Things We Don't Talk About When We Talk About EU Referendum: Foreigner's Take on EU Debate

Yes, I'm saying we, although some would brand me stranger. But I live here, work here, pay my taxes, love my boyfriend. This is my voice. In my own way, I want to make a difference.

I'm sitting down to write this text, because of this amorphic frustration coursing through my body and brain: I'm an immigrant living in the UK, within a democratic system (at least in name); a referendum is about to take place. It will significantly influence the outcome of my life, career and relationships and I. Can't. Vote.

Let me do what I can.

When we're talking about EU we're talking about immigration. When we're talking about immigration, we're talking about feelings, not facts. Those negative feelings -- of fear, aggression and hatred -- are impacting actions, and become facts in that way. What is immigration? Is it a group of scared looking people on a wobbly boat? Is it the Ugandan NHS nurse, who was actively recruited to come to UK, only to face the rhetoric of "stealing our jobs"? Is it me, a Polish writer, who came in search of more open society? Funnily enough, nobody speaks of British migrants, even though they most definitely exist. What is immigration, how is it a problem?

Before you say anything: immigration is one thing, a convenient scapegoat to blame for the results of austerity. British society is being successfully, masterfully played.

Speaking of games. What is the long game of Brexit? How do we picture it? Does it last two years? Four years? More, less? Is Norwegian model any good? Is Greece a warning? Is there an actual plan? Not a "strawberry fields forever" promise of paying farmers the same money that they get from EU, but a plan: how to extend the current projects without EU funding; how to regulate immigration in a humane manner, if to regulate at all -- how to pull our weight in the refugee crisis; how to take care of each other in this society. Also, what will happen to the migrants who already live here? Many Leave voters believe that "nothing would really change", but I'm not so sure: wouldn't a Brexit win become a prelude to throwing people out, willy-nilly? I'm not pointing fingers, but, y'know, everyone laughed at Hitler. There was a time when he didn't seem like a danger. Now we have the same rhetorical patterns (Volk Ohne Raum, anyone?) and similar posters and yet we're not taking it seriously. I can say for sure that I feel endangered and vulnerable by the referendum: my fate depends on common sense of British citizens, and future plans are conspicuously absent from public conversations.

Spoiler alert: there is no plan, not one I can discern, and if we don't take initiative, there will be no plan. There will be playing off our worst fears. It is already happening.

It is a truth that terrified people are easy to govern: it is enough to point them towards the enemy and get out of the way. We need to defeat the fear. Scared people don't behave reasonably or responsibly; panic is not a good adviser, neither is aggression. Whatever choice is made in the referendum, I would love to see a measured response to current situation. But that's not what's happening. Both Leave and Remain campaign are running around like headless chickens, trying to appeal to our fear. And even though fear is a powerful motivator, it's hard to build constructive things on it, unless (touch wood) you're aiming for a 3rd world war. We need to do better: we need engaged communities, nuanced politics, fact-based conversations. Instead, the referendum is polarizing the public opinion: you have to say yes or no, and people are going to the mattresses. As there is a distinct possibility that even if Leave campaign wins, there will still be no Brexit, we should instead ponder what is our vision for the future. Not to mention that the big, loud, possibly unnecessary argument that this referendum has devolved into now has a body count; Jo Cox, author of passionate, humanitarian speeches, is gone in what looks like a consequence of all the hate flying around. Surely that's the most obvious indication that we're playing with fire.

These are times of great changes: EU is attempting to create things we did not have before. It would be madness to think those things have no consequences. Whether it's freedom of movement, open market or euro, there are -- and will be -- unlooked for results. If we can openly and cooperatively work those out, we continue to progress. What kind of Britain do we want? What kind of Europe? I'm not saying that Britain should never leave Europe, but it shouldn't leave like this -- flouncing off in a snit, full of underlying fear, with polarized society and racists getting their way. It's not only what we're doing, but also -- how.

Yes, I'm saying we, although some would brand me stranger. But I live here, work here, pay my taxes, love my boyfriend. This is my voice. In my own way, I want to make a difference.

(first published on

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