Dear Little Ones,
I too was super excited to hear of the launch of a new breakfast cereal. Turns out that Brexit is something entirely different and unfortunately not something you can eat.
Instead it means the grown-ups in this country, the ones who can be bothered anyway, are going to vote to decide on whether or not you should grow up in a Britain that is part of the European Union or not. If the decision is that we should leave the European Union it’s going to take quite a few years to do it and alot of the people who have voted to leave will be dead by the time we’re ‘free of Brussels’. It’s you who will have to live with the consequences of this election. I thought, therefore, I should probably write to you and tell you a bit about it given that it’s going to fundamentally shape your entire lives
So what is the European Union?
The European Union (EU) is basically a club which whole countries join. You pay money to join, and how much you pay depends on how much you can afford. We pay the third highest rate because we are a rich nation.
In exchange all the member governments work together to keep the peace. Seventy odd years ago there was a big old war called World War 2 and the EU came about out of that.
The EU club is about all being friends, sharing our resources and money around when we can, giving one another a good price on the things we sell and not dissolving into a great big massive fight which would result in nuclear war and we would all die horribly.
And they have a pretty flag!
Remember that Peppa Pig episode where Madame Gazelle sings “Peace and Harmony, in all the world” – that’s kind of the EU.
Sounds amazing – why leave the club?
Not everybody wants to leave the club which is partly why we’re having a referendum, to find out just exactly how many of us do and don’t want to leave. Then we’ll do whatever the majority say (unless the Queen disagrees with the decision and dissolves parliament).
There seem to a few key issues that the grown-ups are debating.
1. The Immigration issue
Anyone who lives in the EU is allowed to move freely around the EU. This means that people can live where they want, with some exceptions.
Let’s look at this as if it were a birthday party.
Mummy Britannia is throwing a birthday party and has decided to invite everybody in Europe. Europe is a big place and lots of other people are having parties in Europe too so she’s not worried. Some people will come, but not too many.
Word gets round that Mummy Britannia throws the most amazing parties with super party bags. The best party bags infact. People flock to the party. Mummy Britannia didn’t expect to have quite the numbers that arrived. The European party guests run riot through Mummy Britannias party, taking all the food and party bags so there are none left for the British people who came to the party. Some of the British people feel sad, and a bit annoyed. Perhaps Mummy Britannia shouldn’t have invited those Europeans – the party would have been nicer without them.
But some people at the party think that’s not quite what happened. The Europeans who came to the party did turn up en masse but actually they behaved, and some of them even brought food with them for the party. There were other people who weren’t invited at all who turned up. They snuck in. Any mummy will tell you that when an uninvited child turns up at a party you’re throwing it’s infuriating. You don’t have a party bag for that child but the child won’t understand and then they cry and the mummy feels bad and angry at the parent who is taking the mick. Some parents are just rude. If you go to a party and your mummy tries to sneak in your sibling have a word with them, please, for the sake of the EU and peace and harmony everywhere.
This is more about party rage than immigration now but it’s a point equally worth making!
However it’s not just the fault of the people who turned up at the party. Mummy Britannia should have been a bit more prepared. She knows that she throws a damned fine party and that her party bag is one of the best in the world. If she issued an open invitation then she should have known that invitation would have been taken up by alot of people. She should have got more party bags ready – then the British people who don’t want to share with the Europeans could have been given their own party bags (people who sneak in don’t get party bags – that’s the rule at my parties and I think that should be scaled up into international law).
Of course, some of us don’t mind sharing our party bags, especially with those who come from countries where party bags don’t exist.
That said, Mummy Britannia worked hard on making those party bags as good as they are. Why should others just be allowed to come take them.
Personally I’m up for sharing but I can see why people want to protect their party bags. They have pride in their party bags, and that’s not a bad thing, unless it starts to hurt other people.
These are tricky questions we’re being asked to wrestle with here.
