Sunday 21 January 2018

Split in two

I attended my last session as external examiner at the University of Leeds just one week before the referendum. The meeting went well.  We descended into small talk at the close and mused on what we might be looking at in a few days' time. 

"He should never have called for a referendum," said my colleague. 

What? Only now was I beginning to feel a little uneasy. Surely it was supposed to be like 1975 all over again? Surely we would want to hold on to our free trade, the ease of movement, farmer's subsidies, the security of having a European court if the national one fails, being able to work easily with colleagues from other states, all that access to European money and all those very fair laws. 

The night before the referendum I put my thoughts on Facebook. They were well received.  

I had realised all along that this matter was divisive. It still is. I have to speak out but I'm putting my head above the parapet and getting some sharp comment back.

Recently a former Brexiteer said she had changed her mind. I asked her why she had voted to leave in the first place and what was she doing now to help reverse things. These were genuine questions, not a criticism, but of course someone has now made the point that she should be applauded for admitting she made a mistake. Yes, of course. But we also need to rectify that mistake before it's too late.  
And I admit I too made I mistake: I said too little too late.  

I now assume that the Brexiteers blame things such as homelessness and food banks on the EU. I personally think these would all be a lot worse if we hadn't been in the EU and know these problems have more to do with the fundamental causes of the 2008 economic crisis. I keep inviting Brexiteers to tell me why they voted as they did and to date have not heard or read one convincing argument.   
The question has divided us and both sides have in places descended into name-calling. Some Remoaners (can we invent a different word please?) are assuming all Brexiteers are racist xenophobes. Some Brexiteers want rid of all of the Eourofans.  "Go and live on the mainland," one said today.  He wants us to leave the Brexiteers in peace so that they can make Britain great again. I personally doubt that that can happen – especially if all the Eurofans leave. The EU never stopped Britain being great – in fact it enhanced one of our main qualities – that of tolerance. History should have taught us that trying to make a country "great again" can lead to disaster. We watch with interest what's happening over on the other side of the Atlantic.      

The majority of the people living on these islands (and indeed on the European mainland) are fair, open-minded and tolerant. 

It was irresponsible if the two Eton boys to try to settle a spat this way. It was also irresponsible of our government to allow a less than 52% majority to be called the demonstration of the will of the people. The 48 / 52 % split clearly calls for a third way which is possibly a good overhaul, transparent to all, of the way the EU works. I guess the other 27 would have thanked us for raising the issue.                              


Thursday 11 January 2018

Set theory for global citizens

I was heartened today by seeing a picture on Twitter that showed a Yorkshire flag on the left a Union flag in the middle and a European flag to the right. The caption read "It doesn't have to be either or."  
Indeed it doesn't. 

I woke up this morning with stiff knees and said to my husband: "Bugger Brexit.  I need to live somewhere warmer. Let's go and live in Spain." 

However, I'm not sure that's what I actually want. I love the more highly-marked changing seasons in northern Europe. I love the rich culture in Great Britain. 

For the last ten years we've lived near Manchester and having spent our youth living near Birmingham, we appreciate being near a big city again. Technically, we live in Greater Manchester but our little town used to be postally described as Lancashire.  (Apologies to my like-minded friend who put the Yorkshire flag up on Twitter today.)  That Manchester voted Remain, with a very respectable majority, is a bonus. Becoming Mancunian does not negate my time in the Midlands or the thirty years we spent living on the south coast. We've also lived and worked and generally spent a good deal of time in other European states. All of these places have influenced who we've become. 

But here's the thing. Manchester is part of Great Britain, that is still currently part of Europe – in fact is still will be even after Brexit – and Europe is part of the world. When we finally meet the inhabitants of other planets, we'll do well to recognise that Earth is part of the universe, not something separate from it.   

So if we follow this set theory through, Remainers can cheer. Brexit will make things dammed awkward but it can't undo this bit of set actuality. We are all global citizens whether we want to be or not. Our overarching set is that of the citizens of everywhere.   

As I said recently, maths has never been my strongest subject, but set theory I understand well. Much of it applies to languages and those I know about. Beats me how certain Oxbridge educated individuals are failing to see this.           

Wednesday 3 January 2018

A Little Bit of Mathematics

So, we give £350,000,000 a week to the EU. What does it spend it on? Oh, don't we get £300,000,000 a week back for our regions – two of which look as if they want to break off from the UK. The third, anyway, wants independence.  Which leaves merry England divided into two with many Big Towns wanting to Remain. Still, if Scotland and Northern Ireland leave, we won't have to pay for them.

30% roughly of the EU's spending goes on farmer's subsidies. Farmers are important. They produce our food.  It's not an easy life. The subsidy guarantees them an acceptable life style.  No, it doesn't make them rich. Just comfortable. The immediate question for many after the referendum was "Will we still get our subsidy after Brexit?" So, the British tax-payer is to pay that, then? That's okay. We won't have to pay the £350,000,000 a week anymore. Except if Northern Ireland and Scotland don't go they'll still want the £300,000,000 – Wales' bit- a week. And Wales will want her share anyway.

Never mind, that leaves approximately £20,000,000 a week. Okay, let's give that to the NHS and use it to get people off the streets. We can do without the EU- funded projects. Who cares about the Metrolink in Manchester? We don't really need the €10.9bn awarded to us for 2014 – 2020, do we? Guess we'll have to pay some of that back. And won't it be nice not to contribute anymore to less economically developed states? We're the fifth richest nation – let's keep it that way. We might make it to fourth. Oops, maybe not. We've just been downgraded. No doubt we Remoaners are accused of blaming it on Brexit. Yes, I know. It's unbelievable that nurses are using food banks, that young people can't get on the property ladder and that the wages for those working in the public sector are frozen – where exactly is the money in the UK? We must be giving it all to the EU.       

Then of course there is the exit bill. How many weeks of £350,000,000 will that take?  It was already a lot before they went quiet and started hiding the figures.

But what would I know? I only got a B in GCSE maths.