The EU Referendum (7)

Note: It has been four weeks since I posted on this subject on the EU Referendum, what was meant to be the last in a series of seven on the subject and the one where I give my opinion whether we should remain in the EU or to leave it, together with reasons. I have tried to examine the cases for remain and leave, weigh the facts supporting the cases of both sides and come to an informed view, mindful of my own beliefs on related matters. I have tried to do so but it is hard given the amount of “stuff” to sift through and how poorly often the cases have been argued, and half truths and worse by those leading both the in and out campaigns. But I did reach a view and posted what this is along with my reasons. While there have been developments since and my arguments have been honed as a result, along with coming up with additional reasons, my view is essentially the same. I post this update with two days to go before we vote. I offer this as my contribution to the debate because what we are about to do as a country is important, yet I am aware life will go on irrespective of the way the vote goes and the bigger need is a moral and spiritual one, and for all sides to find peace and love.

On June 23rd, I will be voting LEAVE in the EU Referendum.

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I have always known deep down, given I have been a lifelong euro-skeptic, I would be voting this way, but I wanted to weigh the facts and examine the arguments before making this important decision. Realistically, my vote counts for little and if the bookies are right (and they usually are in such matters) the odds for voting to stay are 6/1 on and for voting to leave are 4/1 against (they now have the two campaigns nearly neck and neck – ed). But as they say, it is not all over until the fat lady sings and by making my announcement now (even taking into account that my influence in such matters is modest at best) I can at least support those arguing the case for Britain to leave the EU and urge any whose ear I happen to have that Britain’s interest is best served by leaving the EU.

I am confident that I have done more reading and thinking about this matter than 99% of those who will be voting, and I will continue to do so. I would be surprised if more than a small number of voters will do so on the basis of having carefully researched and weighed  the pertinent facts but rather on their opinion of what result most closely aligns to their own values or what will lead to the best economic outcome (usually their own). For any interested in some of my thought process leading to this decision – check out earlier posts – one, two, three, four, five and six. I suppose, shortly following on from my earlier post on this subject and having watched yet another Brexit video, and reading the latest in a long line of arguments of people wanting to leave, it became quite clear to me that this is the only line that I can in all conscience take.

I doubt there is a person alive who has such impeccable integrity that he / she will have considered every fact and weighed every argument, before deciding on balance and which pile weighs heaviest whether these support the remain or the leave case, although how does one weigh things like national sovereignty and trade agreements in place? I have been doing something approaching identifying and weighing evidence all along, mindful of my limitations and prejudices. I am all too aware given how many of the good and the great have waded in with their opinion or must consider piece of evidence that I could be doing this right up to polling day. While among friends, there are those who strongly support one or other position, many have yet to decide. But sometimes, one has to go with ones gut instinct after (in my case) having done my best to consider factors that go against that instinct. I am aware there are dodgy characters leading both remain and leave campaigns, and spokespeople for both campaigns have regrettably twisted evidence in order to (over) state their case.

When it comes to economics and issues like protecting jobs, I am not convinced either way whether or not we will be worse off if we leave and interestingly there are advocates with expert knowledge for both positions. I am also mindful there are Christians who I respect who support both remain and leave cases, and some look for guidance from above as to which way they ought to vote. While I would have once included strong religious arguments in making my case, I have not done so this time, although there are important spiritual considerations that I will return to. I also recognize that the EU has achieved some good and it may indeed have contributed to peace and promoting social justice and a better environment, and has to a significant extent helped to bring together member states.

In a bizarre way, the EU might be seen as a protector against extremist national governments, highlighting flaws in the democratic process. One of the more surprising (for me at least) aspects of the in/out debate is the number of people arguing for IN on the basis of certain beneficial things happening as a result of being in the EU, which could be undone if we came OUT of the EU. These include workers’ rights, protecting the environment and funding for scientific research, to name but three. It is a sad reflection on how those arguing the IN case mistrust British democracy that they are willing to sell our nations soul to the proverbial devil as the only way they can see for getting what they feel is needed. Moreover and sadly, I think they may have a point!

Undoubtedly, there would be the disruption we will have to face if we were to leave, including the challenge of negotiating new trade arrangements. There will be other challenges too, like how to make best use of some new freedoms and facing the prospect of a journey into the unknown. Having traveled and worked in several EU countries in times gone by, I can say I love all of these countries and have come to value many qualities I have seen in their people, who I respect and admire (the truth is there is good and bad in all of them and xenophobia is not something I subscribe to), so whatever my feelings, there will be sadness if we were to separate. I cannot help think though: Europe deserves better than what the EU offers.

