It was late 2004 – no longer autumn, but not quite winter – and the trek through the woodland was like walking through a rainbow (albeit a cold one). Glorious halos of bronze and red crowned proud trees against a backdrop of crystal waters and sharp, blue skies. My world looked like the pages of a story book – illustrated in perfect, rich detail with strong, beautiful colours. I couldn’t have asked for a better setting against which to fall hopelessly in love.
I was living in southern Denmark at the time – it wasn’t where I’d planned to spend my 19th year, but the world (and somehow, miraculously, my dismal grades) had taken me there regardless. It was my second year of an undergraduate degree in Scandinavian Studies and with no further planning than, “I’ll book my flights, pack my suitcase and go,” I now lived an ocean away from my homeland. To me, it was magical – like someone had waved a wand and transported me to a world I’d never seen before.
And in the midst of it all, was a man. I’ll try to do everyone a favour by downplaying just how hard I fell for him – anyone reading this probably knows me (and by proxy, him) and it would just be awkward and weird – but given the chance I could describe that first meeting with paragraph after paragraph of gushing, chick-lit-esque prose (sans ‘member’ – I’m not that kind of girl!*) . Suffice to say that it really was love at first sight. Etched in my mind until the day I die is the way he walked across the school courtyard and glanced back at me over his shoulder as I returned from my walk amongst the trees. Only, I’d been stomping through the woodland to try and forget someone else, to persuade myself that I was now a woman of the world – jet setting to foreign shores and in no way upset at the loss of a partner from gray Aberdeenshire. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need to meet the attractive blond man I’d just seen, that I needed to touch his golden, curling hair even less… I even tried to set up a meeting for him and a friend of mine in an effort to save myself the inevitable heartache further down the line when I had to return home.
Only it turns out that I couldn’t live without him. Not then, or now.
I lived for a year in Denmark after I finished my degree. It didn’t work out. We moved to Britain and thrived. We’ve been happy here, raising two hilarious children. They have my husband’s glorious, golden looks and my appetite for olives and malted milks (not at the same time). Our daughter is already smarter than I am – a real powerhouse of quick thinking with a heart of gold. Our son adores animals and food, and animals as food. I am confident that as they grow, they will make beautiful additions to humanity.
These two, brilliant and bright souls wouldn’t exist were it not for the EU. I couldn’t have gone to study in Denmark for that year, nor could that beautiful viking man have come home with me, back to my little Atlantic rock peopled entirely with tea addicts and those with a genetic predisposition to discussing perfectly average weather as though it were anything but.
I could tell you all about how that man did not steal a job, but created one. I could tell you how he is self-employed and brings in taxable revenue from outside of the UK – money we would not otherwise see. I could tell you that no Brit will ever be qualified to do his job as translators are required to translate only into their mother tongue, and where – if not in our household and those similarly placed mid-north-sea – will you find a Danish-speaking-Brit? I could tell you how we make a conscientious effort to spend our money locally, how we research where our food comes from in order to support local farmers. I could tell you about how we chose a Nissan, based on the fact that it was produced in the UK. I could demand to know how those of you who fall in love with a Brit have more of a right to live together as a family than those of us whose partners were not born on the same scrap of land. I could ask how my going away to study and bringing my new knowledge back to our little island is a bad thing – because it’s not, by the way, it’s an amazing thing which only benefits us.
But I won’t. What I’d like to ask of you is that while you’re deciding which way to vote tomorrow, to consider things other than immigration. I know… I just wrote a whole screed about how I was an immigrant in Denmark and how my husband is one here… but stay with me.
Despite being part Danish and a bilingual family, ours is pretty much the same as yours. Our babies have two parents who love them very much. None of us get enough sleep, we eat more sugar than we should, can’t function without tea and are more than usually interested in the weather. I can’t say it loudly enough – PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, regardless of where they’re from.
You shouldn’t be voting on whether someone with an accent can live here or not, despite what the major campaigners on both sides are saying. What I’m asking is that you look at what the EU actually does in the UK… like open doors academically which might otherwise have been closed. Like make it possible for those running small businesses to easily bring in taxable revenue from overseas. Like making it possible for those from the UK travelling within the EU to present an EHIC card and receive free medical treatment that might otherwise be charged. Like protecting UK workers from attempts to introduce unfair UK labour laws.
Look at what the papers are telling you over the next 24 hours objectively. If something sounds wrong, check your facts. This website is a mine of information about the times the UK press hasn’t been honest about what’s happening in Brussels.
Obviously I’d urge you to vote ‘remain’ but even if you don’t, I do ask that you vote because of issues outside of immigration. Because EU immigration isn’t an issue. There’s no ‘us vs. them’, there is only us. And please, even if you believe that we are paying more the the EU than we are getting out, remember that some things aren’t quantifiable in terms of money – Sterling, Euro or otherwise. By joining with the other nations on the continent we’re helping to build a bigger world, one which can not be torn down by wars and segregation. The more countries which stand together, the fewer countries there are to fight one another. It is in all of our interests – now and in the future – to pool our wealth, our knowledge and our passions. Because as cliched as it sounds, love must win. And the more we understand about one another – and therefore about ourselves – the more love can prosper.
And the sooner we smudge our borders** then the sooner there won’t be any immigrants, there’ll just be a migrant workforce.
*That’s not a ‘anyone who puts out on the first date is a slut’ comment, just for the record. It’s a ‘I don’t use the word member‘ comment… just so we’re clear.
**Again, let me be clear, I’m all for national identity and customs. But pride in our heritage is not the same as nationalism. Scotland is a convenient and beautiful example – it’s easy to name so many things which are inherently Scottish, but we’re still a functioning part of a larger whole.