A divided nation

Separation is not the path to a better future

As I write this, Britain is in shock following the murder of MP Jo Cox. Jo is the first MP to be killed on these shores since 1990. How connected this may or not be to Jo’s position as part of the campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union, we may never know.

Even before this tragedy though, it’s hard not to have noticed how this referendum next week on whether or not to stay in the EU has divided us as a nation. It’s torn us apart.

The average person, engaging their rational mind, inevitably has mixed views about our membership of the European Union. It’s hard not to see and understand that there are clearly both pros and cons to our involvement.

But, sadly, by calling this referendum, we have been forced to take sides. We’ve ended up driving away from the moderate centre ground and turning against those who have driven in the opposite direction.

And it’s destroying us. I fear our country may never be the same.

If the latest polls are to be believed, and Britain votes to leave the EU next Thursday, we will have torn ourselves out of our relationship with both our European partners and from each other. We will be a nation divided in more ways than one.

I can’t help but feel that separation is not the path to a better future. Cutting ourselves off from others doesn’t seem like a wise choice. Of course there are problems – the EU is a deeply flawed organisation – but I don’t see how leaving resolves most of these issues.

I have grave concerns too about future discontentment among those who vote to leave. What will happen when it becomes apparent down the line how little has changed as the result of our leaving? Leaving isn’t a magic pill that will fix all that’s wrong.

Staying together, working together seems to me to leave open more doors and more possibilities.

More than this, philosophically, I am a believer in a united future. The world will only become a safer, fairer, and more prosperous place for all when we come closer together. This isn’t about abandoning Britishness, or some bland oneness. (Nor, indeed, some kind of one world order.) It’s about partnerships. In a healthy marriage, when two people join together, it doesn’t diminish the identity of either partner; in fact, it is a place in which both partners can thrive in new ways.

That’s the future I long for. A future where countries celebrate and hold onto their uniqueness while working together, in partnership, for the sake of greater peace and prosperity. An interdependent future. That’s what I want to remain part of and keep investing in.

The EU isn’t bringing about this future as well as it should be. As I’ve stressed, the are undeniable problems. But I am convinced that working together to make the EU work better — even with all its frustrating constraints — is a far more sensible way forward.

That’s why I think that leaving the EU would be a step backwards for the UK. It would diminish us as a country. The idea that leaving would be an act of bold independence and that we just need to ‘believe in Britain’ seems far too naive. I too believe in Britain. But I believe our future will be stronger, more peaceful, and more prosperous by continuing to invest in our partnership with the European Union.

Whatever happens though, we have a lot of serious work to do as a country to rebuild the bridges we have burnt between ourselves. We are better than we have shown ourselves to be over the last few weeks. The tone of this debate has been horrific. Even if our ‘side’ loses this referendum, we have to come together gain. We can’t let hate and anger become the underlying tone to all our political debate.

To finish, let me leave you with some words spoken by Jo Cox, before her life was so tragically taken from her:

“We have far more in common with each other than the things that divide us.”

I hope that we’ll remember those words both as we vote on Thursday and as we deal with the outcome of the vote — whichever way it goes.

Being Dad

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