On the UK EU Referendum

A Briton’s view — Speaking from the continent

Let me begin with a plea — not that you vote one way or the other (necessarily) — but that you take a step back from the campaign’s furore to make a well informed and well thought-through decision for yourself.

When looking at the EU situation may I ask that you gather for yourselves factual pronouncements; and please do your best, whether listenting to or spouting out words, to stop soothsaying, prophesying and projecting what will happen. I’ve seen a lot of assuredness blurted-out by politicians that are, on inspection, simply overconfident and gratuitous assertions. Assertions lacking in substantial foundation of much merit, if any at all. The contemporary lingo goes as follows,

“I am sure” or “I know for sure that […] the referendum will lead to [blank]”.

& classics like,

“do you really think that [blank] will stop [blank] because we choose to leave the EU, come on really…?”.

I’ve seen people make throwaway statements that beggar belief regarding just how sure they are that everything will be a-okay — in fact — they say, everything will definitively be better than it is now. Not just ok, but better. How the heck can anyone know that with any true surety? I certainly don’t, I don’t claim to know what will happen on an [inter]national scale tomorrow (let alone for the next few generations). I can hypothesise, with a type of guarantee that grants my following assertion:

Consider what we may come to miss as a nation, if we were to leave an entity, wherein the evidence of what is there (i.e. the benefits of membership) have already been seen (as in the benefits we continue to draw from our membership).
In simpler terms: as it stands we are Europeans and a massive part of the EU no matter the point of view one may hold — we are a major player in the global arena and the EU, we have a voice.

What we decide on the 23rd of June will certainly affect the aforementioned generation’s inheritance and relation to the rest of the world — that’s for sure, please think about this — taking into account those coming after us helps one posit a correct view of the future – we do not live in a contemporary-vacuum, as such the making of rash decisions based on a choice-risk will affect the future, when perhaps that needn’t be the case.

For factual [re]examination of the referendum before polling day — See: http://infacts.org

I wonder how this post will read once the referendum is over?

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May I quickly remind any friends and acquaintances I have, in Britain, that we live in a globalised world, like it or not, this is our situation. Don’t hear me wrongly, the local is relevant in building community and rootedness but the local contends with, and has to cooperate with the global. The computer you are viewing this article on, was unlikely produced or made in the UK. Parts will have come from across the world, assembled somewhere else (perhaps even in multiple places) and then delivered across the seas in vast containers to your person [potentially via Rotterdam or Antwerp ports — two of the largest in the world. The UK has a relatively large one to its name… Felixstowe]. Another example of the effect of global interconnectedness might be the British consumption of Dutch (& often also Danish) Pork:

Dutch Pork, in particular, the back bacon variety, is found in many British supermarkets. The back bacon cut is remarkably hard to find in Dutch supermarkets, where I live, as it’s not a piece of meat that is popular here. A British staple, the national bacon butty, the national bacon sarnie is delivered across the North Sea from elsewhere, in part, because of mutual economic cooperation. On a more playful note I have eaten British back bacon recently, but in the Netherlands. I purchased it in The Hague’s ‘Marks and Spencer’. The flagship store of M&S in Holland — another example of EU cooperation. M&S had direct access to both the Dutch and French market; think of M&S’ Amsterdam or Paris branches all a part of the EU’s single market.

So already we see some benefits of being a member of the EU either directly or indirectly. I hope, at least, that we can read the rest of this from the viewpoint of an interconnected world in which the West is a part. The EU is a part. The UK is a part, as is an area of it called England, the place where I grew up.

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My Referendum Equation

Remain = status quo + potential for change [+ future uncertainty] + strong voice.
Leave = change + potential for problems and/or ease + strong/weak voice [+ definite future uncertainty].

As far as I understand it:

From Remain I’ve seen a lot of reactionary rhetoric, some of it snide, mainly negative quasi-intellectualism. From Leave I’ve seen a lot of assumption-making and ephemeral references to ‘sovereignty’ alongside island-mentality-retardation. Both induce feelings and thoughts of fear and creeping dread as the world begins to plummet. I guess we should be excited though right?

Forage for nuances in my argumentation if you will; this is my equation. I believe that risk, for the sake of risk, is unnecessary and massively irresponsible. The referendum feels like going all-in on a bluff in poker (of which no-one at the poker-table quite knows the outcome). I have a vested interest in staying in the EU as a Brit — I live in the Netherlands, so I will do my best to develop some reasoned bias.

