I am voting 'remain' to get my country back

By Jonathan Bartley
June 23, 2016

Thursday 23 June 2016 won’t just be a referendum about our membership of Europe. It will be a vote about the kind of country we want to be. The kind of world we want to live in. The way we want to live together.

And like many here today, I am frightened.

At what point did it become OK to produce posters so dehumanising, so degrading and so despicable that they are compared to Nazi propaganda? 

It’s not Europe we should be turning our backs on. We should be turning our backs on those who stoke xenophobia and fear.

I want my country back. 

I want the country back that welcomes the migrant and the refugee. 

I want the country back that is a peacebuilder not an isolationist. 

I want the country back that is prepared to lead the fight against climate change, not leave it to others to sort out.

I want the country that is inclusive, not exclusive. 

That is generous not mean spirited. 

That believes in our common interest not narrow self interest.

A country which knows we are stronger when we share, than when we keep things for ourselves. 

A country that believes in working with others, to create a better world.

I’m proud to live in Lambeth the most pro Europe borough in the country. 

It is one of the boroughs with the most young people.

It is young people’s futures that are most at stake in this referendum. 

But it is also one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. 

The people of Lambeth know that our diversity makes us stronger. So we can tackle our problems together. 

At my children's secondary school they celebrate their diversity. 92 different nationalities are represented in that school. That’s a richer education than they will get at any private school!

As Jo Cox’s husband Brendan said so powerfully, the more diverse we are, the more tolerant we become.

This referendum is the chance to turn our backs on the scapegoating of minorities, of those who are different. 

The people of Lambeth know that the problem is not migrants. Nor is it the disabled. The unemployed. Those on welfare. 

The problem is not with the European Union either. 

We have never been richer. There's enough money to go around. The real problem is that the money in the wrong hands. 

And those who could sort it out are getting away with blaming others for problems which they themselves could fix. 

The country I want back is an ambitious country. The country that following the Second World War came together. 

The country that despite its huge financial problems worked with others to set up the NHS and the welfare state. 

The country that joined the European Union, knowing we were better together. 

Yes, the EU isn't perfect. 

But nor is our own system. 

A system in which a government is chosen with the votes of less than a quarter of the electorate. 

A system that stuffs its second chamber of Parliament with people who have bankrolled political parties. 

I want the country back that exported her democracy around the world.

Put Britain’s own house in order first. Then it will have the authority to call for the reform that the EU needs.

And I want my country back because our sovereignty has been compromised. 

Not by international agreement and treaty with our European Neighbours. 

But by those who have surrendered control to the high priests of the market place.

And there is nothing that those who worship at the altar of excess profit would like more than to leave the EU. To be able to take away hard won workers rights.

We won’t win our sovereignty back by leaving. We will win it by staying and working with other democratic forces across the EU, for greater equality.

We can’t predict the future. 

But we do know that the world faces major crises.

An economic crisis. A social crisis. A democratic crisis. A climate crisis. 

Now is not the time to walk away from our neighbours.

The choice between remain or leave will be as momentous as any we will ever have to make.

But the choice is clear. 

A small minded Britain with our borders closed, and our horizons narrowed. 

Or a Britain that is proud to work in partnership with others, to tackle the problems that we face, and create a better world.


© Jonathan Bartley is former co-director of, and founder of, Ekklesia. He is now running to be co-laeder of the Green Party in England and Wales. This is a speech he gave in Trafalgar Square in the final hours of the EU referendum campaign. 

 Further resources from Ekklesia on the EU referendum: 

*What kind of European future? (Ekklesia, 13 June 2016) – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23160

* Assessing Christian contributions to the EU referendum debate (Ekklesia, 20 June 2016) – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23188

* Ten principles to guide voting in the EU referendum and beyond (Ekklesia, 21 June 2016) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23194

* Ekklesia’s EU referendum briefing and commentary: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/eureferendum

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.