EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH EDDIE IZZARD: “If you want to make anything different you have to be inside Europe”

British comedian Eddie Izzard visited the University of Nottingham (UoN) on Thursday 9th June as part of his new Stand Up for Europe campaign, where he is aiming to visit thirty-one different universities in thirty-one days in a bid to persuade students to vote for the UK to stay in Europe in the upcoming referendum on the 23rd June. His speech to UoN’s students marked his 18th day on the tour, after beginning at Aston University in Birmingham on the 23rd of May.

Belinda Toor caught up with Eddie before his talk to find out more about why he started the campaign, the effect leaving Europe would have on the UK and ultimately, why he believes that you should vote IN.

Voter registration for the referendum closes at 11:59 today.

What made you feel so strongly about remaining in Europe that you started this campaign around universities?

I had a moment when I was back in my late 20s, early 30s when I went on holiday in the Greek islands and I went to where you could go out and swim in the volcanic waters. Everyone swimming there was shouting at each other in French, German, Italian and Spanish and I thought that this was a beautiful thing. You never really hear lots of different accents all at once, it’s usually just a murmur in a cafe – but suddenly it was there. I thought ‘I know that everyone is from all over Europe and this is good’. I’d like to fight for this. I didn’t what to fight with a gun, I wanted to be an activist that articulated. I was already positive of people and I just think that surely this is the way forward.

“The only one on their side is Donald Trump and he’s to the right of Attila the Hun”

The United Kingdom’s story is about wars and death and bloodshed, only gradually did we come together to work with each other in some shape or form – and even in Scotland now – they are still working out that shape or form. If we do pull out of the EU Scotland will leave the UK. Not only this but we will be plunged into recession, Brexit is an anagram of the recession if you think about it. If you put two S’s into the word Brexit you get Brexession, that’s almost exactly the word – they’ve almost designed it to say recession. And all the world’s experts say this, from the governor of the Bank of England to the head of the CBI, OECD, IFS, The World Trading Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton… The only one on their side is Donald Trump and he’s to the right of Attila the Hun. Even Atilla is going “What are you doing Donald? I thought I was right-winged?” Only Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, who is head of the French National Front, are backing Brexit.

“Despair is the fuel of terrorism, hope is the fuel of civilisation”

At the best it is just a leap in the dark. You have the choice of a leap in the dark or all this positive stuff – especially for students! Cheap fares for flights all the way across Europe, we’ve got those right now. Zero rowing charges, we’ve got those from next year. Free health care across the European Union, we have that right now. The alternative is to pick it up and throw it to the wind and see if we can renegotiate it. It’s crazy going backwards! Let’s go forwards and upwards, that’s what we do. We’ve got to be heading in towards a world where everyone has a fair chance – we’ve got to do this. If not people will be despairing and despair is the fuel of terrorism, hope is the fuel of civilisation. Let’s keep putting hope into the world.

A lot of the students that will attend your talk today will be those that are already politically engaged. What would you say to those that are more apathetic to encourage them to turn out?

Well the thing is that I think that the European referendum is going to be different for younger people, just like the marriage equality referendum in Ireland not too long ago, because when it comes to general elections I think that young people go “well I haven’t got my own family, I haven’t got a house, I haven’t got a mortgage, maybe this doesn’t quite work for me”. But this, is instant. Hen nights, stag nights, your pound in your pocket, the job opportunities that you have where if we are in a recession you won’t have them, all these positive things that we have right now will be at risk.

I always appeal to the humanity of people, that’s what we do, we head forwards and upwards. Surely if we are going to make the world work, we have to start with the continents. We are the first continent to ever try and do this and we set this up because from Alexander the Great to World War II, we had world wars – 2500 years of war. We set up the European Union to stop that, it was specifically designed for that. I just played in French, German and English on the D-Day beaches in Normandy last Monday and I did those three languages as a salute to everyone who fell and fought in those battles, and a salute to the 72 years of peace that we have achieved since then. What a beautiful thing – we have done that through the European Union!


You mentioned Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen who believe that Britain is ‘better off’ out of the EU. What would you say to those in the world of politics who are suggesting that Britain should leave?

Well… Do you want a recession? Because that’s what you’re gonna get. Sarah Wollaston, who was a doctor before she became an MP, is chair of the Health Select Committee in the Houses of Parliament, she has exited the Brexit campaign and joined the Remain campaign (or is voting to remain) because she says that the figures that they have come up with are not true. Actually, I think that she said that they are lies. They have come up with this idea that £350 million is going to come into the NHS, but she has said that is not going to happen. The 350 figure doesn’t work either.

“These people that want us to exit are not allowed to change anything within the European Union”

So, I think we have got to stay inside because our economy will be better. It will be better for jobs, better for trade, all the things we get out of it! People worry about immigration, and I know it is a concern of people, but when times are good we encourage immigration and then when times are bad we tell people to push away. We go through this in cycles but being part of the European Union means that we can trade and we have a much stronger economy, there is the free movement of people. These people that want us to exit are not allowed to change anything within the European Union, they just get emailed the rules and they have to obey them – that is not a good place for us.

You have previously suggested that a vote for Brexit would spark a second referendum on Scottish independence, do you think that this could spiral further into Wales and Northern Ireland also leaving the UK because they would rather be in Europe?

They could well do. Wales gets £245 million a year, a net receiver. Northern Ireland gets £100 million a year net receiver. The borders could go back up; it’s not really in their interests at all to come out financially, or for jobs, or for the future or their prospects. BR exit is BR breakup! It will be the end of Britain. I think what we’re doing is great, and yes it’s tricky and difficult, the system isn’t perfect but then things aren’t perfect in the UK either. You need to be inside it to change it.

One of the main worries on all of our minds is being able to find work after leaving university. What would you say to the Brexit argument that leaving the EU would create less regulation in the workplace and therefore more jobs?

Well it won’t happen, you’ll get a recession. And a recession means that there will be less jobs, more companies that are folding, and then you won’t have a job. You don’t get more jobs in a recession, all the world experts say this and I mean all of them. The Brexit people aren’t arguing this so much anymore, they are arguing about immigration. They know that they have lost that economic argument. They haven’t got a model for what it’s going to be.

They will need to renegotiate all agreements around the world. We will just be this tiny island and Scotland will probably peel off, and so will Wales and Northern Ireland as well. They will all peel off and it will all be crumbling down, it is not a great way to go. We want to be strong, we want to be part of Europe. We want to be doing deals with China, we want to be inside the European Union doing that. Being strong and having a seat at the table and not running and hiding from it. If you want to make anything different you have to be inside it.

Belinda Toor

Images by Alexander Douglas


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