I AM EUROPEAN




In June 2016 I travelled to Brussels and presented my petition asking the European Parliament to intervene and ensure thousands of British citizens like me and my family could vote in the European Referendum. We live in Spain and after 15 years residence out of the UK we had our right to vote in general elections removed. David Cameron’s government had promised to repeal this law but decided not to do so or to include us in the referendum franchise. The opposition did not carry any amendments to the Referendum law and the support from the European Parliament’s petitions committee came too late. Two weeks later the referendum was held and the vote to leave was confirmed. I maintain this was not a democratic vote on the basis that so many British citizens were denied a vote. There is also a valid argument that EU citizens long term resident in Britain should have been given a vote as Irish and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK were.


I also have serious and continuing misgivings about the campaign believing the people were misled, manipulated and at times lied to about the consequences of a leave vote. Experts and factual information was ridiculed allowing decisions to be formed on the basis of slogans and good wishes. The unravelling evidence of election propaganda and the use of hidden funds and dark advertising is also worrying and should be further investigated. Now we find out that not only did the Government not do any pre-referendum analysis of the consequences of leaving the EU but 18 months after the vote and 9 months after triggering Article 50 it has admitted that there are still no impact assessments on the effects of Brexit on all the major sectors of the economy, research, agriculture and education. It has also been revealed that the Cabinet itself has not even discussed yet the kind of deal they imagine they may reach. The ostrich approach to Ireland and the border is an example of the most dangerous ‘it will be ok’ lack of planning and foresight, which is playing with peoples lives and futures.

This is both incredible and terrifying. The most severe threat to the nation’s future being negotiated without any plan and with the control of a few ideological fanatics seemingly in charge of a weak government and an opposition which has yet to offer any real brake on the seemingly inevitable crash to a ‘no deal’, talked up and even desired by the hardliners.

I believe it is time for our elected politicians to fulfil their duty and act in the public good. The majority accept Brexit will be a disaster for the UK. We the people should encourage them to put aside party politics and power struggles and stand up and say loud and clear that leaving the EU will be hugely damaging, to our economy, status in the world, security, culture and future. The world is facing dangerous challenges with war, economic uncertainty, climate change, inequality, water and food shortage and massive refugee movements.  We are safer and more effective together.

In posting this opinion and my poem expressing my belief in the values of a united Europe and my distress, sadness and anger at being stripped of my rights and European identity by a referendum in which I was denied a vote, I am also harnessing the power of our voice. Poetry can be political, words can have an impact no amount of statistics ever will. Experts are no longer trusted, facts can be manipulated. But our personal testimony, the power of our experience, our joint values can always be heard.

Today, like all Thursdays, I do my weekly service as a councillor at my village Town Hall. Thanks to my European citizenship I not only have a vote in local elections but am able to stand and serve my community, as I have done as Deputy Mayor since 2007. This is just one of the rights I will lose when my European citizenship is forcibly taken away from me in March 2019. My Spanish colleagues, neighbours and friends have supported us as a community and made us welcome and part of their village. I thank them for their continued support and assurances that in their eyes we will always be ‘European residents’ and not revert to being foreigners.







I AM EUROPEAN



The bomb site was our playground,
greened over empty spaces scattered
around Coventry where families once lived.
Traces of bricks and wallpaper still littered
the scrubby grass and leggy pink bomb weed,
rubble that shattered down on top of shelters,
like the one my dad and nana were
buried in for three long days,
until Grandad dug them out.

When not being cowboys and Indians
we played war games, buzzing with arms
out wide like the planes that filled
Coventry’s blacked out skies.
The peace was recent, still being built in
the Europe of treaties and good neighbours,
like Coventry’s new Cathedral,
City of reconciliation, rising from burnt ruins.

The threat of war between nations, 
Europe's historical backdrop,
slowly receded, replaced by agreements,
finely drafted, inter woven treaties
tying us together in trade and commerce,
centuries of distrust and misunderstanding
overcome by peaceful negotiation,
consolidated with new flavours, friendships,
holidays and youthful adventure.

When ill and exiled from my island home,
wooded green landscape bearing deadly damp,
a Valencian village welcomed me,
its people as sweet and generous as the
orange and almond blossom scenting the air,
as warm as the Levante wind over the ‘Carrascal’,
breezing hills of holm oak shared with rabbits and boar,
flashes of ‘golondrinas’ darting skyward,
homing yearly in mud spit nests under village eaves.

Strangers in a hot and foreign land,  
noisy chatter of an unknown tongue,
‘poc a poc’ it became home.
My children grew with the village’s own,
ears attuned, language learned,
the rules once tortuous eased as
Franco’s ghost was left behind in 
the bright future of a European Spain
where we are citizens not foreigners. 

United in our Spanish home,
a rainbow of European peoples in
harmony under the Mediterranean sun.
Until the Referendum.
When without a vote, a democratic voice, 
our citizenship became disposable,
our future threatened with Europe’s own.
Peace and cooperation of decades
overturned in a flash of political folly.

It’s a done deal they say, the people have spoken,
(apart from those of us denied a vote)
there is no alternative, getting harder by the day.
Democratic decisions are not set in stone.
When the path ahead proves treacherous,
the people misled, the wise can reconsider,
admit mistakes, forego power and party loyalty,
rise up, speak out, fight for our common good.
Time to vote again, to embrace our European friends.


© 2017 Jacqueline Claire Knight.  All rights reserved. 



Comments

  1. Thanks for your healing words. I totally agree with you, ALL citizens, living abroad or not regardless time, must be able to vote from wherever they are. That is democracy.
    Just came across this article: nolanjazimreg.wordpress.com (tap on text to see Cameron’s picture + text). Interesting reading.
    Also check out #article50challenge on tweeter and crowdjustice.com

    Sorry, I forgot to sign
    @6043Isabel #FBPE

    ReplyDelete

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