I’d rather not vote at all. This referendum has polarized British society and brought out horrible and dark sentiments for no purpose other than to satisfy David’s Cameron’s political miscalculation. But we are where we are. And Jo Cox MP is now tragically dead.
There are of course many things that are wrong with the EU and its institutions and working practices. But the same can be said for democracy itself. It is the least bad system we have for both preventing a repeat of the horrors of Europe’s 20th century and for confronting the challenges of our own age.
The European Union is not just an economic union and a massive free trade area but also a place of solidarity and joint endeavor. Never have we needed this more given the threats we face – climate change, a newly aggressive Russia, terrorism, the Middle East crisis, the refugee crisis, and the financial crisis that we are only just now recovering from and the rise and rise of China.
The workings of the EU may be slow and ponderous and appear to lurch from crisis to crisis but by and large the crises are resolved. The politics of consensus and compromise are clumsy and the problems we face are complex. But these are not addressed by some faceless bureaucratic clique but by our national political representatives in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
I personally am happy to share a degree of sovereignty because it is both in Britain’s interest and in the interest of Europe as a whole. As to the free movement of EU peoples this has clearly been beneficial for the UK economy at an aggregate level. But it has brought problems and costs. Our domestic politicians on all sides have been slow to wake up to these and tend to dismiss them as ‘marginal’. But some communities have born more of these ‘marginal’ costs whilst others have garnered all the advantages. That is not fair and needs to be addressed and corrected.
To be frank, our metropolitan elite has been cloth-eared on this one and treated those concerned by migration with a lack of dignity and respect that is reprehensible. But pandering to racism is no solution either.
Migration and immigration are processes that need to be better managed both domestically and at a European level. This was something that was clearly recognized by Jo Cox MP. But whilst leaving the EU and shunning even membership of the European Economic Area (if it could be secured – which is doubtful) might give the UK control of migration as what cost would this come?
And do you really think that when the tap of EU labour is tightly closed the people that called for its closure are going to welcome an increase in non-EU migrants and labourers with open arms? Who then will keep the NHS and our care homes open? Who pick our fruit and harvest our veg? Who drive the vans and staff the restaurants and warehouses?
Yes. More needs to be done to help those who want to work to access work (although employment rates have never been higher). And more needs to be done to support those stuck in a life of benefit dependency to break that cycle. And still more needs to be done to build public housing and increase the housing supply. But that is not the fault of the EU. These are domestic political decisions.
And, lastly, I don’t believe for one minute that Farage, Gove or Johnson will actually be keen on any migration, particularly if brought to power by a Brexit vote. By then the public mood will be such that there will be no easy going back to nice laissez faire Britain. Or even matey points-system Australia.
I am very scared of what will happen to this country if we leave the EU. A broad consensus of economists believes that short-term recession and long-term uncertainty and a slowdown in growth will result. Britain and its famed soft power and persuasiveness is already diminished in the world by our ‘suicidal’ referendum and the brutal murder of Jo Cox MP. To be outside of the political heft of the EU will further diminish us and there is a very good chance that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom if we Brexit.
I don’t want to live in a declining Little England of bitter and impoverished citizens who hark back to a long gone and, to be brutally honest, not that nice golden age of Empire and colonialism while our welfare state and trade relations crumble around our ears.
I think I understand that urge to give the ‘Establishment’ a kicking by voting leave. We’ve had long years of austerity and our society is riven by inequalities. And I think I understand the fear of more and more immigration and migration. I have my own concerns about this and the way that the negative impacts are not being addressed. And I don’t want Britain to be seen as a soft touch.
But just because people are angry is it really so wise to rush across the busy road of global trade blindfold with no idea where we are going?
After all, we’re not dealing with some abstract niceties here but the value of the pounds in our pockets and the economic health of our lovely and largely peaceful middle ranking nation.
Anyone who really thinks that the brief advantage of not paying into the EU will not be wiped out by recession (whether it be short or long-term) has, I think, been sadly and deliberately misled by people who should know better or who are driven by naked political ambition or an ideology (and often an ugly one at that) that cares nought for the welfare of the man and woman in the street, let alone their children.
So I’m sticking with the status quo, boring and relatively safe though it is. I‘ve done some reckless things in my time but this decision is just too important for recklessness. Once done it will be done for good. And if we leave they will not have us back.
If there is one video to watch on UK/EU relations I would suggest this very sober analysis by Professor Michael Dougan.
Thanks for passing by.
My blog post hot off the press on Solidarity, Self Interest and the UK contribution to the EU budget - what is it and what it for?