Bit off topic for me, but the Brexit debate is so important, perhaps the most important question for our generation, that it can’t go ignored. For the communities hardest hit by the effects of immigration, I respectfully acknowledge why you want to vote in favour of Brexit. But for the rest of you, there’s no excuse:
Don’t become your grandchildren’s embarrassed secret
Boris was on the right lines invoking Hitler but he got the analogy wrong. Forget his repellent comparison, likening the EU’s noble ideals to the goals of a mad dictator. (Boris, really…?) But there are parallels. During the 1930s Hitler told the Germans the Jews were the source of all their woes; removing them was therefore the logical solution. Substitute EU for Jews and it sounds eerily familiar to the Brexiteer’s argument today. Those faceless bureaucrats are to blame, it’s the EU forcing regulations on us, supplanting our Parliament, taking our money, over-running our services etc. The EU has become a useful whipping post for all our concerns. But be warned folks, remember the adage, no matter which party you vote for, the government always wins? Getting rid of the EU won’t mean less red tape or fewer regulations. Or even solve the immigration crisis. Read Matthew Parris expand on this theme here.
Do it for the Germans
We’ve had 70 good years of taking the piss out of the Germans. They deserved it of course but isn’t it time to move on from baiting them? They desperately want us to stay in and their Der Spiegel have even written us a charming love-letter, lauding our music, cultural and political influence on the continent. Read it. As you’d expect from the Germans, there are some very very logical arguments for staying. “The 20th century showed that everyone benefits when Britain faces up to problems instead of running away.” Still not convinced? Ask serial German baiter Jeremy Clarkson. Even he thinks we’re better off alongside team Germany. Vorsprung durch Technik. Imagine what they could do for our football if we let them.
But don’t underestimate them either
Time and again we hear those Germans will be all to quick to agree favourable trade deals with us. Maybe. Maybe not. The Brits aren’t the only ones to think about this debate in emotional terms. And what is very dear to the German heart, even more than sensible rationalism, is the European project. They won’t like us leaving the family and Mama Merkel’s priority will be to keep the European family together at all costs. Britain can expect, if not pariah status, at least a cold shoulder. After all, an example needs to be made to the other naughty children in case they have similar ideas.
Us Remainers despair over much of what goes on in Brussels as everyone else. European judges having supremacy over the our own? The unforeseen demands of mass immigration on local services? But the solution is not to pull up the drawbridge and give Brussels a bloody nose, mainly because it offers no solution. The problems of immigration are going to continue whether we’re in the EU or not because this is a pan-global problem and it’s going to get worse with global warming and continued instability in the Middle East. (And if the Australian ‘points style’ system is so amazing, why don’t we use if for the 188,000 immigrants who come to the UK every year from outside the EU. And incidentally, they have very high levels of immigration. Read this.)
Mass migration demands a European response not just a childish #notourproblem one. We used to own France. We used to run a fucking empire for heaven’s sake! We could absolutely lead the charge in reforming the EU if we so pleased. Why is the Sun so pathetically insular?
The only people who stand to gain are the lawyers
This is a divorce and it could get messy. But it’s a divorce where the partners are absolutely not free to pursue their own lives; they’re still tethered, living together in the same house and now forced to agree mutual childcare arrangements and finances with none of the goodwill and where all the important decisions are left to your ex. That could be very #awkward. And the only people who stand to gain are the lawyers and those bureaucrats. It could drag on for years. We need lawyers even less than we need bureaucrats.
Because borders on Europe were a fucking nightmare guys!
Oh you of short memories! Open borders are AMAZING for trade and travel. The world before Schengen and the Euro do not bear thinking about. If you lived in Austria’s South Tyrol or by Lake Constance you might have had to drive through three borders in a day to go to work. Changing money from Austrian Schillings to Italian Lire to German Deutschmarks. Nightmare! Yes, immigration’s a big issue and needs to be addressed. But it doesn’t invalidate the awesomeness of Schengen and the Euro. And we negotiated opt-outs, getting the best of both worlds!
What did the EU ever do for us?
Quite a lot as it happens. How about 70 years of peace (Yugoslavia excepting and with acknowledgements to the US and NATO), steering the Eastern bloc into democracy and away from communism, workers’ rights, cheap flights, cheap mobile calls, reciprocal working arrangements, food standards, access to European health services, 48 hour week, scientific funding, wildlife protection, the European Arrest warrant… And don’t forget the green man fire escape dude, so you can instantly recognise a fire escape whether you’re in Poland or Portugal.
What’s the worst thing that can go wrong?
Try this risk assessment tool used by extreme climbers. Ask the question for each scenario? Well on one side (depending on where you are on the glass full/empty spectrum) here goes: the pound crashes, Scotland succeeds in demanding another referendum on independence and this time wins, the UK breaks up. The US forges a new special relationship with the Germans and French. Those promised incredible trade deals fail to emerge quickly enough; the economy dives and soon we’re battling calls to justify our place on the UN Security Council. And that’s to say nothing of what happens in Europe where Britain’s exit leads to the breakup of the EU and then Putin decides to do a Crimea to eastern Europe. Project fear? Well yes, but given the fact nearly every major economist has issued dire warnings maybe we should be afraid? And on the other side? Hmmm, well we stick with the devil we know, have a cup of tea and carry on. (To be fair, there are doomsday scenarios on both sides. The difference is the Brexiteers have zero plan for post Brexit. Nada, zilch, rien, nichts…
Speaking of disaster scenarios, how about unintended consequences
Britain needs friends in the world. If we stick two fingers up to our European allies, we can kiss goodbye to any mutual back-scratching favours. Gibraltar. Falkland Islands. How long before we’re forced to give them up?
Everything you’ve been told about the EU is wrong
The press have been rabidly anti-EU for years. Blame Brussels for forcing us to go metric? Britain signed up to ditching Pounds and Feet in a white paper as early as 1972. Children banned from blowing up balloons. Nope. Bent bananas banned? Read this myth buster. There’s also a nice snapshot on the UK’s hysterical media here.
Incidentally, UK businesses have less red tape (and pay lower taxes) than many EU countries. Those crippling regulations? How many of them came during the Tony Blair years. (See EU scapegoat #1 above). I live in Austria where you can still smoke in bars and restaurants and where builders wear little more than a traditional felt hat for head protection, which does suggest that other EU countries have been able to take a flexible view to supposed EU diktats.
Don’t trust a couple of ex-hacks
On this theme, it’s easy to forget that just a few years ago Brexit’s two cheer leaders Boris and Gove were a couple of hacks, busting out opinion-leading articles for a living and in Boris’s case, falsehoods like this one. There’s a depressing truth in journalism: every time you come across a story in the papers where you personally know what happened, you will spot glaring errors. Take it from a sometime ex-hack, most of the time journalists don’t have a clue what they’re writing about. And in the case of Boris and Gove, their days in newspaper offices does not translate to executive experience and ability to govern. Personally, I wouldn’t leave Boris in charge of a goldfish. Gove is like that annoying friend who arrives late at the party and insists on changing the music. Go back to writing articles and quoting obscure Greek poets, both of you.
Sovereignty isn’t everything
It’s a lovely romantic ideal. But as Michael Heseltine has pointed out, we were a truly sovereign nation in 1940 and Churchill spent 18 months begging America to be our friend. The world is getting smaller. We need greater democratic transparency for sure, across all institutions. But if the 20th century has taught us anything, surely it is that we need less nationalism, and greater co-operation between nations. Come on, we’re the kids of the 21st century. We all belong to one world. Let’s go forwards, not backwards.