Thoughts on the EU referendum

With the date for the referendum announced and campaigning underway, I wanted to try to enunciate my thoughts on the subject. I’ve written before on my desire to have a referendum. 3 years ago I said that I “would likely vote to remain in Europe”.

Likely, but not certainly. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument from either side. So I wanted here to think aloud, as it were, and hopefully either prompt you in some questions you may not have thought of, though I’d rather like to start a reasonable discussion.

By ‘reasonable’ I have in mind cutting out a lot of unnecessary bickering, demonisation of the other and acknowledgement that there may be good reasons on both sides. I’m fine for someone to have made up their mind, but not for them to become belligerent in putting forward their case at the denigration of the opposite view.

The idea of “project fear” has been touted quite a lot. There’s a problem with it, though. It is right for the Remain campaign to point out the risks that are associated with leaving the EU and to ask questions about how those risks would be mitigated. Some of that has been worded a bit too strongly, possibly with the intention of trying to scare people into sticking with the status quo, but it is wrong for every legitimate concern raised and question to be dismissed as part of this “project fear”. Thus far, the Leave campaign has used this as a means of not answering questions which I, and others like me, want to hear the answers to.

An interesting thought I had regarding the referendum centred on the Scottish National Party (and, by inference, other nationalists around the UK). On the Andrew Marr Show, Nicola Sturgeon said that she would be on the side of the Remain campaign but that were the UK to vote Leave, then that would likely trigger a 2nd Scottish independence referendum (you remember, the “once in a lifetime” referendum that we had about 18 months ago).

So it would make a kind of sense if the SNP were to not be too persuasive in their case for remaining in the EU. i.e. be seen to be supporting the Remain case, but don’t actually try to win (rather like Manchester City’s team selection in the FA Cup). That way they get a second bite at the independence cherry, even though it would then be their intention to apply for membership to the EU.

I say “a kind of sense” because I must admit I don’t understand the view of some nationalists who want to be independent of the UK but not independent of the EU. If anyone can explain that one to me, I’d be most grateful.

Finally, I wanted to look at the theological perspective. Which of Leave or Remain better fits the maxim: Love your neighbour as yourself.

My issue with the Leave and Remain campaigns is that both have, thus far, put a large amount of stock in the idea of which makes Britain “better off”. But no one’s saying at what cost. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the UK is better off leaving. Does that mean also that our neighbours in France, Greece, Hungary  or Ireland will be better off? Or is it a case of making ourselves better off and choosing to not care about others?

When you try to dig into the matter, what does “better off” mean anyway? Is it purely a cold measure of macroeconomics, or are we factoring in the cultural and the spiritual? If it is purely economic, then one must be careful that the “better off” argument isn’t merely a form of prosperity gospel.

Possibly the strongest argument the Leave campaign has (in terms of appeal to the general public) would be that it would signal the end of UKIP. They would have achieved their aim and then all could see whether or not their myth of withdrawal from the EU being the panacea to all our ills would bear out in reality.

The strongest argument for the Remain campaign has actually come from one of the cheerleaders of the Leave side: Michael Gove. He claimed that the Conservatives have been stymied in pushing through some of their punitive measures because of the European legislation. In my book, anything that helps to tie the hands of Tories from hurting citizens is a good thing.

For now, I lean slightly inwards, but that lean is ever so slight. Those who promise than a UK outside of the EU will be a land flowing with milk and honey are not people to be taken seriously. Neither are those who speak as though withdrawal from the EU will be the end of civilisation. It’s a choice between two different shades of beige.

Persuade me, entice me, allure me to your point of view. Just don’t beat me about the head and call me an idiot. Such tactics rarely work in evangelism, whether religious or political.

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2 responses to “Thoughts on the EU referendum

  1. I think you have high-lighted a big point in the IDS quote. This government (which could well be in charge for a loooong time to come is so very ideologically driven to permanently secure policies which facilitate the Market economy and the prosperity of the 1% regardless of the repercrgerussions f or the rest that I tremble at the prospect of our being left to their mercy. There would no longer be recourse to the Human Rights Act and the European court of Human Rights so I reckon the law would continue at an even faster pace to deepen our already divided society.
    I am afraid that we have already got so much evidence of the mendaciousness of many of the present cabinet in pursuit of their neo-liberal agenda, that I could not put any trust in any arguments they may use. We badly need independent advice. Even then, I reckon that there are bound to be a lot of unknowns before the decision is actually taken. So it is probably quite hard to categorically predict outcomes. At present the EU is very favourable to our government’s agenda and yet even so it does restrain them and with the possibility of larger numbers of opposing MEPs its whole influence and direction could change for the better. That is what Jeremy Corbyn hopes.

  2. “I don’t understand the view of some nationalists who want to be independent of the UK but not independent of the EU. If anyone can explain that one to me, I’d be most grateful.”

    I am surprised by this, perhaps a lot of people don’t understand the argument for devolution. I though this lack of understanding was merely unionist political spin.
    Personally I am in favour of independence for Wales, but would not describe myself as a nationalist. The argument is about democracy

    Devolutionists believe that political power should belong with the people, that power is granted to central bodies from local communities with consent (and can be withdrawn if necessary) and that decisions should be made as locally as practicable. The argument is that the Welsh economy could do better if freed from the restraints of a UK government that favours the financial sector (which is very small in Wales), amongst other factors. The UK keeps (mysteriously) electing Conservative governments, whose policies don’t help Wales or it’s economy. So, independence would free Wales to run it’s own economy , have representative government and improve it’s GDP.
    So, why do devolutionists want to remain in the EU? Because the EU is a slow cumbersome organisation. When it does make a policy is more general as it has to work across all of the EU, so tends to have a less negative effect on the Welsh economy than a UK decision. Also devolutionists like the idea of international cooperation
    Whilst devolutionists want democracy and local power, they are also internationalists who believe in cooperation for mutual benefit, to work together with neighbours and partners for mutual benefits, rather than be dictated to by centralised governments we have no influence over.
    So really, I seek an independent Wales in a heavily reformed, more democratic EU and a close relationship with rUK, working together for mutual advantage.
    It is a long answer, but I hope you would agree that there is an argument for leaving the UK, but remaining in the EU.
    If the UK was a fully federal, level playing field, I would not be arguing to leave as then the benefit of being a bigger state would be mutually advantageous. If the EU becomes more dictatorial I would advocate leaving that too. It all about the balance of power, whether the advantages outweigh the benefits, and they constantly change.
    I agree with you that this whole EU remain/leave referendum is not a simple question at all.