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#Redwriter. Polling Day

So, it's polling day, and I'm about to go out and make my mark -- with a pencil provided in the polling station, because I do not believe that anyone will be rubbing out and replacing marks. I am going to make my mark in the box marked Remain.

There has been a lot of bad temper and bad faith in this campaign, from both sides. I've been patronised, mansplained to (there there, dear, the Westminster men will look after you girls), yelled at, and called an idealistic lefty. Nothing new there. Throughout my adult life, whenever I've expressed a view out of line with the neo-liberal, pro-wealth rhetoric that has succeeded in relabelling itself 'the practical thing to do', I've been told I'm naive. Naive is neo-liberal code for 'shut up and stop questioning the status quo.' I've been informed that the island will sink if one more foreigner arrives, that Britain will be Free and Rule the World, that we are strangling in foreign red tape, that we will be invaded immediately by Turkey, if we don't vote out this very second.

It's not true. If we vote Remain, nothing will change. Life next week will be like life last week, only with less political campaigning. If we vote to Remain, the number of immigrants will not go up dramatically, Turkey will not suddenly be an EU member, and we will not be subjects of Angela Merkel. We will go on as we are, with our right wing current Tory government and its cuts and austerity and pandering to the international super-rich.

If we vote Out, that will happen too. But we will have fewer protections. Migration will still happen -- most migrants now are from outside the EU, and that will continue. Employers will go on hiring people from outside the UK, both EU citizens and not. But... Our legal protections at work will be less secure, because any government that decides to change them for the worst will not have to comply with a wider law that protects us from too much exploitation.

The backers of Out include business interests who are on record as wanting laws protecting workers relaxed, not for reasons of freedom but for reasons of profit. They want our environmental protections loosened so they can exploit more and more land for profit -- and not have to pay for cleaning it up afterwards. They want us weak, so they can make more money from us. They want, in some cases, to roll back women's rights, on grounds of 'morality' and on grounds of business needs.

I have a niece and two nephews. I have a god-daughter. I have friends with children in their teens and early twenties. And that's why I'm voting Remain.

I want those young women to have the same rights in work that I have had, the right to maternity leave and maternity pay, the right not to be fired for getting pregnant or getting married, the right not to face intrusive questions from employers about their family planning intentions. I want them to be protected from sexual harassment at work from bosses and co-workers. I want them to be seen as people -- and I do not trust Nigel and Boris and their friends to respect those rights.

I want those young people to have the right to work safely, with proper equipment, in work-places in which their right to safety and health is taken seriously. My great-grandfather, a miner, was part of the union fight to get safely lamps for miners in South Wales, back in the days when all the mines were private. He was fired and black-listed -- and that black-listing lasted 3 generations, all the way down to the point when the mines were nationalised. Nearly 50 years of employer abuse. Union rights in the UK are the weakest in Europe and every Tory government for the last 35 years had sought to weaken them further. Unions save lives. I want those lives to be saved. And I certainly don't trust Boris and Nigel on that point (nor Dave and George, but the EU restricts how far they can go on this).

I am not going to be bullied, nagged or intimidated into xenophobia. Britain has accepted immigrants regularly since before we were 'Britain' as such, and those immigrants have made us richer, more inventive, stronger. They contribute more in taxed and labour than they take out. There are places where migration is placing strain on local services, I know -- but that's not down to the immigrants. It's down to poor government policy, which concentrates people in small areas rather than spreading them out, to ridiculous rents and to the unbalanced way employment is distributed geographically. And those are infrastructure problems, central government problems, which we can solve. Yvette Cooper pointed this out last year and made sensible proposals for sorting it out. Better infrastructure, rent control and a reining-back on the greed of landlords (whose rights have grown and grown from Thatcher onwards due to weakening of UK law) solves this, not banning foreigners.

And, before anyone says I don't know about this, I grew up in Coventry and Leicester, with people from Poland and Ireland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Caribbean. I've lived with migrants my whole life. I've been one, I lived and worked in Ireland for two years. I've had colleagues from Germany and China and the US, Canada and India and Iceland. I'm childless, but my friends' children go to multi-racial schools and flourish, and the Roma pupils at the school in which my brother taught at the time made a special trip across Wales to go to his wedding, because they liked him. Most of my family are migrants, from Wales and the border into the Midlands at a time when being Welsh was not seen as positive. Migrants are part of the Britain I know, they are British too, and I like that.

Ah, Kari, but what about 'sovereignty'? 'Take back control,' trumpets Boris. 'The people versus the establishment,' brays Nigel. But what does that mean? Not a lot, for you and me. Boris and Nigel went to the same schools as Dave and George (and Tony). They move in the same elite circles. They serve the same set of unaccountable international business interests. They are not 'the people'. They are the aristocracy of wealth, and they are interested in themselves. Boris won't end austerity, because that wouldn't be good for him. Look at the USA, and in particular at the 'right to work' states (that means 'no unions', btw, not 'jobs for all') and you will get a better picture of Boris's Britain. No minimum wage. Minimal protection at work. No health care. All these people are the Establishment, but if we stay in the EU, we are part of a larger unit, we have more support against this. TTIP is a good example. The EU overall is anti -- but Cameron is pro and so is Boris. Dave can't force it on us while we're in the EU, but once out he -- or anyone -- can sign us up and make our public services vulnerable to huge business interests.

And then, what does 'sovereignty' mean? The right to settle our own affairs? We already have that. We already make our own laws, control our own borders, and negotiate exemptions from aspects of EU law that we (or whoever are our current government) don't like. We -- ordinary people -- won't 'take back control' if we vote out. We'll just hand it to a different set of rich powerful people -- and the representatives of the Leave campaign are in general more right wing, more libertarian and more authoritarian even than our current government.

I like accountability. It matters. It helps us. International mega-corporations like News International aren't accountable. EU bureaucrats are -- to the elected representatives we chose. Our governments from Thatcher onwards have been far too cosy for my taste with the unaccountable international plutocrats. The EU is a check on this -- and again, look at the US, where Trump is a plausible candidate for president and corporations are treated as people in some states and have more rights than workers.

And I like being European. I like that we have had no wars in Europe for nearly 70 years (other than the civil war in the former Yugoslavia). I like that we have peace between countries and freedom to move and live and work. I like that the EU has supported poorer countries out of the painful legacies of totalitarianism and towards greater democracy. I like being part of a unit large enough that it can stand up to the big international powers of the USA and China. Of course the EU is imperfect. But within it, we can work to change and improve it. Britain is due to hold the presidency of the EU very soon. That gives us even more chances to, as Gordon Brown put it, lead Europe, not leave it. Outside it, we risk isolation and increased lack of control.

So I'm voting Remain.

PS I'm not going to provide facts and figures and receipts. Those have been made available in large quantities for weeks.

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