By COLlive reporter
Photos by Gaventa Photo
Described as the most important vote in a generation, a referendum will be held in the United Kingdom in less than a week about whether to remain a part of Europe or to “Brexit” as it has been termed, and become independent of Europe.
The referendum has been making headlines over the past year, with debates heating up in the lead-up to the vote.
This past week, one leading member of Parliament, advocating for the “remain in Europe campaign” was killed by a lone gunman with apparent links to the far right, reported to having yelled, “Britain First” before shooting.
With Turkey trying to join the European Union in the near future on the one hand, and the rise of far-right political parties on the other, the matter is one of general concern to the Jewish community as well.
Hosting a debate at the Mill Hill Synagogue in London, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet welcomed Justice Minister Michael Gove, who advocated for leaving Europe, as well as Lord Charles Falconer, former Justice Minister, who advocates for remaining in.
Rabbi Schochet began by asking the audience of 700 how many were still undecided, resulting in a third raising their hands in the affirmative. That number didn’t change by much by the end of the evening and reflects a trend in the wider community.
Schochet asked his two guests as to the impact any decision would have on the Jewish community.
Gove insisted the extreme right are rising to prominence again in other European countries and the UK would have better security and be able to fight all forms of fascism and Anti-Semitism were it to leave.
Lord Falconer, however, insisted that anti-Semitism is not uniquely a UK or even European problem but has become a global epidemic and the only way to fight it is by concerte effort of joint governments across Europe and beyond.
The impact on the British economy is also a matter of concern with Michael Gove insisting “if we leave the EU, we will still have good trade because the EU sells more to us than we sell to them and there is no reason why those countries would put up barriers.” But the Minister pointed out that if Britain remains in the EU, “We would never get good trade deals with other countries.”
Lord Falconer who became Lord Chancellor in 2003 under Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “We would be less prosperous if we left the EU.
With several questions from the audience, and Rabbi Schochet cutting in at times to push the two ministers on their answers, the 90 minute debate was extremely warm with good humor at times, but it did appear according to the amount of applause the leave campaign received, the majority of those who have decided how to vote wish to leave the EU.
Voters in the country say they are not being given enough information to make an informed decision on June 23. But one thing is clear – the British people are being given a once in a lifetime chance to vote in or out when citizens of almost every other EU member state will never be given that vote.