Sorry, folks, but the time has come for me to write about the EU referendum…
Twenty-three days to go until the EU Referendum, and I still don’t know which way I’m going to vote. This might come as a surprise to my friends, many of whom consider me a hopeless evil right winger who is “obviously going to do the wrong thing and vote leave”. My sister finds it very unhelpful, as she apparently considers the opposite of my political decisions a good guide for her own.
Here’s the thing: almost all the information I have received (without asking for it) has been a bit dodgy. First there was HM Government’s leaflet about why we should stay, complete with pictures of imports from China. The sincerity of this “government publication” was also undermined by the way senior members of the governing party are campaigning for the other side. The Tories have been fighting each other about Europe since before I was born, and they seem no closer to resolving their differences now than they were in 1988.
Then there was the leaflet from Stronger In Europe, carefully printed to look like some kind of official expert opinion rather than propaganda from one group. Most of the faces on it, as trade unionists of one sort or another, were not people whose opinions I give much weight to. But aha! Martin Lewis, there’s someone whose views I’ll trust. Except it turns out he didn’t give them permission to use that quote, and isn’t explicitly backing either side. Bother.
Dr Boris Adryan’s article on The Register today was interesting, if a bit rambling, but I find it hard to take anyone seriously who asserts that “to get into Oxford and Cambridge, you need to have money and the ability to speak and handwave in a very articulate way … you better had [sic] training from an expensive school and come from the right family background”. As I’ve written here before, my personal experience is that this just isn’t true. I’m sure some class-based elitism still exists in corners of Oxbridge, especially in arts subjects, but the scientists were definitely being admitted based on ability when I started, a decade ago this autumn. And if that ability is more frequently found in richer areas of the country, that’s more a reflection on our school system than Oxbridge.
Back to the subject. I instinctively dislike the EU. Its existence above government and outside the laws of any one nation allows it to behave in a similarly distasteful manner to some government departments in the UK, especially when it comes to not being held properly accountable for fraud and material error in its accounts. Companies have to be accountable to their shareholders and obey company law in their country of incorporation, but government departments and the EU can do what they like (comparatively).
I also feel like a net contribution of £163 million per week (source) is an awful lot of money, and I have no clear idea of what it’s funding. A fraud rate of 0.2% means £326,000 a week of our money is being wasted, though to be fair, I’m sure our own government is wasting much more.
NATO has done well at keeping the relative peace in Europe in recent history, and it would be a shame to upset all the other members at just the same time as Russia seems to be rattling its sabre the loudest since 1991.
Immigration is, in my book, largely a positive thing, and with our ageing population, having a net inward flow of young workers seems like a good idea. I think successive UK governments have done a pisspoor job of managing immigration, but that largely seems to be their fault, not the EU’s – as is the severe lack of housebuilding and the price bubble it has caused.
TTIP scares me, and the EU’s participation in the negotiations is a large black mark against it.
One of my pub one-liners about the EU is apparently out of date: the tampon tax is set to be scrapped, so at least someone in Brussels or Strasbourg is applying a bit of common sense.
All things considered, I’ll probably vote to stay. I’ll have to pinch my nostrils with distaste as I do so, but I doubt whether Britain is going to achieve a better quality of life for anyone if it leaves, and our own government will almost certainly waste any savings made.
Perhaps the biggest fault lies with Us The People, and we should be more politically engaged in holding both our government and the EU’s feet to the fire over issues which matter to us. I’ve got a bet on that turnout in the referendum will be lower than the last general election. And I really hope I lose it.