2. The Economy Issue
Seriously don’t ask me about this. I run my own business which puts me ahead of the average mummy or daddy in terms of understanding how the economy works. It’s proper complicated hardcore politics and maths.
Instead let’s ask my local MP, James Berry of the Conservative Party! After all, it’s his full time job to know all about national politics and how that relates to us here on a local level. Let me just go check his website and see what he says. Back in a tick………
……..tick, tock, tick……..
……….I still don’t know. There is nothing on his webpage about the EU Referendum. There is a whole page dedicated to his expenses though and he’s campaigning for more schools and another swimming pool built in Kingston. Yeah – more swimming!
Here’s what I do know. An economy is a bit like playing shops. It’s more fun to play shops if you have more money (you can use stones or connect 4 counters if you’ve run out of real money). Infact your economy is judged to be doing better the more ‘money’ you have in it. But it can’t just be sitting there; it has be to be used. Exchanged for goods. Paying wages etc.
Lots of banks have their European Headquarters in Britain. If we leave the EU they will leave too because banks are run by the descendants of Cruella DeVille and Maleficent. They would happily leave us all to die here on this island. Infact Maleficent’s heirs would probably conjure up a big man eating dragon before they went which would go around chomp chomp chomping everyone who got in the way.
But really, as evil as they are, we want them to stay because they have the coins and stones and connect 4 counters for the game. Without them we might be playing with just stones and connect 4 counters.
3. The Sovereignty Issue
The people of Britain don’t like being told what to do by Brussels.
The people of Scotland don’t like being told what to do by the people of England.
The people of the north don’t like being told what to do by the people of the south.
Girls don’t like being told what to do by boys.
Dogs don’t like being told what to do by cats.
You get the idea. The trick, little ones, is to be the person telling somebody else what to do. This works in every scenario, except parent vs toddler. Toddler will never listen to parent – it’s the law. Damn you toddler.
You’ve probably guessed little ones that I think this is the silliest issue! The internet has changed everything for your generation and, thanks to it, you will be citizens of the world. You will be able to share creative ideas with somebody in Japan whilst reading the blog of somebody who lives in Namibia. Your understanding of the world will reach further than your grandparents could ever imagine.
You will be British too, because this is where you come from. But you won’t be limited by it. Being British will be the beginning of you, but not the end of you, because you can be more than one thing. It’s possible to be British and European. To be British is already to be part of a union because you’re either English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish! Be proud of your British routes and learn your British history because it is rich and incredible and has shaped the world as we know it (Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, was British!) Understand all of your history which is steeped in collaboration with other cultures and countries because it is the story of where you came from. Know your families story too because that will make clear to you how you came to be, and when you know that, and where you are right now, in this moment, you’ll see where your future lies.
You won’t be any less British for being a European or even a citizen of the world, because to be British is to be pioneering, at the front of the charge, making friends, working together, routing for the underdog, drinking tea, joking in the face of danger despite being terrified, inventing amazing machines and above all striving to be the very best we can be all whilst having an incredible soundtrack playing in the background.
And if you drink coffee instead, you’ll still be British.
4. The Food Issue
People aren’t talking about this one so much but as far as I’m concerned it’s probably the most important! Also I’m right in my comfort zone on this one.
It doesn’t quite fit to the normal tune as some of the words are a bit longer. You have to cram them in. Maraccas at the ready…
Old MacDonald had a farm, ee u ee u helped!
And on that farm he had some cows, ee u ee u helped
With a subsidy here, and a subsidy there
Here some cash, there some cash, everywhere some cash cash
Old MacDonald had a farm, ee u ee u helped
Oh yes, the EU has been keeping various nursery rhyme characters going for the best part of 40 odd years. Old man went to mow – he’s been getting hand outs too. And without this money some of the Old MacDonald’s in the UK wouldn’t be able to afford to keep their cows, pigs, sheep and, in our house, giraffes! If we leave the EU Old MacDonald will stop getting the subsidies which means he’ll need to put his prices up which means that we’ll have to pay more money for his cows, pigs, sheep and giraffes.
