Daniel Masters (Editor): I wanted to start by asking about the debate training that you’ve mentioned using.
Eddie Izzard: Eh, no, I’ve done a bit, but I’m training more for running!
DM: But, Dan Hannan has of course been debating about this subject for well over fifteen years. Do you feel prepared for it?
EI: I think he will be very assured, very on it: he’s written a book on this, you know! He’s been elected since 1999 or something. So he’s going to be hugely experienced.
And you know this is going to be my first ever debate; I’ve never debated before. So, it’s a baptism of fire. All I can do is talk from gut instinct; I have done a few campaigns, but I’m not really good at speeches.
Obviously I know how to do a certain way of talking that’s comedy, that’s not what this is. So I have to train myself, and keep certain aspects of that. So it’s going be tricky, but it’ll be how it’s going to be.
But, he’s being brave because he’s coming into a place, it’s a young person area, where most people, 80%, are positive for remain.
So eh, we’ll just see what will happen, but if he’s very competitive, and answering questions, then I would not be surprised by that.
“It’s good to learn to live together, learn to work together in some shape or form.”
DM: Why do you think that young people are less likely to vote than older people?
EI: I think it comes from general elections. I think that when it comes to general elections, and I’ve talked to people at general elections, and I notice that when you come out with, there’s certain lines that both sides come out with at the general elections, these are the positive things we are going to do.
And I saw, talking to young people, they would kind of switch off because they’d [politicians] say mortgages are going to go up; well I haven’t got a mortgage, and how does this effect me.
And I thought young people want a vision for the future, a positive vision that can keep them going through their 20s into their 30s when their life starts to get on track; when they say I know what I’m doing now, I’ve got this career. Cause at this point a lot of young people saying I don’t know what I want to do.
So I’m trying to put out a positive vision. And you know I think the European referendum is something that’s going to affect young people straight away, on the 24th June, the day after the referendum. Low cost fares to Europe; health care all across Europe; the roaming charges will go down to zero next year, you know zero extra charges all across Europe. And I think that’s a very positive thing. Just to go on holiday there, let alone work there, and all these opportunities.
So that’s why just from a humanities point of view, that was the economic one, but from the humanities point of view, isn’t this what we do as human beings we gradually learn to live together, work together, in some shape or form.
We are the United Kingdom, we were the separated kingdoms, and we greater came together. And we don’t become homogenised: England, Scotland football matches, if you watch one of those, or a wales rugby match, they seem to be very Welsh, the Scots seem to be very Scottish, we seem to be very English. But then team GB; we’re brilliant together and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
DM: You mentioned in your article in the Huffington Post that you believe the economic case for remaining in the EU was compelling. What are you basing that on?
EI: I’m basing it on the fact that we get more out of it than we put in to it. We are net contributors to the European Union, but, it’s worth £4300 for every family in Europe.
Now these are the figures that we put forward, I’m sure that Brexit people will say ‘no actually it costs XXXXX’. And this is what young people have difficulty with, I see these figures coming in from the positive and these coming in from the negative.
But the Governor of the Bank of England says we could well go in to recession if we pull out; the head of the CBI; the World trade organisation; the IMF; all the main international organisations, and experts do say it’s not a good idea to pull out for our economy.
DM: So, do you believe that we give up our democracy at a price then?
EI: No, I wouldn’t term it that way. I’m sure that if you vote Brexit you would term it that way. I’d say what happened when we got to the United Kingdom? Were these arguments going on when the Scots were saying should we join up? But we don’t get the claymores up, we don’t get the guns out. Even in the Scottish referendum no one ever said I’m going to pick up a gun and go for that.
It’s good to learn to live together, learn to work together in some shape or form. We were 10,000 people 20,000 years ago, we’re now 7billion. If we’re not heading towards a world where everyone has a fair chance, what’s the point?
“We are the United Kingdom, we were the separated kingdoms, and we greater came together. And we don’t become homogenised”
Jonno Simons: Before you said that you identify as a British European, I wondered why you thought so many people saw the two as mutually exclusive, to be European or British?
EI: I totally understand, because if you think of the European flag, you can’t really grab hold of what, or being European even. What does that exactly mean?
Well, I think young people want a vision for the future. I’ve actually looked at Europe; lived my life; came out as transgender 31 years ago; decided to learn French; I’ve toured all across France now: 5200 people; Played Berlin for two months. I’m doing something positive. I have a vision for the future.
I can see that Europe is slightly struggling in identity because there is no elected leader and you have this whole argument of well super state, we’re not allowed more democracy, that’s a super state.
That’s just sitting in a parked position, meanwhile I thought I’d do something positive, get out there, say that I’m British-European, like African-American, Italian-American, Asian-Americans; they have them, can’t we be that as well. I’m proud for both.
When it comes to team GB I want us to win every single medal that is going. I want us to be top, not third like we were last time, I want us to be top. When it comes to the Ryder Cup against America I want us to win, that won the last three or four times. And we’re a brilliant team, when we played together.
So I’m both, and I put this forward as a vision of leadership, and people do want leadership. So I’ve decided to just show them leadership.
DM: Can I just ask you, you’ve done three languages on your tours…
EI: yeah I’m doing three, three, three shows
DM: Do you speak those languages?
EI: Ou je pa Francais te je que pa Francais je sois son cans puis on calmon [oh you get the gist – something French].
DM: I don’t know what you’re saying.
EI: I could have said bing, bang, bong couldn’t have I. But no, 75% fluent in French, 40% fluent in German.
DM: So you don’t just get it translated, you actually speak it?
EI: no my brother’s the expert, Mark here is the expert. So he’s French, German and Spanish: fluent; he translated the show; gets it into his level of German. I actually learn it for the show, line by line, it’s exactly the same as the English show, and it’s in a level of German that’s slightly elevated from my level, but I can actually add lib around it.
DM: Do you find that people sometimes laugh and you don’t why?
EI: yes, I have got things very wrong. But last night I played Birmingham. I must say, I’ve gotta say this for Birmingham. I did the German show at 7pm; and I’ve been a bit rocky on the German show, because I’ve done six of them now, this is my seventh one.
They were fantastic audiences, and I blew it away, I mean it was just a great German show, and to do that in Birmingham, I never thought that would ever happen. And I’ve got to say that’s positive.
I now do a French show, and I do a German scene in the middle of the French show in Birmingham. So a city in England, in Britain: I did a show in German, a show in French, and then I did a German scene in the middle about Martin Luther and they got it!
Eddie Izzard later took part in an EU debate against Daniel Hannan at the University of Reading. It can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBIIdcUjl90