By Jessica Aurie
Last week, an audience at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Student Union waited eagerly for Eddie Izzard to flounce onto the stage in his heels and tell them why he believes we should vote to stay in Europe. After a great introduction by the Student Union President, Izzard, wearing a pink beret, nail varnish and a T-shirt reading Stand Up For Europe, began his talk.
Since the announcement of the Referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, Izzard has launched a campaign to encourage all ages across the UK to register and vote ‘IN.’ Why? The answer is, “For humanity.” Addressing the audience with warmth and a keenness to teach, Izzard said, “Humanity is what we need to think about. The future of humanity cannot be to build a wall. No, we need to give every person a fair chance and this is what we are trying to do in the EU. Staying in the EU is not an attempt to homogenise everyone, it is an attempt to unite. Humanity, above all, is why I want us to stay in Europe.”
Izzard consistently reminded the audience of the complexity of each argument surrounding the UK’s involvement with the EU, as well as the vast amount of research and expertise deemed crucial in order to regard oneself entirely sure of the EU’s value to the United Kingdom. He also asked the audience not to give up hope and to, instead, keep on supporting our membership within the ‘single market’. Attempting to avoid expressing more anger towards the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Izzard only briefly appealed to the argument that Nigel Farage is postulating to the nation. According to Izzard, Farage is using immigrants as scapegoats to rally up supporters instead of facing the actual serious concerns and imminent issues that will be caused as a result of leaving the European community. He went on to say that UKIP has not conjured up any quality arguments that can logically challenge the pros of voting ‘IN’.
He said, “Politics is exactly what you think it is. If it looks difficult to understand that’s because it probably is. If it looks complicated, it probably is.”
This referendum isn’t as simple as the Brexit campaign seems to convey. UK membership in the EU is the source of greater, more important outcomes than that of issues regarding national sovereignty and the current state of immigration. The EU represents the peaceful, diplomatic solution made in order to avoid another World War, a freedom to cross borders and broaden our perspective of the world, a body that enables Brits as well as other nationalities to legally immigrate, a reason to be proud of the UK and a club that encourages a healthy economy through efficient trade agreements and access to 300million jobs. Whereas, according to Eddie Izzard, the ‘OUT’ vote seems to support more negative and insular principles.
Izzard’s argument in support of the EU on the basis of humanity, rests within a classical philosophical argument on human nature. In other words, that humans began as unorganised animals and then through time and experience slowly came to realise that they were naturally social creatures. Much like the political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Izzard expressed a belief that humans have developed from solitary animals into social beings and it is on this very basis that Izzard saw leaving the EU as a regression rather than a progression. Humans need to support one another in order to create a better, more peaceful world.
In the second half of the performance, Izzard went on to share a memory that inspired him to start this campaign in which he plans to visit 31 cities in 31 days across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. He said,
“I had an epiphany during a beautiful moment in the azure Mediterranean sea when I was on holiday in Turkey. I went on a boat trip and at one point all of the passengers got to jump off this big boat into the sea. In the excitement and splashing around, I heard lots of different languages calling out to each other. As I listened to the different accents I just thought to myself, this… this is a good thing. I want to support this in some way.”
He went onto say that, after wasting a lot of time doing nothing, he eventually started to perform his comedy routines in different European countries, speaking in the native languages. He referred to the pleasures and value of learning about new cultures and dialects, as well as the fun you have during your failed attempts at grasping new ways of life, experiences which are currently made easier due to the EU having deregulated boarder control.
Coming to a close, Izzard also mentioned various other comedians who have since taken on the challenge of performing in other languages in support of the communal and united culture that being a part of the EU encourages. He ended his whimsical soliloquy by pronouncing that “comedy is crossing borders.”
With the occasional use of figures to support his arguments for the unity of European countries, including the fact that almost 173, 000 Brits live in France, Izzard’s performance was humble and positive. A performance filled with jokes about his mistakes and failures, as well as an array of short but sweet monologues sharing his passions and beliefs about the EU. Izzard’s final words were perhaps the most passionate and inspired of his entire performance:
“Hope is the beginning of civilisation, hope is staying in the EU. Please, I beg you, don’t let us leave.”
Do you agree with Eddie Izzard? Or are we better out of the EU? Send your thoughts to email@example.com