Remainer or Brexiteer?

George 1st, Hanoverian

Normans and Anglo Saxons

I am amazed at the new way of categorising people by their political belief that we now use in the UK, a remainer: someone who wanted to stay in the EU or a Brexiteer, someone who voted to leave.  It is so divisive that I have heard someone being asked which way they voted respond, ‘you are not supposed to ask that are you?’

It made me think of other splits we have had in our island history around beliefs or political systems and how history took care of them. Here are a few of them, [put in a very simplified way.

In 1066, William the Conqueror from France invaded England.  This was straightforward, the UK was invaded and the Normans beat the Anglo-Saxons. Over time, England absorbed lots of influence and vocabulary from the French and became used to the feudal hierarchy that the Normans came with and over generations, the difference disappeared.

During Tudor and Stuart times (we name our ages after the monarchy so we are now in the time of the Windsors), we fought each other like much of Europe over religion and primarily whether we were Catholics or Protestants so you could say that was about how we felt about the Bible, the afterlife etc.. People were burned to death for their beliefs.. Catholics and Protestants still have different hierarchies, lots of difference in how services are conducted but happily co-exist. We would find it extraordinary to be seen as completely different to one another  now because we are Catholic or Protestant. The difference did not disappear but became a happy co-existence.

Moving forward, we had Jacobites and Hanoverians.  This was about who legitimately ruled us, the House of Hanover or the Stuarts and had some bearing on religion too. The Jacobite rebellion failed and we ended up being a Protestant state.

Over time, we split more over political beliefs that religious ones, in the 1640s we divided into Roundheads and Cavaliers and this ended in civil war. Roundheads wanted Parliament to be sovereign, Cavaliers loyal to the King. Roundheads won. (Roundheads wore different helmets to the cavaliers hence the name) This war is seen as leading to the foundation of Parliament being sovereign.

Whigs and Tories, Tories were loyal to the monarchy of Charles 11 and Whigs were more liberal and open to reform including backing American Independence.  We have managed these differences between conservative thinking and more liberal since with a  Parliamentary democracy where differences in views can be debated and resolved.

So history will write about the Remainers and the Brexiteers and we have to believe that our institutions are strong enough to bring us back together.





Celebrating being TogetherintheUK

Trip picture

This blog is all about celebrating the UK’s multiculturalism and finding out what its like for you if you have journeyed here.  The writing below reflects on the joys that this can bring, how we can learn from each other’s difference and enjoy what we have in common. So much so, that it can be so normal to us that we are surprised when its questioned.

 Dilshad’s story

I was born and grew up in London and this meant that I was in for a shock and some confusion on my holiday. Let me explain. I was with a group of friends travelling through Malaysia. We had been going across the country to see all of the beautiful national parks that ranged from isolated islands to thick rainforests. My friends are I were boarding a  small aeroplane that would take us to a remote rainforest region. The aeroplane had other tourists travelling with us. A European man (I couldn’t pin down his origin) asked me if my group were an MBA group. I replied no that we were all friends. 

‘but how do you all know each other?’ he replied. I then quickly realised that he found it confusing that we were such a mixed group. My friends were Indian, Ugandan, Chinese-Malaysian, English and myself (Kurdish). My reply to him was simply ‘We’re all from London and we’re all British’. He still didn’t understand, clearly he hadn’t been to London then!

It was at that moment that made me realise what was so special about London and the U.K. We had all grown up in an environment where everyone was from a different ethnic background. That upbringing was so normal, that we hadn’t even realised how much of an anomaly we were. That’s why I love the U.K. because of its immense openness to everyone. Of course, most of us are connected to the U.K. through the old British Empire, the remnants of which have made the U.K. and particularly London and other large cities so special. A melting pot of cultures and people. 

Who ever said multiculturalism and integration is a fantasy? Just look at my circle of friends and many others from the second and third generation of immigrants. We are the epitome of U.K., the epitome of London and the inevitable future of this country. Let us not prevent this. Let us encourage it!

Reasons to be cheerful -post referendum

Many of us are still coming to terms with the breakup of our relationship with the EU, hoping it will work out and fearful of what the consequences might be. Its encouraging to read here that Sebastian who has lived for some time in the UK thinks that we have certain character traits that will get us through:

…….oh well, let’s get on with it then!

When I came to the UK, I did not come with many preconceived ideas as such. The one that I recall is that of the British supposedly having a ‘stiff upper lip’ and being rather distant and challenging to befriend. Well, it could not be further from the truth and I have made some very good friends over the years across a range of personalities, stations in life and of course socio-political standing.

What did surprise me was the dogged position that people would take on just about anything, i.e. the NHS, a fifth runway, the EU lately, etc., the passion with which people would stand up for their position on things and the determination to get to the bottom of things if they feel aggrieved, treated unfairly or just because it would seem the right thing to do for the country and the people.

