Not what I was going to write, but I’m giving a speech in Luxembourg today for a Brexit rally, and I wrote this in 10 minutes, and it kind of fits. So I’m cheating a bit.
Place de la Constitution, Luxembourg
24th March 2019
I shouldn’t be here.
Not because I should be directing some kids in a drama rehearsal right now, because I should, but because there shouldn’t be any need for me to stand here. There shouldn’t be any need for me to add my voice to the voices of the million that marched in London yesterday, or the 4 and a half million that have, in the last week, caused the UK government petitions website to crash under unprecedented demand. I shouldn’t be here because I should have no need to stand here to add my voice to the clamour of those calling on the UK government to sort itself out, and to listen to reason rather than bang spoons against the saucepan it has stuck on its head.
I am English. I am British. But I am also European.
I am proud to carry a passport with the words ‘European Union’ stamped on the cover. Because I believe in the power of a union, the strength of a union, and the strength that comes in standing together, and belonging together.
We don’t all have to agree. No-one wants us all to agree. Decisions borne out of compromise and negotiation are at the heart of the European idea, decisions taken that have ensured employment protection, clean drinking water, medical care and human rights across the European Union. And to see my country turn its back on this hurts. It hurts.
David Cameron lined up the dominoes in June 2016, then he pushed the first one, and walked away as they fell. And the dominoes fell. They cascaded with the weight of lies on the back of a bus behind them, with populism pushed to the front and right-wing bandwagon-jumpers pedalled unicycles made of clichés alongside them, whipping up a storm. And that hurts.
I am a teacher. I have been lucky enough to work in four European countries, taking advantage of the freedom of movement that European Union membership has given me. To see this right to move, to work, to live in any of the member states, to move between them freely and without restrictions, on the edge of being pushed off the ever-growing cliff that is Brexit is a massive hurt. I try to teach the students in my classes to be accepting, to be independent, to think for themselves and to question what they are being fed by the media, social and traditional, and to challenge injustice. Thousands of young people here in Luxembourg marched on the climate strike this month. All of these people, under 18 years of age, rose up and demanded change, demanded a say in determining the future of the planet. All of those under 18 had no say in the Brexit vote, yet these are the ones who have the most to lose.
I worry about my children. I worry about the country that I grew up in looking inwards instead of outwards. I worry about a vote that rejects inclusion and co-operation over ‘taking our country back’ and mushrooming ignorance. There has to be a solution that avoids screwing up the future. There has to be another way. A million people on the streets of London seem to think so. We have to hope that the politicians take their heads out of the sand for long enough to listen.
Ech sinn Englesch. Ech sinn och Europaer.