So having watched Michael Gove slither his way through his speech today, this is my current thinking on the EU referendum:
No one knows. Both campaigns are based entirely on conjecture and wishful thinking. At least Leave do have some optimism about the view of the future they’re trying to peddle: more money by not supporting the EU funds, freedom to make excellent utopian laws to rule the country while indulging in cheerful open trade with a grateful Europe. Of course this is all fantasy but at least in the vision they sell there’s a lovely sunset. And no foreigners.
Vote Remain has been dubbed Project Fear and, fair play to them, so far they’re very much on message. Currently, they only have a bunch of economists, unions, companies and political leaders signed up to say how terrible it would be if we left, but what would they know? On balance, despite the fact that their arguments often seem to boil down to better the devil you know, they are probably right and do seem to be backed up by people who you’d expect to know their stuff when you read that list again.
Worryingly, it seems people are currently more inclined to indulge their fantasies than face their fears.
What the Remain campaign needs to do is re-frame the argument from “Hey look at the very green grass over there in Norway,” to something that does a better job of advocating the positives of the EU for peace, jobs, rights, culture and trade. Almost everything that the 20th century has been good for has been possible thanks to the progression and stability brought by a continent in harmony.
What the Remainers must also do is most distasteful particularly to Cameron, and that’s engage with the imported elephant in the room that seems to be marauding its way across the whole debate - immigration. Corbyn has started making the case but someone needs to emphasise how important immigration has been for our economy and will be in the future. How new immigrants are far more like to be a Spanish doctor than a Polish plumber, how migrants contribute far more to the economy than they take out (by ~£4bn) and how all of the treasury forecasts are based on sustained increases in population even for the this Tory government who claim to hate them.
Because who really wants to give in to the false “dirty foreigners coming over here, stealing our jobs from hard working families” brigade and end up listening to Nigel Farage celebrating victory for the curvature of English cucumbers free from Brussels interference for the next twenty years?
My strongest reasons for staying in:
- Whenever anything major happens in the world, the stock markets contract — they don’t like change, they fear it and like a threatened turtle, retract into their shell. I wish it wasn't so but our lives and economy are governed by the markets so leaving would have an immediate and prolonged impact on our national finances. The only questions then, are how hard and how long this contraction would be and what the UK finances would look like on the other side. Fantasy says short and low impact with a golden future after. Fear says long and deep with a permanent setback to fiscal health.
- If we vote out, this will dominate the next decade and probably shape the rest of my life. I am frankly pretty happy with how the EU works, its direction and the benefits it brings and would need some massive imperative in order to contemplate leaving. We certainly have many bigger issues facing the nation than creating a crisis in Europe.
- Every other developing or developed nation on earth wants to be part of something bigger, to gain the free trade and group bargaining capabilities that come with being allowed into a consortium. Why would we give these up based on some outdated BNP-lite version of “sovereignty” which doesn't actually mean anything to anyone?
- It’s just one more reason in a sea of anger but I really hate Cameron for putting us through this all. I can only guess that he was thinking of his legacy when he came up with the amazing plan to gamble all our futures on this vote for something he doesn't even believe in. Consolidate the Tory Euro-sceptics vote by offering them the golden chance they've wanted since ‘75 but win to settle the matter for a generation. I suspect his arrogance didn't really allow him to contemplate the option of losing and where the country would be then, let alone his precious legacy.
A Tory-made mess, currently being fought on the front lines by the most unctuous Tory bigwigs to try and placate a bunch of rebel Tories — yet the future stability, security and prosperity of the country is at stake and the direction of the next generation’s hopes dreams and aspirations are on the line.
I personally hope we’ll back an optimistic but realistic future inside the EU.