My reasons for leaving, based mainly on my values, are:

  1. Ever since the days of butter mountains and wine lakes I have found the EU to be self serving.
  2. The amount of petty regulations is unhelpful and unnecessary.
  3. The ruination of traditional UK industries, like fishing, is scandalous.
  4. Membership of the EU does not represent best value for money.
  5. The EU shows too little moral backbone, e.g. dealing with the refugee crisis and external threats, e.g. Russia.
  6. Legislating in order to enable inefficient industries to continue and prosper when better and cheaper can be got from outside the EU is not an approach I would want to subscribe to.
  7. Underlying the whole EU project is a move toward federalism, something I am opposed to on principle.
  8. The EU is anti democratic and represents government by an unaccountable elite that has too little respect for the common people and has been too often arrogant. While some of that applies to the UK also, we can at least bring our leaders to account and kick them out if need be via the ballot box.
  9. While British democracy is far from perfect, it at least raises the prospect that we the people can change what we dislike and get rid of the people we dislike. I doubt our influence in the EU extends that far and being beholden to a change in mindset that may never come is not for me.
  10. The people we elect to serve as MEPs have little in the way of real power, whose influence is limited.
  11. The EU is corrupt, ref. large salaries and expenses paid to bureaucrats and its inability to sign off accounts (a friend has told me in recent years these have been agreed – ed). I found the EU increasing its budget in times of austerity to be outrageous.
  12. Limiting our trading options to within the EU along with the constraints this could entail when the world should be our oyster is needlessly restrictive.
  13. I suspect being freer to trade globally and ditching restrictions and tariffs will lower prices.
  14. It seems in the main the establishment wants to remain in the EU and that makes me suspicious as I don’t see its commitment toward the poor and socially disadvantaged.
  15. Free movement of labour within the EU leading to immigration, does not overall benefit Britain in the case of the newer members of the EU, from former Iron Curtain countries.
  16. Free movement of EU residents can and does allow “undesirable” people to enter the country without checks.
  17. The bottom line is we don’t have the infrastructure in terms of education, health and housing to allow for unrestricted EU immigration, irrespective of what they might be able to contribute to the UK economy.
  18. Britain often finds itself having more in common with Commonwealth countries than EU ones; leaving the EU will provide an opportunity to strengthen those ties.
  19. There are countries in Europe, outside of the EU yet trading with the EU, that seem to be doing fine. They provide a model as to how things might be should we leave.
  20. Britain in control of its own destiny, albeit working with partners inside and outside the EU, in various collaborations, represents a better vision of what Britain can and should become.
  21. Britain outside the EU has an opportunity to determine the sort of country it wants to be rather than be beholden to the unseen and powerful controlling forces that exist within the EU.
  22. Why do we need the EU shackles when we can prosper without being burdened by them?
  23. There are big challenges to come in the EU, e.g. the Eurozone crisis, refugee crisis, Russian threat and possible membership of Turkey; with the EU having to address these challenges, I can’t see how, with the EU as it now is, this will be helpful to the UK.
  24. While some argue we do better to influence the EU from inside, I sense the institution is so corrupt and set in its ways it needs more than British continuing membership to reform it; and, while I am all for good influencing, I fear the cost will be too high.
  25. In short, I see the EU experiment as more a con, based on feeding the peasants with crumbs to keep them happy while creating a gravy train for the privileged, rather than a path toward Utopia.
  26. My vision for government is that of nation states that serve and is accountable to its people, with real power devolved locally. From what I can make out, the EU goes against endorsing such notions.
  27. While selling our soul to the devil is too strong a term, I do feel should we vote remain on June 23rd, albeit for quite legitimate and worthy reasons, we commit to something that would be difficult to reverse, where any supposed benefits will come at too a high price concerning our liberties and way of life.
  28. Rather than leaving our EU friends in the lurch by leaving, we would be sending a clear message that we don’t like the EU as it stands and it could be just the jolt to bring about the much needed reform that I doubt we could achieve by staying in the EU.
  29. I like the idea of communities having more say in things that affect the community. While it may be a moot point, I feel this is more likely with one less layer of government above us.
  30. The secular nature of the EU (more so than the UK as a whole) bothers me. If you leave God out, what do you replace it with? I sense if the UK were to leave, it would be more inclined to return to its Christian roots.
  31. Ever since the Tower of Babel debacle, it seems to me that nation states, with there own cultures and laws, are a better way to govern than super-national states.
  32. On the “corruption” theme, I have noted in the tightening the belts paradigm we are currently in, while we close police and fire stations, the EU still persists with an unnecessary “White Elephant” (Strasbourg), as if they really couldn’t care less about tightening belts – and do they really need two centres and do we want to partner with an entity so ideologically opposed?
  33. High unemployment levels in Southern European countries, all of which are part of the Eurozone, is worrying, and while I can’t put it all down to their EU membership, it is concern that an entity that might have helped has failed to do so.
  34. The Eurozone crisis has been part allayed but is liable to raise its ugly head soon. Whatever, our politicians say, I can’t see our not getting drawn in to the matter, were we to remain, whatever assurances are given and whatever our politicians say.
  35. I believe in devolving power locally. I suspect adding a further tier on top of national government, holding as they do the purse strings, on balance goes against such ideas.
  36. Powerful interests e.g. powerful government and big business interests will find it more convenient to deal with a single entity i.e. an EU run by bureaucrats – good for them but bad for democracy and the “small guy”.
  37. The deal the UK government achieved just prior to announcing the referendum date is worryingly inconsequential given what did matter was non negotiable.
  38. As a gospel preacher, I am particularly interested in being able to preach freely. While the UK government have in recent years rendered a disservice to the cause of religious liberty, I suspect the EU directives around these areas, which we would be hard put to change, is potentially an even greater threat.
  39. My understanding, as a freedom loving global citizen that also happens to love my country, is that we will be free if we leave the EU, which appear to show scant interest in what is best for our country, to make the UK what it can and should be.
  40. Forty one years ago, we had a referendum and voted to remain. Things have changed considerably since then, especially in giving up our sovereignty. This trend looks to continue. Without being melodramatic, I see no way out other than this opportunity.

