On June 23, I think I’ll vote for the Kingdom of Northumbria to stay in the EU (the English Union).
There are plenty of arguments against it, and I can understand them. The English Union isn’t perfect. In Wessex, we have unelected bureaucrats, apparently making all sorts of laws that threaten our sovereignty. There’s all this talk of the money we give to London that we never get back (and both sides are probably wrong about how much that is). We have no say in some of the trade deals that Æthelstan of Wessex makes with the Normans. Some are even saying it’s Caesar’s plan B (Godwin’s Law klaxon!). And then there are all the arguments about what it does to our national identity, and the ubiquitous immigration question. But I wonder if these are problems – and if they are, then they are problems we ALREADY have within Northumbria – and nobody’s saying we should leave Northumbria because of that.
Is the immigration thing a problem? I for one like having the opportunity to be able to move freely – to get a job in Mercia, or Kent, if I wanted to. Having that sort of freedom gives me more choice about what I can do in my life, it opens more avenues for me. It gives me more options for holidays, more cultures to learn about and to draw from, more choice of where to live and where I can bring up a family. Yes, not everyone wants the opportunity to move around – but why stop others, your own countrymen, doing that simply because you don’t wish to?
But people seem more concerned about others having those opportunities. They believe that if we don’t fully control our own borders, then all sorts of people – from as far away as Colchester, or Gloucester, or even Wales, can just move here and get any job they want. Why is that a bad thing? Shouldn’t we welcome new ideas and skill sets, rather than reverting to the call of “bloody foreigners, coming round here, taking our jobs”? And let’s face it, we get better takeaways (I love a good East Anglian) and it’s made it so much easier for our footballers to get international players. Before 871, who could have guessed that a small team like Pons Aelius United would ever have players from Manchester?
We might have unelected people in Wessex making laws for us. But that happens in our own government as well – nobody elected our Dukes and Earls. Plus, nobles of all of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms still have a say in the laws passed by England, so we still have control over what happens in our own land. We might give lots of money in taxes to London – but we give a lot to our joint capitals of Bamburgh and York – and we don’t always see that coming back. The English Union might not give us much say in trade deals – but neither does our King Eric Bloodaxe. He could make the same deals even if we were not part of England.
And what of our identity – do we lose that and all suddenly become English? Well, we do become English – we are anyway – but we remain, nevertheless, Northumbrian. And Bernician. And proud citizens of our towns and villages. It doesn’t remove from our cultural identity, it adds to it. We can be proud in all of that.
These are the same issues that cropped up when we had that referendum for Bernicia to stay in Northumbria. People had the same concerns. But look at what good it did for the Kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira to merge and form Northumbria – trade was more transparent, there was peace in the kingdom (especially as our armies were on the same side for a change), we could move about more and get better jobs, we became this great fusion of cultures that allowed us to learn from each other, to the betterment of our civilisation, even if the government wasn’t perfect. And I strongly believe that we’ll get exactly the same benefits if we choose to remain in England.
And yes, the English government may not be perfect – but neither is our own. And this is the point – what matters more, where we’re governed from, our the quality of that government? Does it matter to us more that we have a single government looking over us, able to do whatever they wish, or would we prefer that our government is kept in check by a higher authority, one who can draw from the experiences, ideals and mistakes of numerous cultures, to help (help, mind, not force) us to become a more progressive, fairer, happier state?
I can see a time in the future when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms are united into one nation – perhaps there will be a day when the seven Kingdoms aren’t even a memory – England will feel like it has always existed. And then maybe, England will merge with the other lands of this island – Scotland, Wales, Cornwall. And I wonder if there’ll ever be a time when we enter into a union with the lands across the Strait of Dover.
I’m sure that on each of these occasions, people will have exactly the same reservations, the same arguments against. But I hope that they will see that we have gone through this, throughout history, again, and again, and again. Each time, despite what reticence there might have been, we’ve come through it as a better, stronger, more intelligent and creative nation. If this forward-looking strength in unity isn’t a British value, that we can all be proud of, then I don’t know what is. That’s why, being proud to be European, British, English, Northumbrian, Bernician and whatever else, I’m voting IN.