Izzy Lenga

As a Jew, I demand a People's Vote on Brexit. Here's why

It's a simple fact that the EU has benefited the Jewish community, Izzy Lenga writes

September 21, 2018 16:43

It’s a turbulent time for the Jewish community.

With the Labour Party willing to allow antisemitism within its ranks, hate crime on the rise and anti-Jewish sentiment seemingly commonplace, it’s understandable that we feel concerned.

Many other parts of British society find the Jewish relationship with history difficult — for us, our past can often be a harbinger of our present and our future. As it is said, “those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it” — and we are rightfully fearful that our history is doomed to be repeated.

That’s why we say ‘Enough is Enough’ over antisemitism and why we cling to democratic ideals with such vigour.

It is often forgotten that the creation of the European Union wasn’t about customs, tariffs and technical machinations about trade. The EU was first and foremost about peace — that in the shadow of the greatest horrors the world had ever seen, a war-scarred continent should be forged together by trading, discussion and dialogue, rather than trading bullets and bombs.

It is a simple matter of fact that here in the UK, the Jewish community has benefited much from the European Union. On trade and the economy, we have benefited from the EU’s liberalisation of trade with Israel — lowering prices for religious items and kosher food for our community.

The European Union has been a consistent and constant source of tackling antisemitism. Multiple forms of funding, programmes and action — from Holocaust education, to the code of conduct on hate speech for the internet — have sought to protect our rights. 

In 2015, the European Commission appointed a coordinator on combating antisemitism and a series of actions culminated in a European Parliament resolution on combating antisemitism being passed.

On security, the EU has ensured that the political wing of Hamas is proscribed alongside its military wing, unlike our own government. 

The Open Skies policy which came into force between the EU and Israel last year has lead to cheaper flights between Israel and Europe. 

We’re seeing the impact of Brexit already; with so much kosher food imported, a weak pound is driving up prices for the Jewish community.

This is why the case for a People’s Vote is so compelling. We’ve seen over the last two years that Brexiteers under-estimated its impact on communities across the UK.

The empty promises that were made will not come to pass. It is democratically and morally correct for the public to have a vote on the final Brexit deal — once we finally know what that is.

It is frightening that Brexit is leading to a rise in hateful rhetoric, giving succor to the far right and normalising hate crime. For the likes of Barry Gardiner MP to say that they won’t support a People’s Vote in case of civil disobedience and increases in hate crime is intellectually dishonest and openly cowardly. 

It’s what makes my own Labour Party’s continued obstinacy in not supporting a People’s Vote all the more confusing. I’m one of the growing number of people who are calling for a People’s Vote on the final deal. 

Whether you voted Leave or Remain, we can all agree that Brexit is a big deal but it’s not a done deal. 

A People’s Vote isn’t about re-hashing the previous referendum; I don’t think anyone wants that. It’s about ensuring that ordinary people across the UK have a clear and unequivocal say on our future. The future of this country and young people is too important to be decided by politicians alone, who clearly cannot unite around the national interest.

No one voted to be poorer, for our public services to suffer, or to pay a £50 billion divorce fee. That’s why I’ll be campaigning for a People’s Vote over the coming weeks and months.

Let’s make our own history, and do it together.

Izzy Lenga is a former Vice President of the NUS

September 21, 2018 16:43

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