I want to mention the religious / spiritual angle, for while the above arguments make minimal reference to such matters (something I chose to do deliberately) it is still relevant. As I told one Remain friend objecting to religious arguers on these matters, as far as I am concerned my religion doesn’t tell me one way or another how to vote, but it does lay down principles we need to follow. In one sense the EU is neutral when it comes to religion, although some of my Christian friends feel continuing in and becoming closer to (almost inevitable if we were to remain) will take us further away from our Judaeo-Christian heritage and more into the hands of darker forces over which we have little control. (I should add other Christians who I respect do not see it in this way.) While I doubt we can truly control our own destiny, as a country we will be better placed to do so out of the EU than in it, although it is in all our interests to build strong ties whatever happens. If there are three words to encapsulate my feelings on what my main concerns are, these are “accountability”, “control” and “values” and, despite all our faults, I see these being best satisfied if Britain were to leave the EU.

One one of my earlier qualms discussed when trying to answer the question would I join the EU if not a member, as opposed to would I leave if I were, remains: do we have the character and resolve any more to take on the challenges leaving would raise and do we trust our government enough to champion the cause for social justice? There is a spiritual dimension to this. I am undecided though on the spiritual dimension sometimes raised by students of Bible prophecy, for I am mindful of my early Christian upbringing that linked the EU with the AntiChrist, although I am less convinced these days. What I do believe is there is an AntiChrist spirit that goes way beyond the EU. While I have little confidence in our own (UK) leaders to lead us aright and agree with the old adage we get the leaders we deserve, I have even less in EU leaders who we can do a lot less about. When it comes to doing good in the world, I do not see this as a high priority for many in either Remain or Leave camps, but at least being divorced from the controlling elite who have showed scant evidence of thinking along these lines, we as a country have a better chance.

As I write now on the eve of the referendum vote, I see that once again the bookies have the leave vote as a lot more likely than the remain one. I have given it my best shot in trying to influence others but there I must leave it. While I think my reasons for leaving are compelling, I realise there are also strong arguments for remaining and it is these that look like winning the day. I hope that there will be a healing of the rifts brought about by this long campaign. Thankfully, my confidence is in the Almighty, and this remains so whichever way the vote goes, and pointing this out to people is what I see as my main task! But as a responsible citizen, recognizing I am up against it as far as opinion polls go, I still feel compelled to urge my fellow citizens to vote LEAVE. While the old adage “no pain, no gain” may seem old hat these days, I reckon what we gain by leaving is worth the resulting transition pain of going it alone or with just a few friends, like we did in 1940! I believe such a decision will also have a positive effect on the rest of Europe and the world.

My greater desire is to see my nation, which is in peril irrespective of its position in the EU, return to God, as it must if it is to prosper in ways that truly matter, who alone can save us (which is something we all need whether we remain in or leaving the EU). Here I unite with believers either side of the debate, and is where bringing and living that message, post referendum, is where our focus should be.

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