European Referendum (1)

One of the eye opening, mind boggling features of today’s Radio 4’s Today program was news reporting on the Prime Minister’s European visit and some opening salvos by interested parties, representing pro-Europe and anti-Europe positions respectively, to do with the in-out (of Europe) referendum that I now understand will take place early 2017. That seems a long way off and no doubt there will be plenty of water that will have to pass under the bridge before the British people are called to give their verdict.

I concur Britain’s place in Europe is an important question and one that needs to be considered, where there are widely differing views. I thus welcome the debate and the referendum, although I fear that irrespective of all the negotiating and concessions that may be agreed to keep Britain happy the powers that be will want to stay in regardless and that is what is going to happen. We are told that the big issue is reform but my fear is that any reform happening as a result of the negotiations will be cosmetic. The signs aren’t good and my belief is that the Conservatives have only offered the referendum to let them off the hook for past ineptitude and to appease their more euro-skeptic members. As for tighter immigration control, seen as one of the main reform issues by some, I suspect this is only touching the surface if reform is the expectation and there are deeper issues that need resolving. Even so, that question needs to be resolved in a just and sensible way. One of the key questions is whether the European union should be primarily in order to facilitate trade, cultural exchanges and cooperation generally, or should it be a whole lot more, namely politically integration and with it (some say) control by an unelected, corrupt elite, as now seems the case. The integration process is well under way as a result of treaties agreed. As for corruption, accounts remain unaudited, Britain’s hands are tied to act in the best way in the world, and this is the tip of the iceberg. As for controlling our own destiny, many EU laws control our lives these days and we can do little about it.

In the run up to the General Election, just two weeks previously, Europe was a lot smaller issue than might have been anticipated. Besides UKIP, whose views on the matter are well rehearsed, clearly stated and often argued, from what I could make out the other parties all wanted in, even the Conservatives, using the threat of the UK leaving the European Union as the means to get their way and appease a critical public at the same time. Now the dust is beginning to settle, following the election, I expect the Europe debate to hot up despite predicting a verdict that we will stay in the European Union and things will not change all that much. So far I have heard lots of unverifiable blanket statements like if we leave the EU we will lose our major trading partner from one side or we will save lots of money from the other. I fear much of the same but hope for better and that the arguments will be well made and good people (both sides) will present their cases and thereby help people to decide.

I have not hidden the fact that I am a euro-skeptic that would prefer us to be out of the European Union than in, but now find I am less sure whether given the circumstances, the state of the nation, our present reliance on Europe without something better to replace it if we left, and the mentality of the British people (beset also by various nationalistic tendencies), that coming out of the European Union is the way to go – this for practical rather than ideological reasons. However, there is a lot about the situation the UK is now in with respect to Europe and where this is likely to lead us that fills me more with foreboding than hope it will be best for Britain overall. I feel our being controlled by and beholden to something less than wholesome (unChristian, unBritish, unaccountable) is not the way that I want this country I love to go. Despite my pessimism, I hope that by having this debate people will better understand the issues and some things might get better. I have long released the need for realism and some things are meant to be, for without a radical change of heart among the people it would be unrealistic to expect major improvements (in or out of Europe) but we can do some good.

For the time being, I intend to keep my powder dry, listen to the arguments and debates (which I hope will be well argued based on facts rather than poorly argued based on fiction) and read up on the subject. I intend at the right time to present a considered argument on what it is I think we as a nation should do and why.

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