I walked along the Seine yesterday up near Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and the water had risen almost level with the path, with trees enveloped and sticking out of the muddy drink like swords being drawn from their sheaths. Another day of rain today and it might well start creeping up to the houses along the bank. I’ve not been down to the famous stretch of the river nearest us, but the Louvre has closed and masterpieces are being taken away as a precautionary measure. Add to that travel problems, strikes and the threat of terrorism with Euro 2016 around the corner, and if you are one of those types who believes everything you read, then you might assume France is imploding. And yet we continue on as if nothing has happened, because in my world, nothing has happened. Well not for a while anyway. Not yet.
The European Union Floods Directive defines a flood as a covering by water of land not normally covered by water. Where would we be without the EU, eh? Maybe we’ll soon find out. People have their selfish reasons for wanting In or Out; my selfish reason for wanting IN is that without the EU, I wouldn’t have received the world class healthcare I have this last two years; had our countries not been politically conjoined in some way then I could have been in real trouble. You might consider that dramatic, but I know how impossible it was for a writer friend of mine who moved to Philadelphia and got cancer. I used to worry about getting old, now I worry about not getting old; hopefully the excellent médecin généralistes of France will help me reach my dotage.
I’ve been here three years now – a terrible immigrant who still can’t really speak French properly – and the country’s healthcare system just keeps throwing money at me. Yesterday I went and gave a blood sample so some clever people in a laboratory can analyse my gene-coding and ascertain if my cancer was caused by any mutations, in order to give me better care in future and give better bespoke advice to my close relatives. My cover is 100% because of the seriousness of the situation, and I couldn’t have been looked after better. This has little to do with the cliché about unelected bureaucrats deciding our destiny in a room in Brussels somewhere, this is the hard reality of what it means to be part of the European Union, or at least it is for the 2.2 million Britons living elsewhere on the continent.
One of the main arguments aside from immigration seems to be about sovereignty. I can understand that, although I can’t help feeling in many cases that the subtext is all about a desire to return to our colonial past, which is obviously absurd and in my opinion shameful. So what’s the alternative? Hand more power to the current government to further asset strip and sell off the family silver? The sovereignty argument is also usually upheld by Monarchists who have no problem with the House of Lords. I have nightmares about having to leave France when Marine le Pen storms to power next year and then coming back to find Boris or Michael Gove at the helm. That’s the doomsday scenario anyway.
Whether In or Out, I’m sure the UK will continue to survive and prosper (especially for the upper echelons), I just like the idea of us being part of something bigger, ideologically and politically. Voting out would repeal opportunities that weren’t there a generation ago, but the Baby Boomer generation – who’ve made their money and have no more adventures left in them – could get the final say. As for immigration, if the country is “creaking under the strain and unable to cope”, then that’s because public services have been cut all across Britain. It breaks my heart to say it, but I feel lucky to have been treated in France rather than under the NHS, which was fantastic in my hour of need a few years ago. If it’s in deep trouble now, then just see how efficiently it runs when they kick out all the foreigners.Follow @jeres