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Posted by Kate, June 21, 2016

Axel Scheffler on the EU: “we are kinder, better, more successful and stronger together”

Almost four months ago, Axel Scheffler wrote a blog post with his views on the prospect of Brexit. Following the blog post, his argument that The Gruffalo wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the UK being part of the European Union really struck a chord. The piece was taken up by Sky News, whose TV interview with Axel appeared on the night we published the blog post, BuzzFeedThe Guardian, and many others.

The subject has continued to exercise Axel, all the more so as feeling for Brexit has strengthened, and, in the last few days before the referendum vote, he asked if he could make “one last plea” via our blog.

So here is what he has to say now:

In my earlier guest blog post, I described how The Gruffalo was created as a Anglo/German joint venture sixteen years ago. Millions of children – in this country, all over the rest of Europe, and all over the world – have since grown up with The Gruffalo and many of the other books that Julia and I have worked on together. A strong message of so many of our books is the importance of solidarity. I am happy to illustrate these books because I believe in this message myself, and believe that it’s an important one to impart to our children.

Millions of children in this country have also grown up with the books of Judith Kerr, who began her life in the UK as a refugee from Nazi Germany. A few days ago, Judith and I gave a joint interview to a German newspaper, The Frankfurter Allemeine Zeitung. In it, we both spoke about our experiences in this country and said that neither of us had ever encountered any personal animosity for being foreigners. Instead, we have been treated with hospitality and tolerance. And we agreed that that tolerance is what is great about Great Britain.

Though our backgrounds are very different, there’s one important thing that influences Judith’s thinking and my own: Germany’s history. While Judith was a child during the rise of the Nazis, I was born twelve years after the Second World War. Like many Germans of my generation I am profoundly grateful to Britain and its allies for freeing Germany, and so much of the rest of Europe, from the tyranny of the Nazis, and for the great contribution made by the UK to the rebuilding of a democratic Germany after the war. This is for me the strongest possible reminder of how important Britain’s position in Europe has always been and continues to be. With the horror of that war and everything associated with it playing such a big part in my background, I see the European Union, above all, as a guarantor of peace and tolerance. A British exit from the European Union would, I think, not just weaken the European Union in itself, but would strengthen the arguments for exit held by nationalist parties elsewhere in Europe leading, in my worst nightmare, to the re-emergence of a fractured Europe with the potential for war.

So for me the number one argument against Brexit is not about money, but, instead, about peace and tolerance.  I am afraid of the possibility of Brexit at a time when the huge problems of the world, from climate change to the refugee crisis, need international, joined-up approaches to find solutions, and at a time when right-wing movements with strong authoritarian and xenophobic tendencies are on the rise all over Europe.

The thing is that, like the school children watering the humpback in The Snail and the Whale; like the insects who put their heads together to save their friend in Superworm; and like the dog, the cat, the bird and the frog facing down the dragon in Room on The Broom, we are kinder, better, more successful and stronger together.