The future is always uncertain…

[not taking into account holistic world-views (See: Eternity)]

…but some things do ‘remain’ and it is best to stick by things that promote equality, fairness and cooperation over superiority (this is the British colonial/holiday hangover or something of the like), unfairness (look at the state of the UK’s poor and impoverished (See: Increase in food banks / Conservative financial robbery of the working and middle classes — should I go on?) and isolationism (pertaining to an acute supremacist-delusionism). The majority of those voting to leave are older, but logically, they will be the first of us to pass away, for too long past generations have leached off those born after them [think of baby boomers leaching Gen X and Millennial inheritance; making the standard costs of life prohibitive]. How is this a sustainable model? Just look at the percentages of those in their 20s who simply cannot leave their parental home.

The ones getting robbed of a future are the ones who aren’t voting for one. Please, if you are young, vote towards a community that will exist alongside (and as) your own — rather than ‘voting parochially’ towards a community as far from your own as you can possibly make it.

future = uncertain “FULLSTOP” ( fullstop = ‘.’ ) ∴ future = uncertain .

[My worldview takes everlastingness into account, as such the future is not entirely uncertain, however for the sake of any discussion on the referendum we can stick to its macro-uncertainty].

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As someone who is British by nationality, half Dutch by blood, I live on the continent and I’m regularly crossing national borders. I’ll be pissed off if a group of islanders (of which I am a legitimate constituent part) get to determine (from afar — yes this concept works in reverse) the following:

  • That my travel should be made harder.
  • That my legal status should be made dubious.
  • And that my voice might be minimised in the part of the world in which I live.

It doesn’t feel fair considering how nothing is particularly broken — regarding the purposes of the EU (i.e. to stop food shortages, to reduce violent political unrest, to avoid energy shortages, to cease inadequate sanitation. to put roofs above heads). The EU is politically broken in places —not socially broken in its entirety.

By the way, I do believe the EU is notbaly broken in a systemic sense; it over reaches its political power in certain ways, it is demonstrably bureaucratic and often misses the mark. But, please, if you can, give me an example of a democratic environment that doesn’t display these characteristics. This is a side effect of the system in which we live. I long for the UK and the EU to succeed, to bring about good in the world, to be a force for peace (See: No major internal European wars within the EU region). Don’t bother forgiving my idealism or hope. The Leave campaign is based on hope which could quickly become a nations folly. The Remain campaign should be more hopeful — with only about two weeks left to do so; perhaps their folly is in having been so combative in tone and style.

Being a Eurosceptic doesn’t mean its best to leave — I’m not sure I am a Eurosceptic — I benefit from it every single day of my life, I like that. I also believe that If you have a problem you have to face it, not flee from it. Nigel Farage had a positive, existential-niggle at the EU parliament every time he stood up and spoke. I often agreed and disagreed with him (on different points of view considering what he exclaimed) [Is he as racist as the left make him out to be? (He has a Deutsch Frau, Kristen). // Is he as forthright as the right make him out to be? I don’t think it matters here]. The point being I am sure that a critical voice is necessary (if not always socially welcome) in an economic and political arena such as the EU.

In Shakespeare’s work we see the trope of the madman let loose in society, so that those who were normal, might once in a while, look at themselves, and their views, and check what they thought they knew (or felt) about the nature of existence – the human condition. Its outworking kept the things of life in check, in both philosophical and practical ways…

…In our neoliberal environment, we reflect very little on the nature of situations we find ourselves in, as independent nation states, or from the EU as a whole. If the UK stays in the EU, why shouldn’t we be the strange weirdo who makes helpful remarks and poses constructive criticism whilst continuing to benefit from the EU’s tenets? (Looking to see the improvement of life for many people). Importantly, I totally disagree with the tenets of UKIP. A purple and yellow poster with a cross through the European stars littered an A road in the town I used to inhabit growing up. You know purple acts as a symbol for luxury and nobility right? Thats why Cadburys chocolate is so enticing even though its incomparable to its similarly priced Swiss and Belgian alternatives. Purple also seems to represent decadence, or its disingenuous cousin — pomposity. In my thoughts I always leant toward the latter when passing by that poster. Pomposity, pride and independency will not lead to economic stability for British people.

