Brexit: Open letter to the people of England from an Indian perspective

Post-colonial Britain has been a shining beacon of this Europe. Do not turn your back on this.

Written by Rohan Parikh | Published: June 22, 2016 4:48:20 pm
brexit, brexit vote, brexit voting, brexit eu, uk eu, britain eu, european union, world news, uk news A woman reads a newspaper on the underground in London with a ‘vote remain’ advert for the BREXIT referendum, Britain June 22, 2016. (Source: Reuters)

Dear England (Yes, just you England, The Scots, Welsh, and Irish do not seem to need this letter).

As you stand on the brink, I write to you as a concerned global citizen.

The European Union is not so different from the United States of America or the Republic of India in size, scope and ambition. The US and India were aided in their creation by having a common enemy against which to band together and fight. The European Union, on the other hand, is an attempt to create the same through slow political compromise and without an obvious external enemy. Thus, it is a more difficult enterprise.

This enterprise however, is a critical one for the future of the free world. I am thus, not going to argue the pros and cons of Brexit for you. I am instead going to remind you that this is far more important and its impact far greater than the short term issues being campaigned upon.

Your grandfathers and great-grandfathers have seen Europe tear itself apart. First destroying its soul though competitive colonialization, and then by turning on each other in the World Wars. The European project was born of the pledge to never allow that to happen again and to build pillars of decency, solidarity, and democracy on the continent. Post-colonial Britain has been a shining beacon of this Europe. Tolerant, diverse, open, reasonable, adaptable, and innovative. Do not turn your back on this.

Born in India, educated in the USA, now raising my own family, with a European wife, in India, I have a perspective on living in diverse, continental-sized democracies. And, yes, I do understand that they can be infuriating.

I understand your concerns about ceding power to a distant capital, about unimpeded migration from other parts of the ‘continent’, even your yearning for your glorious, storied regional past. But I would like to tell you that these are false concerns and do not justify, the damage that you will inflict on yourselves on June 23rd..

In such large unions of people, we give up control over certain decisions to a central authority because we recognize their greater purpose. Where Europe has failed is in ensuring democratic accountability for its “central government”. That is a huge flaw. But surely, the English way would be to work with your cousins in Europe and fix the problem, and not scupper the entire Union?

In the US and in India, the people of the Unions are allowed to travel freely amongst. The ceaseless movement of people has been a greatest asset, creating a fluid economy that can address regional ups and downs. In India, despite 28 languages and cultures, and every major world religion, the country (mostly) gets along fine. Surely, England, a champion of global human rights and equality, cannot be frightened into retreat by the ‘threat’ Polish plumbers and the racist dog-whistle threat of Turkish entry into the EU (something which is not going to happen anyways)?

England, the past is over. It is not coming back. To put it bluntly, you are just about larger than California and smaller than many Indian, Chinese, and Brazilian states. PWC predicts that on a PPP basis your economy will be out of the top 10 by 2050. Neither your waning armed forces, nor your aging nuclear weapons, nor your increasingly questioned seat at the UN Security Council can change demographic inevitability.

That does not, mean however, that you are not important. As hard as it is for the grandson of Indian freedom fighter to say, Britain has been an exceptional nation in the past and its modern responsibilities far exceed its global weight. You are an integral part of Europe, which is a critical part of the fraternity of free, democratic nations. You are a voice for human rights, freedoms, and equality. Your responsibilities today go beyond your tiny island, as it had in centuries past. Do not lose that.

We live in a rapidly changing world order. The complacency of the post cold-war world is over. Autocracy is on the rise in China and Russia, and creeping through Eastern Europe once again. Religious fundamentalism is rising in the wider Middle East. The clash of civilizations is upon us, and it is a time for democracies to band together. To prove that our besieged systems are not as archaic and inefficient as the autocrats seem to think.

A united Europe is a bulwark. A natural ally to the other giant democracies such as the US, India, and Brazil. United, the nations of Europe are a force on the global map. An EU allied with other democracies forms a powerful moral and physical force for the defense of liberal and democratic values and freedom across the globe. Scattered and separate, you will be played off against each other by larger powers and will fade into irrelevance.

Beyond yourselves, your departure from the EU will be a near-mortal blow to the Union. A stab in the back at a time of great crisis and a cause for celebration for despots and autocrats across the globe (small wonder they are all Brexit fans). A collapsing EU, will be a global defeat for democracy and for the liberal world order.

Thus as a global citizen, as a writer concerned about the future of our free world, as a father of a half-European daughter, I say, please stay in the European Union.

Not just for yourselves, but for the sake of us all.

The views expressed by the author are personal. The author tweets @rohanaparikh

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