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How Do I Explain Brexit To My Kids?

30/03/2017 17:12
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Last week I had a surprise when I picked up my four-year-old twins from pre-school. Their teacher said one of them (Leo) had been telling the class about Theresa May taking us out of the European Union!

I felt a mixture of pride that my little boy was taking an interest in politics and guilt that their Dad and I have spent too much time ranting at the radio!

When I later quizzed my kids (aged four, four and six) on what grown-ups like to talk about, they said: "Brexit, who the Prime Minister should be, bad drivers and Donald Trump." My six-year-old added: "Brexit is really boring, but I know it is important." It sums up how too many of us feel about it.

As a Remainer I struggle to explain it to my children. But I feel I have to because it is going to affect their future, in terms of where they can work and live and the prices they will pay for everything.

I've told them that there are 28 European Union countries and we all work together, but now we are not going to be. They ask: "Will people still be able to buy cars from Germany?" And I say: "I think so, but they might cost more." I have explained we might have to buy and sell more things with America.

This does not make sense to them. They have a map in their room and they know Europe is closer to us than America. Donald Trump does not make sense to them either. They have even drawn portraits of him with his orange spray tan.

I took my kids with me to vote in the referendum. The day afterwards their school and pre-school was closed (because of sewage flooding into the building!) We went to a park and my kids played with children who were Bulgarian and British-German.

My kids are dual heritage and each day at school and pre-school they mix with children and staff of all different colours, races and religions. They like to say a few phrases in different languages, for example, "dzien dobry" ("good day" in Polish) and "szia" (or "hello" in Hungarian).

What will I tell them if the people we know need to return to the countries they came from, when their home is here? These include people who work in bakeries and factories, who work as carers with the elderly, who are scientists and teachers and Mums and Dads of their friends.

I do not know how to explain to my children that many of the people who voted for Brexit did so because they were told that the money we spend on EU membership could benefit our NHS. Because it seems to me that money is not going to the NHS and that the NHS is being privatised by the back door, not just with PFI, but with wards already run by companies including Virgin.

My kids are alive purely as a result of nurses and doctors from the EU. My six-year-old was delivered by EU midwives (Irish and Spanish) and my twins lives were saved by a Greek Cypriot consultant. When they were born very prematurely, they were delivered and looked after in special care for eight weeks by dedicated staff from across the EU and beyond.

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Too much of the Brexit debate was about immigration and I dread having to explain xenophobia to my kids. They believe that we can all be friends. But one day I will have to shatter their faith and explain that some people do not like each other because they do not know each other and they feel threatened. I will have to explain that many parts of our country have been neglected, but rather than take responsibility, many politicians have allowed foreigners to be blamed.

Then I will need to explain the term "red herring" to my kids. For that is what I believe immigration has been in the Brexit debate. I will tell them some politicians did not tell the truth: like the fox in the story of Henny Penny who told her the sky was going to fall in when he just wanted to eat her. I will tell them that this part of the Brexit story telling was so good that many adults believed it.

One day I will have to tell my kids that I think Brexit is happening, not so the government can honour the will of the people, but as a way of letting market forces rule, of shunning social responsibility for hospitals, schools, care of our most vulnerable and employees.

Recently they asked what happened to David Cameron and I had to say: "I don't know." I do not know where our former Prime Minister who trusted us adults to decide for their future has gone.

All I can conclude is that I should tell them that we must never believe everything we are told, that we must always ask questions, the kinds of questions they ask now that are so black and white. I will also have to tell them that they may not always get accurate answers and they may have to ask several people and work out the truth themselves.

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