Say what you will, I am British and represent Britain as best I can where I live now and wherever I might live in the future; I just hope that the land where I come from doesn’t prove to be as silly and spoilt as its beginning to sound like it is. This is evident in the news and from copious blog posts online. It will be unfortunate if the UK drifts off to sea, for its citizens and Europe’s citizens as a whole.

Just remember, whatever you shout for as a British person on the 23rd of June, whatever the applause, there will be no curtain call in the aftermath.

Oh, and, by the way, we have control of our borders (See: Calais / Jonathan Pie).

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EU referendum issues guide (BBC, 2016)

The points below are drawn directly from both sides of the argument posed in the above article. However, the points I have made are mixed with personal, experiential, appropriately-anecdotal and factual information to further my point of view (which should have started to become clear sometime ago).

If you can[’t] be bothered to think the referendum’s outcomes through please consider the following issues:

Consumer Affairs:

Millions benefit from standardisation (through diversification). The competitive single market raises the quality of goods. Flights — just cheap flights — it goes without saying.

Cost of Membership:

If you want to play tennis at the club and desire to have a say in how the club is run — pay up. When-excrement-hits-the-fan join the others in doing something about it. Share the load, don’t believe in some strange innate superiority complex whereby you get what you want without paying for it. If we left the EU we would still have to dish out the cash (See: Norway etc.).

Education and Research:

The EU values multi-disciplinary education. STEM becomes STEAM, diversity of knowledge is championed, thus science (alongside other areas of knowledge) is given proper placement. The Leavers want to put saved EU funding/spending into scientific advancement — what a neoliberally’ acceptable manoeuvre — keep championing science without qualifying that method of ‘advancement’ (See: Anything by Paul Virilio or Jean-Pierre Dupuy). I guess that will be so the county can ‘grow’ out of its problems through use of technological advancement? Forget morals, ethics or considerations of the human condition. If it makes money, do it right?

I used to study in Cardiff (in recent times the city has essentially been built on the back of EU funding [Look at The Bay area regeneration, or Wales’ chunk of the millions going towards research funding at Universities across the UK] — and believe me London would never [have] redirect[ed] money to South Wales without the EU steering some of those resources). A large % of my colleagues on the PGCE [PCET] came from other European nations. Art school too. Erasmus is cool right? Cross-cultural pollination and the like.

I also studied at Leiden University, The Netherlands for my MA. This cost me a grand total of around €1,700 per annum. Basically zilch when compared to the UK — imagine the [potential] increase in student fees were the UK to leave a community that reflects the extortion of exorbitant fees back to itself helping it (the UK in this instance) to consider other options.

Energy and Environment:

Emissions will gradually decrease alongside an increase of quality in air and water [intentionality through legislation points us in this direction]. If the UK leaves, prices for energy resources will peak (perhaps not exponentially) but significantly because other nations can and will increase them. Codependency helps us to share economic resources across the EU’s member states.

Agriculture and Food:

EU subsidies account for 50% of British farming incomes — the sector may go into a recession after the Referendum causing instability and unemployment in probably the most important area of common need. Eating and drinking — food and water. Just under three-quarters of our agricultural exports go to the EU. We still have enough fish. (See: Other-island-folk everybody’s favourite homogenous nation, Japan).

Global Role:

EU membership = (As it is currently) a strong, loud voice (I don’t see why Leave choose to argue that we will have a louder, stronger voice out of the EU? Why? What evidence is there for that idea? — I am not arguing that our voice will grow as part of the EU — just that at least it will not diminish). I live in a country where, because I am European, I have a voice [a British one at that]. Leaving would make the UK an island that no longer has a Empire-commonwealth that owes them anything plus an economy that hardly exports anything of worth (See: 70s 80s & 90s Industrial decline), except food (which, you guessed it, is mostly exported to the EU!). If we leave (I have heard) it will take a minimum of two years to negotiate devolution from the EU on a logistical level; during that time immigration policy will remain essentially the same. Existential threats are dealt with together (Europol, shared intelligence etc.); I would prefer this to be increasingly so rather than less so. (See: Less than perfect Swiss and German/French border police cooperation).

