Tuesday 22 January 2019

On being European

"Men will be proud to say I am a European. We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as belonging to their native land. We hope that wherever they go on the European continent they will truly feel here I am at home."

Winston Churchill, 7 May 1948 

I’ve quoted this before and I’m not ashamed to quote it again.

That is how I continue to feel.  Some extra bits of red tape and having to pay tax on some imports will not stop that. 

There is a lot of positive feeling coming towards us from ordinary people in the other EU states. That is gradually translating itself into concrete proposals:  Portugal wants us as a tourist so they will still allow us to use the rapid passport control channels whichever sort of Brexit we have.   The Republic of Ireland will not require us to have an international driving license.  

Of course, this glosses over a little the problem of Gibraltar and our fishing rights, perhaps the M20 becoming a lorry park and the government rather than medics deciding who can have which drug if there is no deal.  

But even with problems such as these  going on I would continue to think of myself as much European as British. Here is a key as well to what some Brexiteers are failing to understand.  It’s not a matter of being British or European. Being in the EU means begin British and European. 

A protesting Brexiteer recently said that she was fed up of governed by a foreign power.  The EU is not a foreign power. It’s a group of countries working together. We have our say and in fact have had quite a storing voice within Europe. 

In the end, you cannot take that part of me away that has become because I’ve lived and worked in France, Germany and the Netherlands and  have been so often to Spain that it feels like home.

Monday 7 January 2019


Well, there you go. 

I’m off to Rome on the 29 March. Yes, so I leave the UK as an EU citizen, and am accepted freely as such into Italy - until midnight? After that will I need a visa?  I come back on 31 March – that is if the planes can still fly.  Chances are though it should be quite easy once we’re back at Manchester airport.  Surely there’ll be a channel for just UK citizens? Unless it’s clogged with all those nationals of other EU states who have taken on UK citizenship? 

I’m going with my choir and the whole trip has been orchestrated by one of our members who is an Italian living in Greater Manchester.  I was keen to go even though this seems a dodgy date to travel because we are good friends and music is one of the great ways in which exchanges take place.  Talking of orchestras: ironically, even when travelling within the EU, there are concerns about musical instruments and sheet music.  

Still, as our secretary pointed out, people will still travel to the mainland. We travel with relative ease to and from such places as North Cyprus, the USA and Canada and other places not in the EU.  However, this has all been thought out and practised for many years.  North Cyprus, and Turkey generally, is quite easy; they accept their own currency, US dollars, euros and pound sterling. You can even pay in one currency and get change in another if you wish.  Your visa is a quick stamp on your passport with less waiting time at passport control than at a UK airport. 

Yes, I’m sure whatever happens it will eventually be fine. But perhaps not on 30 March. We won’t have worked it all out yet and with now literally just a few days to go and no clear plan yet established it is all a bit worrying. 

The M20 becoming a motorway, shortages of drugs, shortage of food, the weakness of the pound; it all sounds like Remainer scaremongering. Except that the government itself is now warning us about these possibilities.   The weakness of the pound is already a reality. How can a government deliberately lead the country it is supposed to take care of into such a situation?

Well Mr Call-Me-Dave Cameron a bit of advice: next time you feel like getting up to mischief, just join a choir. It’s good for your physical body, your mental health and it puts you in touch with real people.      

Anyway, whatever happens on 29 March, it won’t stop me being culturally a European.  My act of reinforces this.