Yes, I love the EU. Thanks to Brexiters
The referendum result drove me to go back and examine why Remain lost. In the process, I became a more committed Europhile than ever
To add to their grubby little crib sheet of mindless, soulless slogans — “You lost, get over it,” “They need us more than we need them,” “You hate democracy”, “Stop talking our country down”, “Triggered!” — the Brexiters have a new refrain: “You love the EU.” Common variants include “EU-loving leftard”, “EU stooge”, “Why don’t you fuck off to Europe if you love it so much?” and “How much is Soros paying you?” (Answer: not enough to make up for the rise in the price of my weekly shop because of Brexit.)
This is clearly intended to be an insult, disturbingly close in spirit to the “n****r-lover” of old, insofar as it implies that any fondness for the target is self-evidently evil or stupid.
The grand irony here is that before the referendum, I didn’t have any special affection for the EU (just as, four years earlier, animosity towards it was vanishingly rare — pdf). I was aware of its existence, of course: I’d heard about all the red tape and a few allegations of corruption (mostly from Ukip MEPs), and about how the accounts were never signed off, but I also knew that a lot of people had benefited from freedom of movement and research collaboration and was dimly aware that free trade generally creates jobs and keeps prices low.
I did a bit more research in the weeks before the vote, enough to satisfy myself that my instincts were broadly correct, and noted that while some proponents of Remain (Cameron, May, Osborne) were hardly the most trustworthy individuals, the Leave campaigners were, to a man (and Kate Hoey), corrupt, self-serving slimeballs churning out nothing but fearmongering garbage. As a result, when June 23rd 2016 rolled around, I voted Remain.
Then Leave won, and it was only then that I, and millions of others, began to realise exactly how much we had lost.
For the last two years, I have done little but debate with Leave voters online and devour articles and books on EU law and European history (I can particularly recommend Guilty Men: Brexit Edition by Cato the Younger). I interviewed EU citizens who were leaving the UK because of Brexit. I’ve now written 30 blog posts on the subject (one of which has racked up more than 600,000 hits and another of which was published in the New European, yay). I joined Best for Britain and began donating to all manner of Remain-related causes. I travelled to Brussels and visited the Parliamentarium and the Museum of European History.
And the more I found out, the more deeply attached I became to the European project. The Parliamentarium’s unpretentious explanation of the origins of the EU, as well as being fascinating, offered a sobering reminder of the dire circumstances that were the impetus for its foundation. The Museum of European History, with its tableaux of decades of everyday life across 28 countries, lifted the soul.
I discovered that all those stories of red tape, corruption and unvetted accounts were a bunch of horseshit. At the same time, I found out that EU membership conferred vastly more benefits than I had imagined: consumer protections, labour rights, Horizon 2020, Erasmus, Erasmus +, free mobile roaming, Euratom, EMA, Galileo. And I watched with horror as the vote to leave not only unleashed a sickening wave of xenophobia in my once tolerant country, but led some of the vilest scumbags in existence to believe that they could get away with lies, abuse and psychological manipulation on an industrial scale.
So now I can say, proudly and with my hand on my heart: yes, I do love the European Union. And each one of your jibes and boasts and threats, Brexit fantasists, will redouble my determination to fight for the UK’s continued membership — or failing that, to retain the closest relationship possible.
Get over it? When hell freezes over.