Last week, I voted by post to Leave the European Union.
I have several reasons why I believe that leaving the EU is in the best interests of the United Kingdom.
Firstly, democracy. I have listened with great interest to both sides of the debate on this topic. On one hand the Leave campaign argues that there are 4 EU Presidents, who we (the general population of Europe) have no way of holding accountable for their decisions and actions, and no way of recalling them. On the other side, the Remain campaign argues that they are elected by the Council of Europe, and the European Parliament votes on legislation.
My view? I believe in democracy as an absolute principle. There is no room for “that’ll do”, or “our mandate is enough”. The fact is that a democracy only really works when the people who are governing us are directly answerable to us. I also fundamentally disagree with the notion of the EU rejecting referendum results, and forcing national Governments into brutal austerity regimes (cough cough Greece cough cough), against the will of the people who elected them. That’s not even undemocratic – that’s anti democratic!
Admittedly this is just a very brief summary of my thoughts on the democracy issue; I could rant on about it for ages. Democracy was without a doubt my number one reason for voting Leave. Now you might say that to Leave is to give in on it, and that reform is possible. I don’t think it is possible. The reforms that David Cameron obtained were, on the grand scale of things, miniscule, and did very little to increase the accountability and transparency of the EU. Yes, he achieved some concessions for the United Kingdom, but what about the other 500 million citizens of the EU? If another country faced a similar situation to Greece, they would likely receive the exact same treatment. Lessons have not been learnt. The scale of reform that would be required for me to drop my concerns in this area are quite drastic, and I suspect would be laughed out of the room by the leadership of the EU.
Secondly (and I won’t linger on this point too long as it’s divisive), Immigration. I am pro-immigration. I’m well aware that immigrants contribute more to our society and economy than they take away, and I’m well aware that our beloved NHS is heavily reliant on immigrants. I seriously do wish we could take in more people, particularly from war torn areas of the world.
HOWEVER… what I cannot bring myself to support is the current immigration policy, which discriminates based upon whether you are from the EU or not. The ability of an immigrant to contribute to our society is not dependent on where they are from. Now you could say that “yes well why don’t we offer other immigrants the right to freedom of movement?”. To which I say: be realistic! No government is ever going to completely open up the borders. It would be political suicide. We have to base our arguments on what is reasonable and sensible, and I firmly believe that only by leaving the EU can we offer equal rights to all immigrants who want to live here, regardless of where they might be from.
Thirdly, the economy. I fully take on board the experts advice that a vote to Leave the EU would destabilise the economy. What I say to that is: short term pain for long term gain. By leaving the EU, we can negotiate trade deals with as many countries around the world as we wish. We can grow our economy out of the ashes and build more sustainable growth that is not dependent on the success of a nearby economic and political body. We can also ensure that the economy that we build is fairer, and much more resilient to whatever shockwaves that the global economy might send our way. Out of chaos, would inevitably emerge order, and a stronger long term future for our country. This view may be unrealistic to some of you, but I believe that we as a country are strong, resourceful, and we work bloody hard when we need to.
These are not my only reasons why I believe we would be better to leave the EU, but they are the central reasons. I have looked at a wide range of arguments, including: the environment, human rights and more specifically workers rights, higher education, and many others. In some cases, I have had to acknowledge that in the short term, yes, it would be challenging to say the least, but in those cases we can build and grow out of that. That is the task of multiple governments over multiple decades, and impossible to achieve within one single Parliamentary term.
I’ve watched both referendum campaigns in great detail and scrutinised their arguments, and also their strategies. Neither campaign has been perfect – that much is clear. I deplore “that poster”, I deplore the lack of a plan from the Leave campaign, I deplore all the misinformation from both sides, and I also deplore Project Fear from the Remain campaign. I made a conscious decision not to receive updates on my Facebook news feed from either side, so did not like either page (though I did see their sponsored ads).
What I also fundamentally disagree with is people (and plenty of my friends have done this) who have belittled the other side of the debate, calling those voters “idiotic”, “uneducated” etc. I will fully acknowledge also that some of the leading figures of the Leave campaign can be considered to be racist and or fascist, but that is no justification to label all Leave voters as such.
Union Southampton has taken a democratic stance to support the Remain campaign. I have fully respected that stance from the start, and completely understand the reasons for that. My position set out in this blog post is entirely personal, and I have declared it in the interests of openness. This is not intended to persuade you to vote in a certain way tomorrow. All I ask is that you respect my decision, and basically, don’t hate!
In terms of what I think will happen, I genuinely have no idea of the outcome – it’s too close to call. If we do vote to Leave, I don’t see how the Conservative Party can continue to govern in its current form, given how the party is split down the middle. There are some pundits who believe that a Leave vote could lead to a General Election before the end of the year, at which point Labour would hopefully be elected, and would take charge of negotiations to Leave the EU. This to me is the ideal scenario as we would have a socialist government in charge of sorting out the mess, which would, I believe, lead to a fairer society for all. Admittedly, there is a slim chance of this being the case, but that’s politics – there’s only ever a slim chance of each individual getting the perfect result for them.
This will be my only, and final statement on the matter, and I will not be commenting further. Please bear that in mind if you choose to comment, as I will not respond to any public comments or questions. I will, of course, respond to private messages, as long as they are not hateful of me just because of my views on this matter.