Each month, we are talking to a #remainer in the spotlight to find out a little more about what they’re up to, their campaigning efforts and why they’re pro-EU.
To start 2018, we’re talking to TV journalist and lecturer in media studies, Grahame Lucas, who regularly endeavours to explain Brexit to German audiences. A Batchelor and Masters Graduate in History, Politics and English, Grahame has worked as a freelance journalist and translator in Germany, before serving as a correspondent in Brussels and Bonn and as Head of New and Current Affairs in South and South-East Asia.
With such a distinguished media career taking him all around the world, we’re sure Grahame’s thoughts on Brexit will be particularly insightful.
Meet Grahame Lucas
1. Which way did you vote in the EU referendum?
I was not allowed to vote. As a British citizen who has chosen to live and work in different EU countries and who has not been a resident in the UK for more than 15 years I was not eligible to participate. I feel – like many British people living and working in the member states of the European Union – that this violated my rights.
2. Who will be the biggest loser if Brexit finally happens?
There will be many big losers but the services sector, including financial services, will take the biggest hit. At the time of writing it appears highly unlikely that the EU will include services in a free trade agreement with the UK. As you know, services are key to the UK economy. Services are not included in CETA, the deal with Canada. UK ministers are therefore demanding a Canada +++ deal to facilitate their attempts at cherry picking. It is not going to happen. The EU will look to take up the slack in the Single Market caused by the UK’s exit and profit from it – end of story.
3. Can you tell us how staying in the EU will benefit Essex or the people at large?
The benefit would be that in terms of the economy the UK would profit from the economic upturn in the EU. For example, the German economy will grow by 2.3 percent this year, the UK will grow by just over 1 percent. The Eurozone is surging. Right now, investment in UK is on hold and European businesses are realigning their supply chains to avoid dependency on UK suppliers. UK economy is treading water. By exiting from Brexit this would be avoided.
Brexit will hit all areas of the economy and most regions. When I travelled through East Anglia about a year ago one thing that struck me was that whatever hotel I stayed at or wherever I went for a meal, most of the staff were from the EU. Few voters appear to have considered the contribution EU citizens make to the economy. They put in far more than they take out. Now net immigration figures are falling as EU citizens begin to leave. Many of them are going to Germany. After they have gone, they won’t be paying taxes or insurance contributions or spending their wages in the UK anymore. And they won’t be flying in and out of Stansted airport. The longer term economic development will also have a negative impact on government tax revenues and spending.
4. What do you think was the biggest lie or deception from the Leave campaign?
There were so many! But if you insist the outright winner was the lie about saving 350 million pounds a week (alleged cost of EU membership) and putting that money into the NHS. The sum of 350 million pounds did not include our rebate or the flow of other benefits back into the country. Thus, the saving made by leaving is in fact much smaller. It reminds me of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”
5. We all know someone from another part of the EU – have you heard or been told by anyone you know how this is affecting their livelihood or their life?
I meet a lot of British people on my travels around Europe but I have yet to meet anyone who is not acutely concerned about the consequences of Brexit. Expats will face the loss of freedom of movement in the EU post-Brexit. Say I live in France but want to move to Germany. After Brexit, I will not have a right to do that as I have now. Rather it will be up to the German immigration authorities to decide if they will grant me permission to reside in Germany. If they say “no”, that’s it. No appeal. Others, for example, run businesses in the import-export field. They are distraught because they fear a hard Brexit will mean tariffs on their products and they will be priced out of their respective market. The latest development in France and Germany is a huge increase in the number of British people applying for French or German citizenship because in that way they will be able to travel to EU countries without a visa.
6. So many lies were told by the Vote Leave campaign – if we had a referendum again, do you think the result would be any different?
That’s the 64,000-dollar question, isn’t it? I think people know more about the case for remaining in the EU now than they did at the time of the referendum, but people are very slow to admit they may have made a mistake and take a long time to own up to it. At a recent family reunion up north, some of my relatives were still saying the NHS will get 350 million pounds a week extra although it was proven to be an outright misrepresentation months ago. History is full of examples of far-right populist leaders who were able to lie to their people and get away with it for years, even for decades. Moreover, the Leave campaign has powerful billionaire backers and allies in the tabloid press who will run an anti-EU campaign during a second referendum. I do however feel there should be another referendum because the 2016 referendum has divided the country down the middle and it shows no sign of healing. But Remain will only win if enough Leavers realise that when you are the bottom of a deep hole without a ladder, you should stop digging.
7. Is there one website or place that our readers should know about and can pledge support?
I would recommend the Open Britain campaign website at http://www.open-britain.co.uk/
8. What would you say to someone in Essex to try to persuade them to remain a part of the EU?
Leave won the referendum with emotional messages appealing to people’s sense of national pride and identity. They shamelessly whipped up anti-foreigner sentiment in the process and said little about Brexit Britain’s place in the world because they don’t know how it will work out. The country’s future is now based on speculation and supposition. These must be challenged.
Remain lost because it failed to explain the massive benefits of EU membership and our access to a huge market place right on the doorstep. Now we stand to lose not only that but also our place in EU research and technology, in the development of medicines as well as projects like Airbus and the European space programme. We will no longer be a part of EU environment programmes or of EUROPOL’s intelligence gathering to combat terror. Our students will no longer be part of ERASMUS and we will no longer benefit from regional funding and joint projects between thousands of stakeholders across 28 nations. The core message can only be: The best deal we can get is EU membership!
And stay away from UKIP and Clacton!
9. Lots of people might think it’s too late to campaign to #remain. Why should they bother to still try to make a difference?
Yogi Berra, the manager of a baseball team coined the phrase “It’s never over, until it’s over”. Or if you prefer a phrase from the premiership “It’s Fergie time”. It is not too late. Remain might yet score a late goal. And even if Brexit comes about, the generation of the under 40’s will soon be a majority and will be able to rejoin if they so wish. The EU has left the door open. The 21st century holds many challenges ranging from globalisation to climate change in a world which will look increasingly to the giants of tomorrow like China and India for leadership and less and less to the USA of Donald Trump. Alone the UK will have little influence on what happens. As a member of the EU, a regional grouping with 500 million citizens, the UK can protect its interests and secure its future. That is what is at stake and that is what should motivate people to take the trouble to fight Brexit. It’s your future after all.
10. Finally, you are allowed to plug, promote and shamelessly show off something – tell us where we should look.
Your readers are also more than welcome to follow my Twitter handle @GrahameLucas where I curate news about important developments including the national debate about Brexit and the consequences. If you need arguments to fight Brexit, you’ll find them here.
Thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions, Grahame!