A few weeks ago I joined the Liberal Democrats. Why would someone who has always been Conservative decide to move away – have things really changed that much? Quite simply, yes.
I was born in Chester but have grown up in various places across the globe. I currently live and work in Germany but come home to Chester on a regular basis and indeed have a house there. Wherever I have lived, I have always considered Chester home.
Last year saw the most important vote for the UK in generations. A vote which would, as a UK citizen living and working in Germany, have an enormous impact on my future. One could argue that it had a greater impact on those of us living in other EU nations than those at home. With this in mind, it seems astonishing that I, like many of the 1.3 million British nationals scattered around the EU, was not allowed to vote.
Since the referendum the UK has become a divided nation – the only real unity appears to be on the political front – between the Conservatives, UKIP and Labour, none of whom seem to care about our position within Europe. The unelected Theresa May has taken it upon herself to decide what she alone thinks is best for the nation. Anybody with even the most basic grasp of economics (and yes, I studied European business) can see that membership of the European Union is vital to the economy. Of course, like all major institutions, the EU is not without its faults, but how anyone can believe that it is better to leave our largest trading partner and go cap in hand to tyrants such as Trump and Erdogan, both of whom are well known for their protectionist views to trade, in the hope of obtaining beneficial trading agreements? EU membership not only gives the UK barrier-free access to the European single market but also to trade agreements with 53 other countries and trading blocs around the world. Free from this “burden” and without the might of the EU behind us, we are now in a much weaker negotiating position, and our future partners are well aware of that.
Many people complain that British companies are forced to abide by EU regulations. This is true, and many of these regulations make products safer and more customer-friendly, however, British companies will still have to adhere to these regulations in order to sell products within the EU – the only difference is that in future Britain will have no say in establishing them. Another lose-lose situation.
Living and working in another EU country I see the situation with different eyes. Although I work in communications I was appalled at the British media in the run-up to the referendum. People told me that Turkey was on the verge of joining the EU, that throughout the EU bananas are not allowed to be sold in bunches and other bizarre “facts” they had read. Amusing but also very serious indeed that people actually believe things like this and let it influence their vote. Most UKIP voters had no idea that Nigel Farage, and his German wife / secretary have been financed by the EU for years. It is very rare indeed that the British media actually explain the benefits of EU membership rather than concentrate on “alternative facts” (as they have now become known). I am convinced that many people were not completely aware of the true implications of leaving the EU and that as prices start to rise and the true impact begins to show they may begin to regret their decision.
The only party which seems to care about our future within Europe, and indeed the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals throughout the EU, is the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives are essentially turning into UKIP and Labour is a party in complete disarray. Tim Farron speaks with a passion about refugees, whilst others sweep such issues under the carpet. Someone who slept rough to highlight the issue of homelessness, who visited refugee camps to witness first hand what is happening. In a world of increasing nationalism it is a breath of fresh air to see a party leader who is dedicated to cooperation and integration rather than building walls and risking conflict.
A number of friends have recently joined the party and I am happy that membership of the Liberal Democrats is increasing throughout the country. I urge you all to give those of us British nationals who depend on the EU, and who appear to have been forgotten by the government the voice we were not given last year. I genuinely fear for the future of the UK and believe that this is the only party which represents my views.