I’ve decided to pen my thoughts while doing my best to avoid facts. Make of it what you will.
This isn’t a case of national pride, and it certainly isn’t about trying to make sense of “the facts”. But it is all about a gut feel for what is right. And on balance I think that the right thing is to Remain.
Take control. And give it to who, exactly?
The European Union isn’t perfect but the ideals it was formed are surely right; an economic and political framework for the benefit of the people. Sure, bad decisions are made, I don’t know why we don’t veto some of them, but I do know that it is part of the democratic process. Can we hand on heart say that decision our successive governments have made have been in the same vein? So when Leave wants us to take back control, who do they want us, the British population, to give it to? It isn’t enough to have a romanticised ideal of what could be. Look to our immediate history:
· A Labour government that took us to an illegal war.
· A Coalition that didn’t tackle needed political reform or the atrocity of tuition fees.
· A Conservative government that is systematically stomping on teachers and medical staff.
At least when I look at Europe I see the protection of Human Rights, I see protection for workers. And those kinds of protections are enshrined. Not the flimsy kind of law that can be overturned by a new ruling party. This is particularly dangerous when we’re in an age of popularity competition politics; ‘what’s gets me in power is what I’ll stand for.’
Besides which, we are perfectly capable of making our own way. We can decide to attack disability benefits, to sell off the post office, to give millionaire pensioners fuel allowances, to not to close tax avoidance loop holes and so much more.
Democracy is a matter of perspective.
Exactly who is Europe less democratic than? I can’t stop UKIP getting an MP. I can’t make the Lib Dems more popular. I can’t help an independent candidate make a difference. I accept that I don’t vote for a figure head EU President, but then again I never voted for Hunt to mismanage the NHS, and apparently I can’t oust him either.
There is a democratic process here but how many of us actually know who their MEP is and whether we agree with their policies? More to the point how many deep rooted anti-Europe MEPs do we have? I was astounded to find that Farage is an MEP. Farage! Fighting our cause in Europe. The mind boggles. Hsands up if you think he’s trying to positively change the organisation from within? Probably not, according to his attendance record. So it’s probably true that some of our MEPs are part of the problem with little intention of finding a solution. I for one will be paying more attention at the next European elections [if we stay in].
So just what is the democratic higher ground we have in the UK? Barely more than half of us vote. The majority of us are cynical of our leaders and politicians’ personalities factor more than they should in our decisions. It occurs to me that what we are saying is that Murdoch and other media owners can’t sway enough public opinion to influence Europe. If that’s the case, I’ll take my chances with the people my European cousins democratically vote for.
Is more merrier?
The relationship with the rest of Europe is a tricky one. I say that because I haven’t heard an answer from either side as to what the exact problem is to know how to tackle it. The numbers of people coming into the country has been an issue for as long as I can remember. But I can’t help but think immigration isn’t the problem all of its own. When we need skills and workers they are welcome, the problem seems to be about how a creaking, failing infrastructure can cope with the numbers. And that means that the problem is one of money. All I know is that we don’t seem to have a problem funding war. We could do more to help the ailing NHS. There are some good practices that we should do around benefits claimants, but this isn’t about looking after “our own”, it’s about not being taken for a ride. But we don’t need to be out of Europe to do that. The free movement of people and goods is a benefit to us all it makes us more and more diverse and open. Less and less insular.
And there is an issue of practicality here. How do you unpick years of free movement – including those Brits who live abroad. Do they have a matter of years to pack up their lives? Are we going to implement a green card system. And how do we pay for that? My idea of Britishness is not turning our back on those in need. The immigration issue – on a global scale – is not something that can be tackled alone. Atrocities in far flung parts of the world driving people to seek refuge and asylum – is being confused in free movement. And all of it being solved by closing the door to Europe. The idea that the Daily Mail has captured the pervasive mood of the nation is actually a little sad.
Money, money, money.
This is far too fact based – or speculation heavy – to even guess at. There are two things I come back to. 1) the vast majority of people who’s opinon you’d seek out from finance, business, and even the unions, say we are better in. 2) Uncertainty in the the financial markets is bad. So bad it has led to recessions. Leaving the EU is uncertain from the morning after the decision. Let’s face it Cameron would have to go, throwing the party into turmoil, Labour would probably claim no confidence in the government and go for an election (but do they really think Corbyn will win?). Look at all that uncertainty and we haven’t even begun to think about what a post EU UK looks like. Months and years of instability.
The idea too that we could leave the union and negotiate the same deal again is instinctively crazy. We sell more into Europe than we import so we want a deal more than they do. Besides we know how this works as consumers. If you buy from the corner shop it is expensive because they don’t have the buying power to negotiate deals with Heinz. The big supermarkets can set the direction, negotiate the deals. We might not like it, but it is a fact. Oh, I was avoiding those.
I appreciate that we pay for this. But we’re a successful economy and it is our responsibility to do our fair share. In the same way we expect our own citizens too. That’s what higher tax rate does in the UK. Those who have the broadest shoulders take more of the burden. And we all enjoy the benefits of that because we have seen that local financial problems don’t start that way. Who would have known that bad mortgage decisions in America would lead to a global financial crisis?
We are a great nation, and always have been. From Alfred the Great bringing together the regions to form England, to the creation of the United Kingdom; our story is made from forming Unions. There are problems that we cannot tackle alone; climate change, terrorism, globalisation. And similarly there are opportunities to expand our potential through research, the arts, education that only comes from being together.
I don’t understand the argument that we can continue to get all this upside and not have any of the downside. Didn’t anyone tell you that you can’t have your cake and eat it?
‘Remain’ is not a campaign of fear. Of course the unknown is scary but there is something positive to be had from our relationship with Europe. It benefits us as part of a global community, it reflects well the attitudes I want my children to adopt, and how can’t it have an in-our-own-pocket kind of benefit. Conversely Leave appears to built on the idea that we’re British and we’ll survive this. I don’t see the benefits but in the leaders I hear the narrative of self-interest and of isolationism. Leaving is not positive action, it is turning our back on difficult problems with the view we are better off alone.
We’re not better alone. We never have been and I don’t think we ever will be.