I tread with care as I contemplate posting on this issue. Some of my closest friends have spent the last few months birating anyone who dares disagree with their particular view on the EU referendum in strong and often unpleasent language. I honestly thought I’d seen the worst of partisan campaigning and name calling on social media through the 2015 General Election. How wrong I was. The rhetoric of this referendum campaign, both by the professional politicians and ordinary folk from both camps on social media has been nothing short of vile.
Whenever we go to the polls as a nation I try to keep my own views under wraps, partly because I do continue to have deep concerns about clergy and church leaders who loudly express strong views and inadvertently alienate half the people to whom they’re called minister (see my 2010 post It’s Nearly Over). But also because politically I’m realising I’m something of a centrist, albeit one with strongly held views.
I have been desperately saddened by the tone of the debate and rhetoric that has surrounded this campaign. For the most part both
official sides of the referendum have debased themselves with lies and slander. Neither side has chosen the high ground, instead choosing to fight smoke and mirrors with more smoke and mirrors.
The whole referendum has been hijacked by people on both sides who want to make it about immigration, taxation and the cost of living. The real issues have been lost and it is I fear too late to recover them. The lie that voting out will return the UK to its Empire days stNding in the world has been countered by the equally fictitious statement that voting Remain will keep the status quo. Neither are true. Indeed this whole process was initiated by the government seeking approval for it’s unratified, unapproved ‘reforms’; reforms that will probably never get approval from thewider EU anyway. Even the hardiest remainer has stopped talking as if these are worth the paper they’re printed on.
The fact is a vote either way is equally a leap into the unknown. We have no idea what “out” looks like other than Gideon’s childish attempt to threaten the electorate with an harsh budget punishment should we vote leave (surely an attempt at electoral coercion!?!?). But it is also a leap into an unseen future should we stay in the EU. The future federation of the Europian Union is a trajectory on which Bruxelles has embarked. We have no idea what the EU of ten, twenty or thirty years time will look like.
No matter what “they” tell you closer EU integration is on the agenda, the federalisation of member states is an destination many of the decision makers in the EU are quite open about. Only three years ago Manuel Barroso, then EU President set out his vision of “intensified political union” for, initially,Eurozone countries. Such a move is impossible to sustain long-term on a two-tier system and will lead to a centrally controlled EU.
But what ever the other “they” tell you, it will be a long tough road were we to lead. Isolationism is rarely a good plan and undoubtedly there are those who want to drag us that way. Seperating ourselves from the EU is a difficult and time-consuming process and it will create uncertaintity and there will be difficult times ahead, even if long term there is some possibility of a stronger Britain on the edge of the EU, whatever that means.
Both sides seem determined to make the whole debate about immigration. For Team Leave this surely plays well with the background racists fuelled by the Daily Mail and Sun newspapers, the “I’m not racists but….” crowd. Sadly the Remain team have been complicit in making the debate about the big I, instead of dragging the debate to the higher ground of, you know, actual issues. They have simply made counter claims to spread fear amongst the few for who this is a fear, no matter how unfounded.
While I am sure there are some for whom that’s an issue, none of the people I know who will vote leave on Thursday would rate this as a concern for them, indeed most of them are pro-immigration and pro-refugee, many of them giving their time and energy to working in those communities. But the debate as led to environment where anyone with questions about our future in the EU is immediatly pigeon-holed as a anti-immigration bigot.
So there are no clearly definable outcomes from this mess. My concerns about the EU are about the federalistaion agenda, the inhibiting of fairtrade in order to benefit member states, the shocking waste of foodstuffs as the CAP pays farmers to throw food away in a world that can’t feed itself. I see closed-door trade details being done like TTIP that are potentially dangerous and will radically undermine democracy and force the UK into a programme of privatisations of services like the NHS, and the power of governments to insist on environmental regualtion, banking control, privacy and even employment rights.
Some of our politicos talk a big game about the UK being the reformers of Europe, but the will just isn’t there for reform. If it were then we wouldn’t waste Billions of Euros a year with a monthly move to Strasbourg. The Common Agricultural Policy would long ago have been consigned to the rubbish pile of repealed legislation, and TTIP wouldn’t even be on the table.
But leaving the EU will bring a whole different set of unknown challanges. It has never been done, despite Texas’ threats to the rest of the Union across the pond no nation or state has, to my knowledge, ever volutarily left a economic and political grouping like the EU. We have no idea what it will look like or even how a country like Britian can establish itself again seperate-but-on-the-edge of an economic block. Perhaps there is potential there for somewhere overseas investors will want to build so they can trade with Europe without being encumbered with the needless beauracracy of the EU, but that’s a big IF and I’m not sure I have faith in the current batch of decision makers to have the vision for it anyway.
So as Thursday looms I am no more certain of what to do. It seems to me to be a choice between unknowns. Neither of them appealing. A chance to take an opportunity with a risky strategy and with leaders probably unable or unwilling to make the changes that might establish the country as an independent hub on the edge of Europe or to remain in a Union that is set on a trajectory of ever closer ties, as a lone voice seeking reform of a deeply flawed, and wasteful organisation.
At least one married couple I know have decided to vote the opposite to each other in order ‘to cancel out’ their impact on the poll.
Perhaps there is merit in that?