What surprised me most of all over the years, is the stoicism with which the British people, once accepting the outcome of a given situation would then join together and ‘..then just get on with it’. It is this very fabric that got them through the wars, the blitz, the financial crash (although we are not quite there and the new crisis will make it that much more complicated) and I sure this latest crisis, once the dust has settled, the UK will get on and fix whatever is broken and build even stronger resilience

I trust implicitly, that once this painful phase of rhetoric and destructive inaction diminishes, that what is so brilliant about being British will flourish and the contemporary, calm, creative and caring Britain will once again walk tall and build bridges to all its people and the world beyond.

I cannot for one moment having lived here for seventeen glorious years, belief that this is the Britain that stood for all the good things in human relationships, the peace maker and being instrumental in helping with the governance of the world

So I say today, let’s not give up on the good people of Britain, give them a little space and let them’..just get on with it’ I have always admired this element of the British psyche and will continue to do so since I know that in the end good sense will prevail



The shock of the referendum


The shock of the referendum

I used to hear a joke which I liked about the UK, ‘when it’s the end of the world, I want to be in the UK because nothing ever happens there’ I also remember a friend of mine feeling frustrated by the lack of passion her schoolfriends gave to literature and her mother saying, ‘all over the world, revolution, wars, in England nothing happens and in time you will appreciate the English phlegm.’ Unfortunately we are not in that place now. We have had a referendum on the EU and now are having to deal with the consequences of making an earth shattering decision. This is a shock to us all and seems to have affected everyone in one way or another.  Yacov here describes his own reaction to what has happened in the UK over the last 2 weeks, it’s a well described distress that many will echo.

I am sure that soon the British phlegm will reassert itself and that many people will play a part in making sure that everyone in the UK lives happily with their neighbour from all parts of the world. TGIUK intends to play a part in that, through the simple telling stories of what its like to live here.

Tolerance is an innate human endeavour

I have spent the past 17 years in the UK, having left my homeland, which was rather torn up with intolerant and destructive behaviours, rampant racism and absolute disrespect for human life. So, in my time here in the UK, I have learnt many things, done many things and contributed many things to my new homeland.

Amongst the values I have discovered here, was the fundamental belief by British people that everyone deserves and has a right to equality, fairness and not to be discriminated against in any form whatsoever. Of course as time went on, I did perceive and indeed experienced these things, but I felt overwhelmingly that it was but a small element and that most people were just, accepting and tolerant of their neighbour, be they be indigenous or of a migratory disposition. Being from the commonwealth also instilled in me a sense of difference and very soon I felt that I have mastered Britishness and embraced all the values that drew me here in the first instance. I became British without realising it at first. It was when an event took place where particular emotions were expressed about being British that I first noticed it strength.  Sporting proudness or despair, the Olympics, great British inventions and our man Tim in space to name but a few.

I felt happy and content knowing that I shared and build on a values system which had become my own and that of my family. Through thick and thin we stood by her and Britain looked after us. In return, we work hard and contribute and participate in the economic, social and cultural endeavours of the country and the people we now call our neighbours and our friends. I supported TGIUK in order to share my wealth of experience and stories of the richness and wealth of humanity of British contemporary tolerance and care.

All that has changed for me over the last month or so. I have seen a side of Britain and British people that have provoked in me a deep rooted angst regarding my little world here in Britain! For the first time in 17 years I started looking at myself as an immigrant, something I have never done before and I have lived in other parts of Europe as well. I then also started drawing parallels with the reasons I left my homeland and it jolted me profoundly into a state of disquiet contemplation. What am I? Where am I? Who do I turn to regarding my discontent? Some of those very lovely neighbours whom I have been breaking bread have expressed bigoted views that can almost sound racist.  In the UK, we are quite challenging to our politicians and our newspapers are probably the least deferential anywhere but I see that the angry rhetoric of the campaign has leaked into family life. I must say, I feel lost and deeply disturbed by current events.

Remaining in the EU was a logical option and no matter how dissatisfying, at least there was the instruments at our disposal to challenge and try and address the status quo. Being on the outside of that instrument, although I don’t profess to the catastrophic predictions, I do think our lives will be very difficult over the next few years. However, and this is the crux of the matter for me, how do you heal the cracks that has appeared in the fabric of the British man, woman, young adults and children? What models are we setting for our children with this outpouring of vitriolic recrimination and  outright racism in some cases. Have we just moved a few steps back to early 20th century dialogue? For those that we choose to open our doors to, migrating to Britain cannot be the same anymore. What must they think about how they will be welcomed and assisted in integrating into this society.

I just don’t have the answer at this moment and I am very sad about it all!

Yacov Ben Avraham British by naturalisation and a European citizen

28th June 2016