The free movement of people is one of the keystones of the European project and it’s certainly become the key issue of the EU referendum for many people.

Not quite true – the key issue for many people is “immigration”. Which is not the same thing. Language is important here – there’s immigration, there’s migration and there’s people coming here to work or study. And they’re not the same thing.

World with Societ BlocWhen I was at primary school (i.e. a long time ago), there was a boy with Yugoslav parents, a girl with Czech parents, a boy with a Dutch mother and a boy with a German mother i.e. 10% of the class were from what is now the EU (like I said, it was a long time ago). There was also one Ugandan-born girl whose family had “come home” following independence and a boy with a French Huguenot surname.

At home, my mother took in students, including, one year, girls from Polish and Lebanese families. My parent’s friends included the town’s only Jewish family and the town’s only non-white person (an Anglo-Indian) and, like most British families, they had friends and family in Canada and Australia.

When I was at senior school we once had the opportunity to meet a Russian person, which we seized enthusiastically as being only marginally less exotic than being offered the opportunity to meet a Martian.

Crowd at Cowley Road Carnival

Today, my friends and acquaintances are – or are likely to be – Irish, Polish, German, Italian, Spanish, French, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, Chinese, Iranian, Indian, South African (black and white), Kenyan, Nigerian, Jamaican, Central American.

On a day to day basis, I interact with people from pretty much “every race, nation, people and language” and, yes, sometimes walk through the streets or sit on the bus without hearing English spoken – although some of this is to do with living in a tourist hot-spot and some of it is to do with British people being miserable so-and-so’s who don’t talk to each other.

Picture credit: Map from Microsoft Clip Art