by Marcus Cain, Leeds for Europe
While she was still a contender in the Labour leadership race Jess Phillips, the fierce, straight-talking Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, appeared on James O’Brien’s LBC radio show and, when being quizzed about the myriad issues Britain is currently facing, said “You have to fight the war you’re in, not the war you want to be in”. This really struck me and got me thinking about how this sentiment applies to the pro-EU movement post-January 2020.
When Brexit finally became an inevitability in the early hours of 13 December 2019 and brought over three years of hope and campaigning to remain to an abrupt and painful end I felt compelled, as I had done at several other points over the last few years, to begin planning my new life in a better, more tolerant land far away from this embarrassment of a country where I was born. I even went as far as researching citizenship requirements and job opportunities in several other countries that appear to be more advanced and affable than Britain. Despite this, I’m still here and after the initial disappointment and resentment faded away I came to my senses and realised I have no intention of going anywhere.
Despite its many many flaws I love my country (isn’t that the reason we’ve all spent to much of our time campaigning to stop the Brexit disaster?!) and so I’m not going to give up on it now. The very fact that we lost this battle is the reason we need to stay and fight the war we are in – the war against the far-right, the war against populism, the war against fake news, the war against xenophobia – as opposed to the war we want to be in (which for most people would be no war presumably?).
Also, it’s easy to see other countries through rose-tinted glasses and think that everything is perfect elsewhere. But let’s not forget the far-right is on the move all over the world with the rise of the media-controlling, law-manipulating PiS in Poland and continued prominence of Viktor Orban’s far-right Fidesz party in Hungary for example. Admittedly no where else seems to have fallen for it quite as hard as the UK and US but as far as I can tell utopia doesn’t exist yet.
I don’t for a second blame anyone for packing their bags and getting out of this country all together. As I said I’ve thought about it myself on more than one occasion. But I can’t hide the fact that it deeply saddens me that people no longer feel that they belong in this country because of the path is appears to be taking – a path that, like it or not, we all play a part in defining.
It’s for these people, my European friends who no longer feel welcome in the country, my British friends who find the UK unrecognisable compared to the tolerant, prosperous nation they’ve known it to be and for everyone else who experiences the ugliness that has been ushered in by Brexit that I will stay and keep fighting the war we’re in. And given the government’s recently announced barbaric points-based immigration system that looks set to force out ‘low-skilled’ workers such as nurses and care workers who have done nothing but work hard and contribute so much to this country it’s more important than ever that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our European friends in the UK and do everything in our power to defend their rights.
I hope these thoughts resonate with people across our fantastic movement and beyond and provide a little bit of comfort in these difficult times as well as the motivation to push through the wobbles we will all inevitably experience over the coming months and years.