Brexit will undo years of work building European relations

PUBLISHED: 18:42 27 August 2019 | UPDATED: 18:42 27 August 2019

Anthea Stewart's mother, Linda Green

Anthea Stewart's mother, Linda Green


Reader Anthea Stewart is thankful for how Europe has helped shape her and fears Brexit will harm our continental relations

In 1942 my mother, then 18, was sent to Bletchley Park, the WW2 code-breaking HQ. From behind its desks, Bletchley Park quietly fought the march of fascism, as it advanced through Europe.

In 1975 a shy, English girl crossed the Channel, as so many had done before her, and was welcomed by a family in Le Havre. Though I barely spoke, strong friendship grew between me and my new penfriend, Annie.

In 1975, my mother voted for the UK to join the Common Market. The Common Market, created so that neighbouring countries could trade, promoted peace and is now the 'European Community'. Britain has been part of this community for over 40 years, made financial contributions (a few pounds per person) and received benefits in return. These benefits are threaded through our environmental legislation and human and consumer rights, like the weft of a strong, beautiful fabric.

Unpick this fabric at your peril, for it will be no more.

Because of Brexit, retirement plans of friends, who had hoped to retire to abroad, are now in jeopardy.

A friend broke her hip in France, had it replaced, for free, but only because she carried a European Health Insurance Card, which we will lose.

European citizens, who have lived here for many years, married English people, had English children, have had their rights diminished by being forced to apply for settled status.

Medicines and NHS/care home staff often come from EU countries. Radioactive isotopes for scanners/X-ray machines need to cross EU borders with speed and ease. NHS does not need more disruption. Cuts are bad enough!

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Remainers were naïve during the 2016 Referendum. We could not believe that others might choose 'Leave' and sweep these benefits away.

Leavers thought that leaving EU would create a brave new world and improve their standard of living. Some thought it would prevent outsiders (migrants) from taking their housing, jobs and benefits.

Brexit would give them freedom from rules they thought the EU had imposed upon them and they would regain things that modern life had taken from them.

For real bravery look at those who lived through WW2. My French penfriend's mother, Yvonne, was a child during the war. The Nazis occupied her town and she lived in daily fear. Once, she saw SS officers entering the town, and slipped away in a different direction.

In 1977 Yvonne took me and Annie, to see the D Day Landing Exhibition at Caen. As we looked at the tiny, scale models of the sea, grey boats and beaches, and a black and white film showing how D Day had unfolded, Yvonne said, quietly, that the French would always be grateful for what Britain had done for France. Years later, I found that my mother had played some small part.

The defeat of the Nazis was collaborative.

The first Enigma machine came into British hands via the Poles (my mother helped decode 'spotty messages' on her machine). Allied soldiers, French Resistance, the German Schindler, the Swedish Wallenberg, the Norfolk nurse Edith Cavell, the Brits at Bletchley Park, the ordinary people in streets all over Europe and beyond, all united against Fascism. That modern Germany is now central to EU shows how time can heal.

A total of 120 D Day Veterans have asked for a People's Vote, before the Government takes us out of the EU. They know that peace is precious. So, do not ignore the Irish border. The hard-won Irish peace must not be thrown aside for the sake of an ephemeral Brexit, with its (as yet un-invented) 'technological solution'!

We already trade with the rest of the world (the EU has signed agreements with Canada and Japan from which we benefit). If we pull up our island's drawbridge, we shall be poorer and shall have lost our voice in the world.

Our history has always been entwined with that of Europe, particularly France. We have been enemies and allies. In 1975, in the middle of the night, I had just disembarked from the cross-channel ferry. Annie (who died 20 years ago) and her mother (who I still write to) gave me a bowl of hot chocolate, slices of toast and strawberry jam.

I have never forgotten their kindness, as they fed the quiet, young stranger at their table. We knew little of each other's spoken languages, but the 'breaking of bread' is a universal language, and can be built on.

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