Those who have been following my blogs will know next month’s EU Referendum is something that has been much exercising my thoughts despite still not having fully made up my mind on whether to vote according to my instincts (which is to leave) while producing a case for doing so. Or to come to a view, and one many I know share, that while the EU has much to be desired, leaving it will be a mistake. All this has led to some interesting exchanges of views.
In four previous posts bearing this title, along with many others around Britain’s place in the EU, this has been one of the points under discussion, and in many cases the main point. (Check out: one, two, three and four for my earlier “EU Referendum” postings). I have these past 3 or 4 weeks been having a break from thinking too deeply about those issues in the light of last week’s local elections, but even then it has become apparent while out talking to people that this was a matter that was still exercising many voters minds and I would imagine one of the reasons why UKIP did so well in those elections was due to those voting for them being euroskeptics with one eye on the referendum vote. This is regrettable since many who voted this way failed to take into account more pertinent local issues and the quality of the non-UKIP candidates.
Before moving on to the big “do we remain or do we leave” question, I want to first reflect on the UKIP factor which, despite predictions of a demise following last summer’s General Election defeat, remains strong. Despite not winning any seats locally, not only did they poll well in each of the 17 wards that make up (my) Borough (of Southend), they also ended up as king makers when in the light of no party having overall majority they decided to support one of them (the Conservatives, with no doubt strings attached) such that the Conservatives will now be able to lead the next administration. One question I recently debated with a Councilor friend is would UKIP support evaporate following the referendum? because whatever the result the main raison d’etre for UKIP in the first place will not be there. Whether or not that is the case, some of the concerns that cause people to vote UKIP will undoubtedly remain.
I am aware that while many of my more liberally minded friends (and I have quite a number it seems) find it difficult to see much good in UKIP and in understanding why good and otherwise sensible people are attracted to them. I suspect there are good explanations for the latter point even if UKIP’s popularity among the electorate causes consternation for some and I suggest the other parties will do well to try to understand these if they are interested in winning over hearts and minds. It is also linked to issues at the heart of the EU in/out debate. While UKIP does (in my view disingenuously) try to capitalize on peoples’ fears the UK will be overrun by foreigners whose net contribution to life in the UK is a negative one, as well as continuing to waste money, I suspect it goes far deeper than that and is more to do with British identity and not being under the domination of those who are not elected, who do not share our values and are unaccountable and corrupt taboot. As for the so called economic advantages of remaining in the EU, and is what drives many toward the remain camp, it has become apparent there are many, including business leaders, who doubt such claims.
Before providing an update on where I am on the in / out debate, I thought I should clarify my position regarding UKIP. Firstly, I should say that I dislike the vilification that I see by some, otherwise good and sensible folk, toward UKIP sympathizers when sometimes it is a matter of removing the speck in one’s own eye first, for there are arguably distasteful things in ALL of the political parties. I am not a UKIP supporter any more than I am a supporter of any of the other parties. While there are good reasons around the theme of rabidness and integrity that lead me not to support UKIP, I have in the past supported individual UKIP candidates because I considered they were the best of the bunch I had to select from, and who knows whether that could be the case in the future (I hope not)?
Regarding the EU, I am euroskeptic because I cannot see in the EU an entity that shares the values I care about to a great enough extent; I don’t like the waste and corruption I do see; I don’t support uncontrolled immigration from within the EU; I don’t like unnecessary laws and petty bureaucracy; I don’t like having to give our EU partners preference on a whole range of issues and I don’t like being ruled by those who are unaccountable to the UK voters. On a positive note, I am not xenophobic, racist or bigoted (and am happy to be challenged if people disagree); while I am all for holding a global view and international cooperation (all countries), I sense nation states are better than the political union the EU aspires to; while wanting control of immigration I believe the UK should be more sympathetic toward genuine sanctuary seekers and I am all for strong ties and trade links with members of EU, in much the same way European countries outside the EU have shown is possible.
I earlier mentioned the disappointing dearth of objective information on which to base one’s decision on how to vote in the referendum, which is sadly lacking in much of the sound bite dominated arguments between protagonists from each side and, disappointingly, absent in the recent government propaganda booklet dropped into the letterbox of every home in the country. I also set myself an objective to go beneath the spin and dig out hard evidence regardless of which side it would appear to come out on and mentioned a fact based website in my last EU Referendum posting. Today, I came across a “Christian” website, that of CARE UK, which recognizes that Christians can and do hold opposite views on the in / out debate and it conscientiously tries to present in a balanced way each side’s arguments. While not especially profound, it is at least helpful and it takes into account that for people like me, Christian beliefs inform our voting. I recognize there is work for me to do in order to sift the facts and get to the bottom of the arguments (of which there are many and I daresay a nigh impossible job) and no doubt there will be some interesting exchanges yet to come.
My guess is that when it comes to voting, 99% of the electorate (and I can imagine in this instance the turnout will be high), will do so on either spurious or prejudicial grounds or based on gut instinct or on single issues like economics or immigration or what they perceive to most closely align to their values taken as a whole. One of my friends shared (albeit rather tongue in cheek) that he has been influenced by the fact that actual US President Obama supports remain and wannabe US President Trump supports leave, and because he likes Obama and dislikes Trump he will vote remain. I like to think I will be among the 1% who will carefully weigh the facts and evaluate the arguments, allowing for the notion that while the EU is not an institution I would like the UK to join if not in it, it maybe that now we are in it the price to pay for leaving it will be too high.
Some of my quandary is epitomized in something a friend just now posted on his Facebook page from a “tweet” by a well known figure: “Gordon Brown: ‘This referendum is about what kind of Britain we are, we should be fully in and leading in Europe’“. My response was “The first part is correct but the second part I struggle with – I doubt Britain which has lost its moral compass anyway will be able to take the lead in Europe if it were fully in!” Meanwhile, I continue to ponder. It is my intention to post what my voting intentions are and why before June 23rd, so watch this space!