In the week leading up to the UK’s referendum on EU membership, I found this that my husband Andrew McFarland Campbell wrote a while ago. Re-reading it, I thought it ought to be shared more widely.
Conscription, job-hunting, and friends
I remember my first week at University. It is a cliche that you make friends for life in your first week, but for me it was true. I was studying physics, and I made two friends, Paul, who was studying history, and Jake who was studying chemistry. Despite studying different subjects, we were pretty much inseparable, at least until graduation.
My degree led me on to research, which meant my conscription was delayed. Jake tried to get into research as well, but he just didn’t have the grades. Paul was one of the rare ones who didn’t wait for conscription. He signed up the day we graduated. Paul was always eager to get going.
I was in my lab when I got the news of Paul, less than a year later. He was missing in action, presumed dead. That’s still his official status, even today. I was at home when I got the news about Jake. He’d lost both his arms, but was otherwise OK. I visit him whenever I can, every couple of months.
That’s what Europe did to my friends. I don’t think I can ever forget it, and I doubt I’ll be able to forgive it. Because of them, I am proud of what I do. My research defends my country.
Of course, all of the above is rubbish. Paul and Jake don’t exist, and I haven’t had any friends who have been killed due to war in Europe. After university, I ended up working in the software industry. My career has taken me all across Europe, and I have friends from many countries. That is what the European Union has done.
For most of modern history, Europe has been at war with itself, recovering from being at war with itself, or getting ready for the next war with itself. Since the foundation of what is now the EU that has been changing. The countries of the EU force themselves to cooperate, sacrificing ‘sovereignty’ rather than literal lives.
My EU story is an utterly mundane one. Rather than conscription, I have experienced job hunting. Rather than losing a limb, I have navigated the complexities of different tax systems in different countries where I have worked. Rather than killing my friends, Europe has given me more friends. The EU costs us money, but what it gives back is infinitely more valuable.