By Moritz Schnelle
Comment on Philipp Schröder’s article “How the UK Discusses Brexit: Personal observations from a German resident in the UK”
Thank you for your interesting and analytical views on Brexit. I would like to add to your thoughts as my experiences are slightly different here in the UK. As a doctor, I do not have the tools and knowledge to discuss this issue from an economic point of view. My short article is purely based on personal experiences and the idealistic hope for a United Europe.
Living in the UK for more than two years, the “UK versus Europe issue” is evident on a daily basis. The immigration process at Heathrow airport, people driving on the left side of the road, and the different currency are things that are accepted as “normal” when moving to the UK.
What was new to me, though, was the geographical distinction that the British make between Europe and the UK. They only refer to countries other than the UK generally as Europe. A colleague, for instance, once said she was going on holiday to Europe.
In fact, she was going to France. I asked her “if this here (meaning the UK) is not Europe?” The reply “not really” was not very convincing. Of course, this has mainly to do with the geographical position of the UK, but I still find it somewhat disappointing, and it reflects a part of the mentality over here.
Working in a science environment at King’s College London, I mainly deal with people from either a medical or purely scientific background. They are all well-educated with high degrees from good schools and come from all over the world.
We discuss a potential Brexit at work quite frequently, and up to now, nobody has clearly stated that he or she is in favor of staying in the EU. The general opinion is that it depends on whether the UK benefits from the EU and whether David Cameron is capable of negotiating good deals.
I usually ask the question: “Don’t you think there is more to Europe than just benefits?”. The reply, again, is usually not very convincing and, in most cases, certainly not pro-European. The fact that people like the way Ukip leader Nigel Farage instrumentalised the recent attacks in Brussels for his Brexit campaign is dangerous and clearly does not help. It drives people into a situation where Europe actually scares them because it appears to be a potential threat.
In times of terrorism and the refugee crisis, wouldn’t it be just plain wrong for one of the strongest countries in the EU to leave? Wouldn’t that mean that we have lost the battle already if we cannot even stand united with our partners? Is Europe really only about individual benefits and advantages?
David Cameron said that “Britain could now get the best of two worlds” (also see Phlipp’s article) if it stayed within the EU. But do we want two worlds? Isn’t the whole idea to have ONE Europe? As for me, I might be a bit too emotional with respect to a potential Brexit, but should people base their decisions purely on rationality? Shouldn’t there be an emotional desire to stay united? Unfortunately, I do not see this in the UK, and I am indeed worried and scared that a Brexit could mean the end of Europe.
My views on this issue might be naïve and not very analytical, but I think a bit of idealism and emotion is needed in this discussion.
Dr. Moritz Schnelle is a German cardiologist and researcher at King’s College London. He took part in United Europe’s first Young Professionals Seminar in 2014.