Our safe European home? Yes, yes it is

I saw that tweet the other day. It’s funny cos it’s true (apart from the errant who’s that should be whose, but this is no time to be a grammar pedant).

In just over a fortnight, Britain will vote in a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union or to leave.

The stakes are high. The rhetoric – on both sides – ridiculous. This week the Brexiteers are celebrating a lead in several polls, thanks probably to its decision to focus on the emotive topic of immigration. Bremain keeps focusing on the economy, stupid.

Actually the reality is that for the most fervent people on both sides of the argument, their belief in either in or out is such an article of faith that it wouldn’t matter if they were promised a glimpse into the future to confirm their choice was a disaster. They would still vote in or out, regardless.

Many people are likely not to bother either to vote or even to register (on that note, if you are not already a registered voter, you have until midnight tomorrow  June 7 to ensure you get to cast your vote on June 23).

Elements of this campaign are little more than a rerun of the Scottish independence referendum that still bitterly resonates almost two years on.

That referendum polarised Scotland – still does if you tiptoe around social media – and regardless of the outcome of the vote on June 23, EU in or out is going to poison public discourse in the UK for a generation.

Go us!

If you haven’t already made up your mind, here’s my entirely unscientific and emotional guide as to why you should vote remain on June 23. If you want an economic argument to sway to remain, try here and here and here. For Brexit, well, you should probably go elsewhere.

A UK committed to Europe would be welcomed with open arms – and can set the EU on a new course

Since joining the EEC back in 1973, Britain has never been more than a reluctant partner in the whole European Union project. Successive PMs, even ones as Europe-friendly as Blair, have always given the impression that Brussels is nothing more than a pain in the backside. A UK government fully committed to a reformed European Union (and by god, it needs reformed) could set the agenda and help forge a new path. Hey, I know I sound like Pollyanna but it could happen!

Britain might be an island, but in a globalised world, cutting ourselves off from our nearest neighbours and allies is an act of shortsighted folly

Too much of the language around Brexit has been about taking our country back and stopping immigrants coming over here and taking our jobs. There’s a pining there for a lost Britain, for the Britain of the empire where the sun never set. Theirs is a Britain that probably never actually existed but is highly visible in rose-tinted spectacles. And even if it did exist, we can no more go back to the future than we can close our doors on the world.

Globalisation cannot be halted. Mass immigration may never be halted. It can be shaped – but only if you’re willing to participate, willing to provide some solutions to a problem that transcends national borders and local politics.

The EU has made a total hash of the current refugee crisis, but it’s not too late to formulate policies that save lives and help restore order to the chaos in the Middle East. Better to be in shaping future policies than out dealing with the fallout.

A united Europe is a better Europe

The generation that survived the Second World War is gradually leaving us. We should give thanks every day we have never had to live through what they did. Making trading partners of former foes and knowing that onetime enemies can be relied upon to provide support on social policies has probably been the EU’s finest achievement.

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of nationalism across the continent again. It’s rarely pretty when folks claim exceptionalism based purely on where they were born. That kind of thinking fetishises flags and singles out the other as the potential enemy. Not for me.

Spoiled for choice

I love French élan, Spanish wine, Italian cuisine and German football.

Danish crime dramas, Swedish flatpack furniture and pickled herring.

Belgian chocolate and Austrian wiener schnitzel.

Irish stout and Hungarian goulash.

Of course I can still have all of that if Britain is no longer a member of the EU, but somehow that feeling of being part of the continent would be diminished.

And would we even be able to play under the EU flag in the Ryder Cup? You might scoff, but that flag and that team have been a remarkable symbol of unity for 30 odd years.

And then there’s this…

I’m sure many Brexiteers are not small-minded individuals terrified of immigrants. Or right-wing politicians determined to destroy environmental regulations and make a bonfire of workers’ rights but who will still themselves be financially secure no matter the economic fallout of leave. But…


My 10-day sugar-free detox: The Weekend – Brazilian wave

Deep into the sugar-free detox, Louise has reached the weekend …
and hit a brick wall of tears, steaks and Rihanna envy

The good Dr Mark Hyman, whose program I’ve been following for the past seven days, warns that around day five “it’s not uncommon to feel waves of emotion that can catch you off guard”.

I can testify to this, given the heart-wrenching sobs that bubbled to the surface when Mario Gotze scored his cracking winning goal for Germany in the World Cup final on Sunday night.

In bits I was, bits.

Whether I was crying for a new-found love of all things Teutonic or simply pining for one of their very finely crafted beers, I have no idea. All I know is that my tears took me by surprise then, and again the next morning when, recounting the story to my dear sister Fran, they freely flowed again.

I also saw a picture of Rihanna, flanked by Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, holding the World Cup trophy and was consumed both by jealousy and wanting to be her at the same time.

I’m not sure if these are the emotions that myself or Dr Hyman would be expecting, but I’m having them anyway. I own them.

The weekend was tough, as you can see. On Sunday morning, I woke to find a small stye forming on my lower left eyelid. I wanted a large T-bone steak goddammit, with all the sides and a big glass of decadent red wine, a deep Rioja, a sultry Malbec.

I was restless all morning, pre-match nerves you could say, which I channelled into ironing. I am my mother’s daughter.

I was forced to come to certain conclusions on Sunday. The detox part of the program is still ongoing – I feel very good physically – but I want something sweet, I really want that steak and wine combo and I love the World Cup, despite FIFA trying to ruin it for the whole planet (including the USA – welcome to our world of pain!)

I got my steak, sans vino, and it was lush. I got my tears and joy and I went to bed, emotionally drained.

When does the football season start again?