Photo credit: Oliver McNeil from Legend Photography
Dominic Buxton is my next interviewee. His name comes up again and again in my pro-EU social media feeds, so I was delighted when he agreed to be interviewed. Dominic was born in London on 8 July 1999, moved to Germany at the age of three, and came back to the UK thirteen years later. Today, he is Communications Officer at the Young European Movement and a passionate Europhile. He is currently producing a documentary called ’16: Listening to Unheard Voices’, which will shed light on the debate surrounding votes at 16.
1. Please tell me where you are from, where you currently live and work, and what you do.
I was born in London, moved to Germany when I was three, lived there for 13 years, went through the education system and came back to the UK two years ago, to study filmmaking. I am now resident in London. I have both British and German citizenship.
2. Which European languages can you speak?
My mum is German and my dad is English, so I was fortunate enough to be brought up
3. Would you describe yourself as European? Is this important to you? Is your national identity more important?
Yes, of course I describe myself as European. I also describe myself as British and German. In fact, I am proud to be British, English and German; one doesn’t exclude the other. Many people say to me that you can’t be European and British, and if I describe myself as a proud European, I am automatically a traitor and “hate the UK”. National identity is fine, as long as it doesn’t make you feel superior to someone from another country – that would be xenophobia.
4. When you think of the European Union, what is the first thing you think of?
I think of peace and collaboration, working together with our neighbours to secure a better future. You must remember where we were only about 70 years ago. The continent was war-torn and completely destroyed. And from this devastation and desperation arose a sense of unity and togetherness. It’s very important that, when we have this debate about Europe, we always remember why the EU was formed and look at how far we have come in the last 70 years.
5. Do you feel that living and working in the EU has made a difference to your professional career? How?
Well, absolutely. I’ve lived in Germany for 13 years, and looking back at my time there, I wouldn’t change anything. Living in the EU has really opened my eyes and widened my
perspective of what the world has got to offer. The EU has inspired me to think bigger, and look beyond the horizon. If 27 countries are able to come together and make peace after many years of active war, then anything is possible.
6. Do you feel as though the European Union is beneficial the to area you work in? Can you support your answer with examples?
Of course. To me personally, as a dual national, freedom of movement has been incredibly beneficial. Just the fact that anyone with a European passport can travel around in any of the existing EU member states freely has really helped me, and so many others my age, open ourselves up to new opportunities.
7. Does Europe inspire you professionally or personally? If so, how?
Most of today’s problems can only be solved when people from all around the world tackle problems together. I think the European Union is a great example of just that – nations coming together, debating issues around a table, not pointing weapons at each other, and finding constructive solutions that work for everyone. It just shows, and I’m sure you’ll find this in almost any situation in life, that we can achieve so much more when we focus on collaboration, rather than competition.
8. What do you think of the result of the Brexit referendum in the UK?
It’s devastating. To think that a country would want to leave this magnificent political
achievement is just unbearable. The EU has given us so much, and what do we do? We throw it right back in their faces. We must do absolutely everything to kill every form of Brexit that Theresa May dreams up.
9. Do you think the EU helps maintain peace?
Yes, of course. Peace across Europe is one of the main reasons why the European Union was founded, and it’s very easy to forget that.
10. Do you feel as though you have a lot in common with people from European countries other than your own? Can you give examples?
Yes, we do have things in common. I don’t think nationality is something that one should necessarily be judged by. Jo Cox once said something brilliant, not in the context of Europe, but I think it can be applied in this case. She said: “We have more that unites us than that which divides us”. That’s at least how I feel towards people from other European countries, and indeed people from all over the world. We may not all speak the same language, eat the same foods or look the same, but there is one thing that we, as Europeans, have in common: That’s our history. The fact that What once divides us, now unites us.
11. How would you feel about ‘ever closer union’ or a ‘United States of Europe’?
I consider myself a federalist, so yeah, bring it on.
12. Do you have a favourite place in Europe? If so, where is it and why do you love it?
That’s a difficult one. My favourite place in Europe would probably have to be the European Parliament, or just Brussels in general. It’s the heart of European politics – it’s a place where countries come together and make sure we can live our lives in peace. I love that. So, it would have to be Brussels.
13. Where is the best place in Europe to drink coffee? What would you order?
I don’t really enjoy drinking coffee, so I’ll leave that question to someone who does.
14. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Europe today?
The rise in far-right nationalism and the anti-European sentiment.
15. Name a place in Europe you have not visited, but would like to. Why?
Any place that has open-minded, tolerant and outward-looking people. Although I’ve been to Brussels before, I would nab any and every opportunity to go back there and walk down Boulevard Baudouin and watch the sun set behind the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Parish Church.
16. What do you think is the most significant moment in European history? Why?
It has to be the end of World War 2, when people all across Europe realised that they have to come together to rebuild this war-torn Europe. And thankfully they came to that realisation, otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are now.
17. Do you think the UK will leave the EU in 2019?
I do hope not. In the unlikely event that Brexit does succeed and we get some sort of deal, whatever Theresa May, or whomever has replaced her, will have been able to negotiate, it will leave us worse off than where we are now – in the European Union, in the single market, in the customs union, et cetera. But obviously, we’re all fighting really hard for an exit from Brexit.
18. Are you hopeful for the future of Europe?
Totally. The EU has a bright future ahead of itself – with or without the UK. I do have to say this – Farage and all the right-wing pundits said Brexit and the election of Donald Trump would open the floodgates to more Euroscepticism across the continent of Europe. You know, there were already wild speculations about which country would be the next to decide to leave the European Union. What Brexit and Trump actually unleashed was exactly the opposite; the Dutch showed massive support for liberal values and France united to reject far-right populism, and went ahead to elect Macron. So, Brexit and Trump, I think, really opened people’s eyes, because we are watching history repeating itself and it hasn’t even been a century since we had a world war, stoked by the one ideology that is causing dismay in European and American politics today – nationalism. In short – hopeful for the future of Europe, absolutely – hopeful for the future of the UK outside of the EU, less so.