Thursday, 3 March 2016

Should We Stay Or Should We Go?

The date has been set and the campaigning has begun. I have a few thoughts on the debate as to whether or not we should leave the EU. I have a few observations on the situation too.
  • Jeremy Corbyn is right. This referendum wasn’t created to debate our membership of the EU, although the consequence of the outcome could obviously alter our relationship with the continent. This referendum is really about Cameron appeasing a wildly divided Conservative party, which has on several occasions in the last 30 years pretty much self imploded over the debate regarding our place in (or out of) Europe. He wanted to limit the defections to UKIP prior to the 2015 election. A better tact would have been to let those who wanted out of Europe to get out of the party and bring in fresh blood.

  • Ironically, at least in the short term, the referendum is likely to create a more divided Conservative party. And if the last thirty years has shown us anything, this will be the case in the medium and long terms too. In other words, the true purpose of the referendum may well turn out to have been a pointless exercise.
  • Cameron is, apparently, going to ‘sell’ the great new deal he negotiated for us in an effort to keep us in the EU. Good luck with that. I doubt very much that the electorate have even the slightest idea what it was he was negotiating for, let alone what he actually got. As for what the new deal means, that’s anyone’s guess. Still, Wilson manage to win the last referendum based on a nothing deal he ‘won’ from our continental cousins.
  • We have effectively only just had a referendum. UKIP ran in the May 2015 general election on a pledge to take us out of Europe. The electorate had a very good nibble. But didn’t bite.
  • It could be argued that the General election in May did not give a fair opportunity for those wanting to vote both for a party that would leave the EU and a party which could also form a viable government. UKIP does feature some downright nasty specimens of human life, I understand that. Most of the names on he Leave side are a fairly obnoxious bunch of individuals this time round too. And then there’s also Boris. Enough said. But, regardless of the characters on the stage, there was an option to vote Leave last May for those who felt strongly enough about it.
  • The Scottish referendum permitted 16 year olds to vote. That won’t be the case this time, with the usual minimum voting age of 18 in force. Cameron has missed a trick. If he really wants to stay in Europe, he should have lowered the voting age. The younger the voter, the higher the Remain percentage is.
  • Further, perhaps we should disallow those over 60 the vote this time round. This isn’t a matter of deciding a few short term issues for the next five years. This referendum will determine the shape of Britain and our society for decades, long after our current crop of pensioners are long gone. It’s the young who will be most affected. They should have the bigger say. And quite frankly, the OAPS have already had their say, through the last referendum and several general elections.
  • There is this assumption that, should we leave the EU, we will be able to negotiate the same trade agreements that essentially exist with us in the EU. This is a nuts assumption. If we leave, a lot of EU nations are going to be pissed. And it only takes one of them to say ‘non’.
  • And they will say ‘non’, because the French are going to insist that French takes back its place as the language of the EU. Maybe. Not only will we lose our ability to participate in the future of Europe, but we won’t even have a clue what they are talking about anymore.
  • Plenty on the Leave side are Little Englanders with rose tinted views of the days of Empire. That we are above the rest. Ironically, the last vestiges of the empire, such as Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands will be far less secure, on a political level, if we do indeed leave. And then there’s the whole future of the UK itself. Because if Scotland votes overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, but are dragged out of it by England….well, things always come in three’s, don’t they? Another Scottish referendum is back on the cards.
  • I don’t think anyone really understands what it’s about. I’m undecided because I just don’t know. But I’m going to vote leave anyway.” That’s pretty much word for word the comment offered by a middle aged lady during a radio interview. Donald Trump would thrive in this sort of a vote. It is an emotive issue and everyone has an opinion. Most of the opinions I have come across are poorly informed and usually include key issues (for them) that have nothing to do with EU membership.
  • A lot of people are angry about how many foreign folk are in the country. They are angry at how hospital services are put under extra pressure. But they are seemingly unaware of how many Brits are living in the EU. Many of whom are retired, no longer productive and a strain on resources. If we all returned immigrants to their place of origin, the U.K. will likely be worse off. And our hospitals will have fewer staff and more patients. Go figure. There’s never been much balance to the immigration debate.
  • If the result of a referendum results in a comfortable vote to Remain, what happens to UKIP? What is their purpose, going forward? They are truly a single issue party, and would have no platform to stand on. This referendum is a once in a generation opportunity, not something to be repeated ad nauseum. If they continue to exist (and I’m sure they will), then they become nothing more than a self serving party of protest to an issue that has already been settled. With no raison d’etre.
  • Worst of all, I will now have to suffer through four months of guff coming at me from all corners. The television, radio, the papers, the office at work, friends and family. Pure guff. We should use the word ‘guff’ more, by the way.
It would be a shame if we walked into a Brexit based on misinformed prejudices and ignorance. Fortunately, the polls suggest this won’t happen. But it may well be a close run thing and one cannot rule it out just yet. But, despite my own reservations on how the EU works and how much it costs,  my vote will be cast in favour of remaining. Better the devil you know sort of thing. Because, given the choice, I’d always select to have my finger nails removed with pliers rather than my limbs severed with a rusty saw.