I didn't plan to write anything about the Brexit. Days before the referendum most of what can be said has been said. But this is also the week after Nigel Farage revealed his "Breaking Point" poster and Jo Cox was savagely slaughtered by a neonazi. The only time I felt so disheartened about a democratic vote was when my wife and I travelled through Madagascar weeks before its elections in 2013. So here some brief thoughts on the matter:
When I started working in the UK, I handed HR my German ID card for photocopying. That was it, the toe-high hurdle between me and employment in another EU country. I now live in London with my wife and my 9-month-old son. England is not perfect. Germans like to complain, mostly about bread and windows (and they are right). Still, the UK allows us a good life. Immigration was that easy because I ticked the "EU citizen" box when I provided my information. For those who cannot do so truthfully there are UK immigration procedures. Stories from academics about sudden deportation from the UK have become its own sad literary genre. When reading these depressing accounts keep in mind that they were written by the "best and brightest", who were attracted by the qualities and opportunities of one UK institution, only to be spat out by the instransparent and downright hostile decisions of another. The majority of deported academics may take comfort in the fact that they can return to a family of which no one has been shot, to a home that has not been hit by a rocket.
The Brexit campaign has two main messages: "We pay them money" and "They're coming". The at times open racism has placed it within the "post-truth" nationalism category together with Donald Trump, the Front National and Germany's own experts on Islam and "African reproduction habits", the AfD. Brexiteers and parts of the UK media have created an atmosphere under which foreigners who have lived and worked here for years feel less welcome, having been labeled "the problem". And yes, the Leave camp knows other topics. There is, for example, some talk about TTIP. But it comes mostly from those who have no credibility in that matter. Boris Johnson turned from TTIP-cheerleader to detractor as soon as he joined the Leave campaign. Nigel Farage, self-declared defender of the NHS against the threat of the agreement, once sought to privatise the NHS under TTIP. With regards to zero-hour contracts, UKIP suggests minor changes but welcomes the practice. The party is mostly silent on the issue of surveillance but appear to support it and its further centralization.
What's infuriating is that arguing for Stay puts you close to defending some undefendable things. Yes, "Better together", but as TTIP and the Greek crisis show, the EU's lack of transparency and severe democratic deficits are systematic, while many of its actors, including big guns like Wolfgang Schäuble, show outright disdain for democratic processes. Lack of public oversight allows the EU to have a perverse lobbyism problem, with about one lobbyist for each staff employed by the European commission. The UK has every right to use whatever political and economic weight it has to change EU politics. There is even a version of Brexit that I would support. 2016's is not the one. The Leave campaign has no regards for the aspects of the EU that I hold dear and is at best grandstandingly concerned with what I see as problems. The figures heading it are not the ones I want to see win and gain influence.
I work here, I pay taxes, but I have no vote. If I had one, my decision would be clear.