In all, we’ll need to pay more for food at a time when a record number of us are having to turn to foodbanks for our food (food banks are where mummies go when they have no food, nowhere else to turn and have starving little ones to feed; the mummies leave their pride at the door on the way in – in a perfect world no mummy should ever have to feel so helpless to provide for her family but sadly there are mummies right on our very rich doorstep who feel like this every day).
And if there is a shortage of food, the EU will feed everybody else before us! We’ll be bottom of the list again. It’ll be like Eurovision but without the mummy juice. They’ll be exporting to Australia before us!
It’s all so complicated – why aren’t the experts deciding?
Well quite. Quite. Why aren’t the experts deciding, them being our MPs. My MP hasn’t even put a statement of where he stands on his website!!!!! THIS IS HIS JOB. MY JOB IS TELLING STORIES – WHY AM I MAKING THIS DECISION?
And didn’t we already decide this at the general election when we got to vote for the political parties then. The conservatives won – not UKIP. Even with proportional representation UKIP wouldn’t have significant numbers in the houses of parliament. Referendums cost millions of pounds little ones and right now we’re having major cut backs. Some of you in wheel chairs are having your services removed. The hob nobs at the town hall no longer have chocolate on. But we’re having a referendum?
All sorts of people are voting for all sorts of reasons.
The nan of somebody I know is voting to leave the EU because she doesn’t get on with centimetres and is under the illusion that we’ll go back to inches if we leave the EU. This is real.
The EU is a complicated and far reaching organisation. To put it another way, this referendum is the equivalent of the teachers sending home a letter saying…
“we can’t decide what we’re going to teach tomorrow so we thought we’d ask the parents. Please fill in the slip below and we’ll teach the most popular idea.”
…but in this case the teachers teach A level physics!
I think the main reason we’re having a referendum is that at some point last year David Cameron and Boris Johnson had a sleep over party. Boris wore his Star Wars PJs, David was dressed as Marshall from Paw Patrol. They watched ‘Trading Places’, an awesome film from the 80’s starring Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy. The Duke brothers own a trading firm and they have an argument that nature rather than nurture determines how well a person will do in life. They then have a bet that they can’t ruin one of their traders (Dan Ackroyd) and ‘replace’ him with a homeless man (Eddie Murphy), the bet being for the sum of one dollar. The brothers then set about proving one another wrong by destroying lives. Along the way Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy realise what’s going on and turn the tables on the Duke brothers, ruining them in the process and making all the mummies and daddies laugh.
“Wow” said David and Boris. “We wish we could do something like that!”
The winner will receive One British Pound, and gets to be the Prime Minister.
Wish us luck little ones. Whatever happens we are a nation divided and we’re not the only nation that feels this way. The EU isn’t perfect and somewhere along the line the people it serves seem to have lost touch with what it’s trying to achieve. Or indeed what it is achieving. This makes us think that perhaps the people who make up the EU have themselves lost touch with what they’re trying to achieve. I doubt that – I think they know but they’re just not very good at telling us.
Whatever the result little ones you must remember that every single person who casts a vote, whether it be to leave or to stay, is doing so because they want your future to be the best it can possibly be. Only time will tell if we get this decision right. In thirty years you may be patting us on the back, or you may be dancing on our graves. Either way little ones please know that we all love you, and in these dark days that we find ourselves, facing this incredibly daunting and overwhelming decision, we will do our very best.
Lots of love
PS I’ve written this blog to share with my 6 year old to teach her about the EU referendum. I hope you’re talking to your little ones about it too. It’s so important that we engage our young generation in politics, from all walks of life, and we do this by introducing them early. We need the next generation of politicians to be a bit cleverer than this lot!
If you enjoyed this blog then like us on Facebook by clicking HERE. A blog is published every Monday morning.
SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. Infact 80% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.