Across the continent today, people’s thoughts will turn to the sandy beaches of Normandy, and we will pause to remember the brave soldiers who liberated Europe from the terror of Nazism.
“I can’t help feeling that it would be an awful shame if what we’ve gone to so much trouble to do, to collect the European big nations together, to break it all up now would be a crying shame”
-Eric Chardin, D-Day Veteran
As we commemorate the 75thAnniversary of D-Day, we must also give thanks for the period of stability and peace that has followed. At yesterday’s commemoration ceremony, heads of state from all over Europe gathered to pay their respects. As a young person, cooperation amongst European nations has been the norm throughout my lifetime: it’s easy to take this for granted.
However, it must be remembered that this cooperation between nations was forged in blood. We must never forget the lives that were lost to obtain the freedom that we enjoy today.
It was Churchill himself that called for the creation of a European Family in 1946, saying:
“We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living…All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong and to gain as their reward blessing instead of cursing.”
This speech provided the genesis for the Common Market, and eventually, helped to inspire the creation of the European Union itself.
Brexit poses an existential threat to the spirit of international cooperation instituted on the battlefields of the Second World War. With the far-right on the rise across the continent, it is truly the entire European project that is on the line. The likes of Farage and Le Pen seek to divide us. Britain must not turn to isolationism. We must not turn our backs on the significant progress that has been made.
Instead, we must recognise the common interests that we share with our European neighbours. This does not mean that we are not patriotic Britons. One of the biggest successes of the pro-Brexit movement has been to co-opt the notion of patriotism. We must make the case that international cooperation is patriotism. That by working with our allies, we are protecting and preserving our shared values for the next generation.
Today, over 120 veterans from several different conflicts have signed a letter calling for a People’s Vote, saying:
“We have learnt that war stinks, that peace is the natural goal for civilisation, and that Europeans are our brothers in arms.
But that peace and friendship is now threatened by Brexit.
Peace in Europe is not something that should be taken for granted.
We should be proud to lead in Europe, proud that our friends respect us and can rely on us.”
We must heed their warning by continuing the fight for a People’s Vote.