Neville Hobson

Please stay, please go – Europeans make their case to UK voters

The UK and the EU


This article titled “Please stay, please go – Europeans make their case to UK voters” was written by Letters, for The Guardian on Monday 20th June 2016 19.22 UTC

Don’t EXIT … EXIST! As citizens of France and as citizens of the world – whatever our social or artistic milieu, whatever our opinions – we are writing to say that we love you. We love Britain, your culture, your history, your civilisation, your temperament, our common history. You cannot vote to leave us, for to leave Europe would be to give up the hopes and aspirations of the great builders of humanity of whom you, the British, are part.

Europe will be what we make it and Europe can only be built with the intelligence, the help and the might of Britain. We live in a period of social and economic tragedies, even of acts of war. But we are not afraid! Let us not be afraid, and let us not forget the ideas and the words of Winston Churchill during the second world war. At that time we were allies – thanks to that alliance we are now living in a time of unity despite all the ills of mankind.

‘Brexit? No!! Brexist’ … a handwritten appeal from agnès b. Photograph: agnès b.

Europe is a modern idea, a common identity based on humanism, a guarantee of peace. Together we are stronger. Let us find solutions to our problems. That will be easier than putting Britain in opposition to the rest of Europe. Britain’s place is inside Europe, not outside.

Please, let us build the future with the same fervour as those who created Europe. Let us be as strong as them to face the obstacles of modern times. Do not leave, for it would mean loss and despair for mankind. France loves you.
Patrick Pelloux Emergency physician and writer, and agnès b. Fashion designer, with the support of Anne Hidalgo Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë Former mayor of Paris, Jack Lang Former minister of culture, president of the Institut du monde Arabe (Paris), Patti Smith Poet and singer, Jean Michel Jarre Musician, Lilian Thuram Former footballer, Charlotte Rampling actor, Gemma Arterton Actor, Lindsay Duncan Actor, William Boyd Writer, Douglas Gordon Artist, Gilles Jacob President of the Cannes film festival, Jain Singer, André Magnin Curator, C215 Street artist

• In the last couple of months I have read about reasons for and against Brexit. As a democrat I will accept any decision Britain makes. However, I would love you to stay in the EU. I have loved your country since I joined a school exchange in 1978 with Northallerton grammar. In those days I was very bad at school. I learned from your pragmatic and easy way of life, loved England, picked up at school and finally studied medicine. Trying to give something back, I worked for the NHS in Hartlepool and London Middlesex as doctor for nearly five years. I met a lot of people who treated me with friendship and respect. But I also met old people who had suffered from war and spoke about Nazi Germany.

Thomas Bauer-Balci with his visual plea for a remain vote. Photograph: Thomas Bauer-Balci

I am very grateful that England recognised early the dramatic destructiveness of the nationalism that Italy and Germany fell into in those days, and that it fought against Nazi terror. Although the EU seems to have become more and more complicated, the initial idea was simple: coal for heating, steel for a growing industry after the war and peace for Europe.

Last week I saw a picture of an actor who looked like Winston Churchill, raising his middle finger towards the EU. I don’t think that Churchill would have done that. He would have struggled to change the EU, make it more understandable and transparent – but he would have stayed for the sake of stability and peace. If you decide to leave, of course, there will be no new war ahead. The friendship of our countries will not be in question, but for the idea of the EU, it would be the beginning of the end. Besides, it is to be feared that in a EU without Britain, Germany will yet again gain more power. Now I don’t like that, especially with a growing nationalism in my country in mind. So please – stay in the EU.
Thomas Bauer-Balci
Lohmar, Germany

• I’m a typical European citizen, born in Belgium as the son of Italian immigrants, and I think you should leave the EU for these reasons:

1. The fundamentals of Europe no longer exist. The inspiring common market that Adenauer, Churchill, Monnet and Schuman created has been replaced by an over-liberal Europe born under François Mitterrand from 1981. At a time when unemployment was already a severe issue, the French president opened the borders – totally in opposition to the fundamentals of the EU.

2. The pro-Europe partisans threaten a major financial crisis, but we all know that this threat is unfounded. The reality is that what Europe has to offer right now is not convincing enough to prevent those “pro” from using fear to reach their goal.

3. The situation in Belgium where, if the Flemish government was not injecting ¤7bn a year to compensate Wallonia’s deficit, the economic state of affairs in the south of the country would be similar to the one in Greece. Is it not about time the UK stopped financing Europe’s lack of rigour?

4. The UK must remain a model of what Europe should stand for (and stood for when it was created): a place where work, structures, growth, workers’ empowerment and respect are encouraged. I’m not pretending that the UK has all the answers, but if British citizens vote against Europe, they will give a strong signal to Europe.

The idea of Europe was a marvellous one, but unfortunately it has lost its roots.
Jean-François Piancatelli
Beaufays, Belgium

• As a European and a lover of Britain I have to write something about my view of the UK over the last few months.

The hateful political discussions that have been occurring have gone far beyond the respectful exchanges for which the UK used to be famous. Combined with social media (how “social” is it, to read antisocial postings of violence and hate?) the picture produced is hideous, and it is the way to destroy a culture of discussion.

