The EU Referendum
On Thursday 23rd June the UK will vote on whether to remain a member of the EU or leave the community. It is possibly the biggest political, economic and social issue that I have voted on in my lifetime and both outcomes have the potential for both positive and negative effects upon the country and its future. As you would imagine with an issue of this magnitude, the pros and cons on both sides of the debate are complex. Immigration, security, trade, financial stability are some of the factors involved that shape people’s opinions. Then there are more nebulous concepts like sovereignty and nationalism that influence voter’s perspective. Whereas the logistical and administrative arguments are far more couched in facts and data, the more emotive issues are driven more by tribal politics and feelings. I’m not a fan of either.
Over the next one hundred and twenty or so days both campaigns will vie for the public’s attention. Those who have already made up their minds which way they intend to vote are not really relevant in terms of the campaigning that will be conducted. It is those who have yet to make up their minds that will hold the balance. For such people (myself included) to make an informed choice, there is a requirement for clear and succinct data. I would like to be presented with comprehensive fact based arguments from both sides. I would also like to see measured and impartial discussions by the UK media. Sadly none of this is going to happen. The UK press, especially the newspapers are biased and both respective campaigns seem to be focusing on soundbites based upon fear. It seems that the referendum will be determined by lowest common denominator politics.
I’ve read the opinions of many ardent supporters from both sides of the debate and am very much bemused by the idealism and naivety exhibited. A common refrain is that of “unelected officials” and having to endure the governance by parties one didn’t vote for. But this is something that the majority of the electorate currently endure already from our own existing Parliamentary system. I also do not understand why some quarters are more trusting of our own politicians than those of the EU. A UK government free from such EU rules as the Human Rights Act and Working Time Directive could potentially act with impunity and to the detriment of many an employee. UK governments of all political persuasions have hardly acted with integrity or for the benefit of all over the last three decades. I would also add that he stay campaigns fixation on security and defence is also spurious. The UK whether in or out of the EU is still a major player in both NATO and the UN.
However what we have learned over recent months is not to put too much stock in opinion polls and market research. The Scottish Independence referendum appeared to be going in one direction at one point, as did predictions for a hung parliament in last May’s UK general election. The public is less free with information about their voting preferences these days and may well continue to play its cards close to its chest. This is hardly surprising as some of the more vocal members of the public seem to be far from tolerant of differing views. Look at any comment section of a news website covering the EU referendum and you’ll find hyperbole, invective and a general lack of respect. I see that Patriotism is now being trotted out as an argument from some quarters of the leave campaign. Need I quote Samuel Johnson?
At present not only do I find myself considering my own position on the referendum itself but also whether I will be able to personally endure any potentially negative consequences that may ensue, regardless which decision prevails. If there are economic problems at a later date, will my own personal circumstances be sufficient to insulate me from any financial fallout? It is worrying to have to think in such terms and only adds further to the entire negative ambience of this entire campaign. Perhaps for the sake of balance it would help to consider on some more light hearted questions that stem from this debate. If the UK leaves the EU does that mean we will no longer be able/have to participate in the Eurovision Song contest? Also does a successful Brexit mean that the UK Independence Party’s work is done and it will cease to operate? There’s precious little levity in contemporary UK politics, so let us enjoy a little now. I’m sure in three months’ time all vestige of humour will be gone from the EU referendum debate and fear and loathing will be the default response from most quarters.