I haven’t changed my view on the EU: I have often denounced how it works but never advocated withdrawal from it. This is one of many situations in life where finding many faults with something is different from thinking it best to leave it.
– William Hague
On Thursday, Britain goes to the polls to make a decision on whether it should remain in the European Union or leave. I believe that the best outcome of this referendum will be for us to stay.
This is the biggest decision the country will have made in its recent history. I don’t expect anyone to read this post and me change their decision. Heaven knows, I would hope it wouldn’t change anyone’s mind because I won’t pretend to know everything about the subject. I hope, however, that anyone with a vote who reads this will at least think about their own decision.
The other reason is that my decision feels like a cop out. It feels like I’ve bottled it, and yet I’m comfortable with the decision because I don’t believe it to have been adversely affected by the emotion that appears to be inherent in the vast majority of reasons put forward to leave.
I have seen a few factual reasons put forward to leave. The first is that Britain “sends” £350m a week to Brussels. This is simply untrue, with the UK Statistics Authority placing the actual figure at £136m. What the Leave campaign also fail to mention when quoting this figure is that it is part of a business transaction that facilitates British trade. It is not simply £350m or £136m that we do not see again as it is given to our poorer neighbours.
That money “sent” to Europe is not the reason our NHS is suffering. Saving that money will only save the NHS if the Government chooses not to invest it in other areas that would be adversely affected by Britain leaving the European Union. That saved money will not stop the age of the population or the cost of treatments from rising. That saved money will also not directly be entering the pockets of you and I.
It is also not true that Turkey will be joining the European Union any time soon. Membership takes at least 15 years to achieve, and it bothers me when I see people with the intention of voting Leave because of the refusal of a Prime Minister who will not be in power at the time his opportunity to veto Turkey’s accession arrives.
I believe that the biggest issue that our leaders would face after a vote to remain is addressing immigration. While the majority or immigration in to the UK comes from India and Pakistan, EU migration to Britain is three times higher than our Prime Minister’s pledge at the last General Election. This does put a strain on our services where successive governments have failed to invest.
However, immigration has also helped this country. Everyone will have an opinion on its effect on culture, but its effect on the economy is seen in increased employment and increased revenues through taxation.
I strongly identify myself as English rather than British, let alone European. I am proud of my roots rather than being against any other moniker attached to my nationality. I value sovereignty as much as the next person, but membership to any group on any level at all diminishes individual power and authority within that group. That can be for the best and should not be anything to be scared of. It’s a natural consequence of betterment through community.
Regarding the economy, I believe that there are too many unknowns as a result of a possible Leave vote. I simply can not see factual basis for economic advantages of leaving. The Bank of England, the Institute For Fiscal Studies, the Treasury, the US Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation For Economic Co-operation And Development all agree that the British economy would be adversely affected by a Leave vote, both in the short and long term. Their opinions are good enough for me.
However, at the start of this post I mentioned that my opinion was a cop out. This is because I started at a vote to Remain before I did my research. I like to think I’m open minded, but I certainly started at Remain and I’ve seen nothing to change my opinion, while I’ve seen enough to reaffirm my initial belief. I started with believing it better the Devil I know.
I can see the Remain campaign cede points, recognising a less than perfect situation even if they emerge victorious on Thursday. I don’t see similar concessions from the Leave campaign and, for me, this diminishes their authenticity. They state advantages based on mere opinion or possibility in the face of overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary. The European Union has its flaws. It is democratically unaccountable and it is as unpopular amongst member states such as Germany and Spain as it is in Britain. It has challenges that it needs overcome and this provides Britain with an opportunity which I believe to be far greater than any opportunity to go it alone.
I see emotional decisions based on people’s dislike of Polish shops on their high street or Romanians picking their vegetables in a field at a cold and wet 5am. I see emotional decisions based on a war 75 years ago, the very war that planted the seeds of the European Union and thus creating a trade bloc greater than those in China and the United States. I also see emotion in my own decision.
The thing that scares me about the Leave campaign and a Leave vote is that its foundations seem to be in a certain anti-establishmentism which is seen as being sexy and exciting in today’s modern Britain where the status quo is boring and mundane. The Leave campaign seem to believe that they stand for Freedom And Adventure In To The Unknown that would remedy all of Britain’s ills.
Staying the same, whatever the advantages, is seen as a negative in itself. It’s seen as a sign of weakness and a lack of courage and belief in ability to progress, but surely the greater strength is recognising that something has faults and that the advantages of working through those is a far greater opportunity than leaving them be? Remain done right provides far greater opportunity in the future than Leave done right.
Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?
Oh, won’t you stay with me?
‘Cause you’re all I need
This ain’t love, it’s clear to see
But darling, stay with me.
Stay With Me by Sam Smith