Immigration:

At the moment you or I have the right to live and work in any member state. I do; I live in Holland. Please don’t (likely) take my rights away. Why does my future get to be decided upon via a referendum that I did not ask for. It will be the country of my birth that decides where I stay now. I am an immigrant to Holland. My grandparents were immigrants to the UK. The single market requires freedom of movement. I like being able to move, freely, to other EU nations. (Again See: Calais, we have control of our external borders, we are an island — it isn’t particularly difficult — Schengen isn’t administered in the UK). 400 million people can travel across Europe freely. We are worried about 300,000 immigrants of which around 50% are coming to the UK from the EU. The Office for national statistics does not consider the change ’statistically significant’ — Net migration wasn’t mush different back in 2007 for example. When Leave argue that immigrants are taking jobs from the other 65 million people in the country — I don’t grasp their logic. Plus people coming to the UK is a sure fire sign we are worth coming to. Leaving the EU and putting up a ‘Closed’ sign will surely make us less competitive in the long run.

Policing and Security:

Entry to Britain can be blocked, legally and (in physical terms) easily. We are not part of Schengen. Cooperation with foreign policing does prove to convict more criminals.

Sovereignty and Laws:

As far as I am concerned the UK is already like an ‘abusive boyfriend’ to its ‘girlfriend’, the EU. It vetoes all sorts (often on good or neutral matters); it has plenty of (pretty terrific) opt out clauses,

“you give me what I want, I will give you none of those things back”…

…‘Pay us agricultural subsidies but don’t tell us anything about how to farm our land’ type attitudes; The UK can block legislation whenever it feels the need. In fact, regarding legislation we have got our way 2,466 times against a measly 56; these are considerably good odds. Honestly, most of the laws the EU ask nation states to perform are designed to benefit European people. In the 70s we complained (as the Brits do, in fact as I am doing now) that the EU were telling us how loud our lawn mowers could be.

“How dare they regulate our expression of sound!”

— who wants loud lawnmowers? I digress, definitely.

Economic Trade:

The UK is more dependent on the EU than it realises. More Euros - € are traded in London than anywhere else on earth — the UK uses the Pound Sterling - £! I gather those in the Leave camp would prefer Frankfurt, Paris, Luxembourg or Amsterdam. Look at Switzerland. Is Zurich a bigger player than London or Frankfurt? (Nope) and Switzerland doesn’t adhere to EU regulations because it isn’t in the EU. By the way, Zurich plays by EU rules when it accesses the single market. To debunk my own contrarian viewpoint do remember that we live in a globalised world whereby Zurich, London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam have more in common with each other than say Birmingham, Leeds and London. I would prefer it if the UK stayed connected and benefitted from its already privileged position in the global world. Why are we throwing out the economic baby with the economic bathwater.

The EU creates a communal space and thus encourages the free movement of goods (bacon), services (M&S retail), capital (£-to-€ and back and forth across the banking infrastructure), and workers (someone like you or I).

Work and Pay:

Workers have some guaranteed rights due to the EU. I’d like those working for cooperation between EU member states and the UK (an EU member state) to remain in their jobs working within the EU — all 3 million of them. Holiday pay and maternity leave are massive contributors regarding the health and wellbeing of populations. The UK, I argue, is already overworked and has a lot less options for part-time work in comparison with where I live and other neighbouring countries. I love how the EU by sharing its wealth invests in itself in areas of key need or areas of extreme growth. Lets keep that going by remaining part of the sharing of working rights and decent pay.

Travel and Living Abroad:

The most pertinent subject for me. Over 1 million Brits live in other EU nations. I am one of those one million. I may not have to leave the country I now live in (were the UK to leave the EU), however I have no idea whether I could freely move to another EU country from this one whenever the time came. I wish I had a guarantee for these things but I don’t. This is a simple, “if it ain’t (too) broke don’t fix it” situation.

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Selected References:

http://infacts.org [a set of facts on why Britain should stay in the EU].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNu8XDBSn10 [a helpful breakdown of the makeup of the UK].

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36027205 [Attempted neutral reasoning].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgzO4ZAH_2Q [Satire but difficult to debunk].

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y91IHg72sls [See end of video].

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/migrationstatisticsquarterlyreport/may2016/previous/v1#main-points [Office for National Statistics on migration].


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@ Marc Thomas Thanks for introducing me to Medium (by proxy) through your writing and posting about the site.