aspect of our lives. Don’t do this. You resign us all to becoming isolated and powerless against bigotry, hate and ruin. I am European. Don’t let them take that from me.
Don’t let them make me no one.