It’s identity theft

Here is the gist of a semi-impromptu intervention I made in the sleet at the #FinalSayForAll rally  in Brussels on 11 December.

I was radicalised by Thatcher’s Bruges speech. I’m a lifelong advocate of European integration and at times it has felt like a very lonely furrow to plough. I’ve been arguing with anti-EU types for years. In the end, every argument I’ve ever had with an anti-European can be reduced to an argument about identity.

They’ll dress it up in lots of ways – sovereignty, democracy, red tape – in the end, they’ll say: “the EU doesn’t have a demos”. The EU can’t be democratic, however hard it tries, because there is no EU identity. Our identity is illegitimate, they say.

Theresa May says that if we call ourselves citizens of the world then we’re citizens of nowhere. She says that the EU never felt part of our national story. She is wrong!

They lack the imagination and empathy to see that identity is rich and multifaceted. Because they can’t accept a multilayered identity themselves, they want to take away ours! I’m British, I’m German, I’m a Londoner, I’m a Brusselaar, I’m European. They don’t get to take away my identity and they don’t get to take away your identity.

If the referendum has done one thing it is to prove them wrong. Once, speaking out for Europe felt like a lonely undertaking. Not any more. Millions of British people are speaking up and acknowledging their European identities. Where is the European demos? It’s right here!

They rejected the emphatic win for pro-Europeans in the 1975 referendum and they fought for forty years to overturn it with a second referendum. They think we’re going to roll over and let them walk away with this? We’re never going to give up. And it’s not going to take us forty years. If I was radicalised in the 1980s by Thatcher’s Bruges speech, just imagine how our kids are being radicalised by this disgraceful mess. We are not going away, we will get our chance to reverse this, and we’re going to be ready to take it.

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