British should helping lead humanity into the future, not retreating into isolationism and suspicion.
No one knows what will happen in a post-Brexit United Kingdom. The advocates for leaving the European Union promised a sort of Valhalla of beautiful times where jobs were going to be plentiful and everything was going to be easier. But they never actually had, and still haven't, a clue what really might happen.
For instance, the Leave campaign promised that 350 million pounds a week ($445 million) was going to be put into the National Health Service if we left the E.U. and stopped contributing to it. Then everyone from Nigel Farage, one of the major right-wing proponents of leaving, to Dominic Cummings, who led the campaign, has said that wasn't true. (It tricked people so much, though, that a huge proportion of Britons still believe it.)
What we do know will happen, particularly if we leave the E.U. without a variety of treaties and agreements (what they call a "hard" Brexit), is a nightmare that seems increasingly likely: People in the U.K. are going to have to get visas to be able to go and stay or work in Europe; we’ll lose our health care coverage in Europe, and your choice to live or retire there will suddenly become very hard; a whole load of laws that make our lives as Britons engaging in Europe is going to be disappearing; and we will have to redo all of our trade agreements.
But the entirety of what will happen if the U.K. goes into a hard Brexit, still no one knows. But people now have a much clearer idea of what leaving the E.U. really means, and what a hard and vicious Brexit really means. So we are now asking for a People’s Vote — on whatever agreement is reached, so that the public can vote on whether running away from our continent or staying and fighting for our continent is the best plan.
People like me, who are positive on Europe, know that Europe needs to be reformed. It's difficult to do that, but we want to do it, and Brexit is a big incentive to do so, for both British and European leaders. Running and hiding from Europe, though, was never the way forward. Brits don’t quit.
The Whining Right have moaned about being part of Europe since the first referendum to stay in Europe back in 1975, which we won, 66 percent to 34 percent. The referendum in 2016 to leave the European Union was 52 to 48, but that is not a mandate for this hard and vicious Brexit — which ultimately will just isolate Britain.
America has been isolationist before, too; I think last time (apart from with Trump) was with Lindbergh's American First campaign in the 1940s, which was again an extreme right-wing movement. The right wing in our country is always fearful and suspicious: They want to pull back, separate out, isolate ourselves and go back to trying out 1930s politics. The world has tried 1930s politics; it didn't end well.
I'm saying no to going back to that, and focusing on the idea that the British should helping lead humanity. We’ve got to be brave and curious, rather than fearful and suspicious.
I will be fighting for positivity and for engagement with Europe, whatever happens. I want to stand to be a member of Parliament in 2020, or whenever the next general election happens. I think a lot of moderate people don't go into politics. But I'm a radical moderate; I do radical things with a moderate message.
By that I mean: I've run over 70 marathons for charity; I came out as transgender 34 years ago; I'm now performing in four languages. I try and do positive things that hopefully people can look at and say, well that seems more of a positive vision for the world, for the future, for the 21st century.
They get so many negative messages, otherwise: Brex-hate; Trump-hate; pull back, separate and use hate as your main political weapon to whip up fear. It's the mantra of the fearful and suspicious.
I think a brave and curious Britain should look like any of us who sees life in a positive way. Having the attitude when you meet someone new of saying: "Hi, how are you? What do you do?" Or just wanting to learn something new or traveling to somewhere new. That's being brave and curious. And that's particularly true of the young people, almost 80 percent of whom are coming to voting age and saying, "We want to be part of Europe_."_ They want their future back.
- As told to NBC Think editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.
Eddie Izzard is an actor, comedian and Labour Party activist
This piece was first published by NBC Think.
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