What does it mean if someone compares the EU to Hitler? Is this not madness? To compare it to such incomparable horror? Discussions of this sort go far beyond any kind of respect. Have we not learned anything from history? (Are some British “Nazis” if they would like to stay in the EU?) Politicians are in charge to create discussions, not to create hate.

And the EU? This community has given me a lot: peace, travelling, different cultures to visit. This has been a gift for me and therefore people in the EU are a kind of a family, in a certain way. And I am unable to change anything in a family if I am divorced from it.

And finally: on what level are these discussions taking place? Just an economic one? Perhaps we should ask someone from Syria or Iraq what he or she is thinking about the gift of peace for more than 70 years. Is this unimportant?
Reiner Doberschütz
Hart bei Graz, Austria

• To all the Brits who will vote very shortly, my name is Stéphane and I live in the south of France by the Pyrénées. I’m sending you these few words because I want to say to you how much we want to have you beside us in the years to come.

Please stay, because I do want to imagine a future with other neighbours than Germany, Belgium and Spain.

Please stay, because I would feel much better visiting Britain as a friend and neighbour than as a stranger.

Please stay, because you make the best sandwiches in the world and because we really appreciate your left-side driving.

Please stay, because French-bashing won’t taste as spicy if you leave.

Please stay, because Europe needs your rock’n’roll spirit.

Please stay, because this crisis is not a barrier you can’t overcome and we will make it together.

Please stay, because it would be childish to close the Channel tunnel now.

Europe would be so tasteless without Great Britain.
Stéphane Andre
Andoins, France

• We, the undersigned, are members of an international community, the International School of Geneva, where, as students in the 70s, we learned to understand and cherish the values of internationalism. We are a mix of British and non-British nationals with one thing in common; we have all migrated more than once in our lifetimes, consider ourselves migrants and see this as positive. We have all studied and/or worked or are still working in the UK and are watching the debates with great interest and concern.

While we recognise the attraction of many of the arguments on both sides of the Brexit debate, we choose to support the “remain” option. The future is difficult to predict at the best of times, but history teaches us time and again that there is no better alternative to constructive dialogue; when dialogue stops, darker forces can prevail. The EU is a place where European nations, the rich and the less rich ones, those with longstanding democracies and those with troubled pasts, come to talk, seek compromise and act together, not just for the sake of trade and material prosperity but for other, even more important issues, such as peace, climate change, education and research, the essential ingredients of a good life.

We believe in the power of democracy and self-determination, but we also believe in the enormous value of dialogue within and among nations. For that reason, and despite the imperfections of the EU, we would greatly prefer to see the UK remain a strong member and use its influence positively in order to construct a better future for Europe and for the world.
Karin Bernstein, Ratko Djukanovic, Jonquil Drinkwater, Janey Huber Reacher, Sam Jarrell, Michael Landy, Yukiko Okawa Omura, Tom Ries, Claire Watson

• In 2008, I came to live in Britain, a country I saw as a working meritocracy, a blend of Anglo-Saxon open market and European welfare state, an outward-looking nation. I soon realised things were not perfect, but it still seemed, to quote a French philosopher loved by my Catalan grandfather, “the best of all possible worlds”.

With hard work and education, I managed to earn a living in the City. I always thank the British taxpayer for financing my tuition, as well as my employers, who found value in giving me opportunities. I felt proud of my new identity so I decided to embrace it by becoming a British citizen.

Being gay and a migrant, I was proud to see our prime minister bring my rights in line with those of straight couples, and later enshrine in law his government’s pledge to spending on international aid.

But lately the EU referendum has made us face another side of Britain. A Britain that is too scared to welcome a refugee from a different race or religion. A Britain that wants to take a step backwards by severing ties with friends and distrusting its allies. A country that no longer embraces its pragmatism and diplomacy, and wants “my way or the highway”.

Over my time in Britain I have visited many of those places one associates with Brexit. I have seen people disconnected from their leaders, whether in London or Brussels, seen deprivation and lost opportunities, and a sense that the country has forgotten its people. I, like you, do not think that is right.

Now, fellow Briton, I am thankful for you have delivered for me the promise of meritocracy; equally I ask you to look in the mirror to see how this has made us both stronger.

On 23 June we will decide our future, and we can either carry on complaining and distrusting – or we can hold on to this union and further our prosperity.
David Jerez Antoni
London

• As a Greek and British citizen I am praying for Brexit to set free both the countries I love.

Since 2009 Greece has suffered seven years of brutal austerity. The economy has shrunk by a quarter. Official unemployment is over 25%, but the real figures are much higher, because so many people are not eligible for benefits. Over 50% of 18- to 25-year-olds are not working. More than 200,000 graduates have emigrated from a country of only 11 million people.

The statistics are bad enough, but the human picture is much worse. For example, our suicide rate has tripled – in a sunny country, where the Orthodox church teaches so strongly against it.

The EU is a union for the big banks, not for people. The bailouts have not been to help the struggling Greek people, but for the French and German banks. Goldman Sachs, which helped create this catastrophe by advising the Greek government in joining the euro, is now funding the remain campaign.

For both countries I love, Brexit is the first step to freedom and prosperity; please, please vote leave on Thursday.
Demetrios Zubulis
Edinburgh

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