I published this well over a year after writing it, I never published it at the time because I didn't finish it in time, but finding it in my drafts - and how events transpired since - I wanted to have my thougths out there.
As I said, this post was unfinished
The EU referendum is tomorrow. I've been thinking about writing something about it for a long time now, not as some way to convince others - but as always - as a kind of ... thought repository ... for myself to look back on.
I like the idea to be able to look back in time at what I was thinking at that particular moment. As the EU referendum is a pretty big and important point in recent UK history and considering I have some pretty strong feelings on it, now seems appropriate to write something down.
I'm voting remain
There has never been a time where I've considered leaving EU to be a good idea. Perhaps swayed further in its favour than I otherwise would have been by the rampant, relentless lying and scapegoating by the general public, the media and governments (of whatever persuasion). For decades it has been convenient for governments and the media supporting particular governments to allow ridiculous myths to build up about the EU, if problems can so easily be attributed to another government, then that's one less thing that government needs to be worried about come election time.
But here we are. On the eve of the referendum and the 100ft wall of lies - that many on the remain side oversaw the construction of - is only now being tackled. It's far too late. You can't let people believe that so many of the countries problems are due to a particular entity for decades and then all of a sudden start telling them that no, they're not. The EU needed people on its side within the UK long ago, but at most this country seemed apathetic. I get that, to a degree, it's not an exciting institution and it's an often hard to understand institution. But that's what the government is for, they needed to be honest about our position in the EU, about our contributions to the EU - when a newspaper or politician starts crying about a new set of regulation - the government needed to make it clear its position on that.
The government rarely engaged with the public about how the UK works with the EU and just carried on letting people assume the UK had no say in the many things 'passed down' from the EU (untrue). This was probably a savvy move by these governments, as I said, it avoids bad press if an unpopular a piece of regulation supported by the government doesn't have any fault attributed to it. The EU is a nice, convenient shield.
The same is true for immigration, there are probably even larger forces at work here. It's a well established trend that immigration becomes a target when times get tough and it's a well established trend that despite what governments say about 'getting tough' with immigration - they rarely ever want to do it - because they know it benefits the economy, they understand anecdotes about polish people stealing our jobs are just that, anecdotes, they see the facts and they see it'd not be a good idea to stop or severely limit immigration. They understand that when the economy is growing, the immigration debate takes a back seat until the next downturn in the economy and the cycle continues.
But what happens when you allow the anti-immigration narrative to carry on unopposed? It just keeps building and it gets to the point where anyone who attempts to address the balance is ripped to pieces, no matter how reasonable, how factual their argument is. But it's also another scapegoat for when the government can't meet its own targets in regards to things such as: investment in the NHS, investment in new schools, investment in new housing and other public services, so there is no real attempt to address misconceptions because it has benefited them a lot.
However, for all those in the remain campaign it has come straight back around to bite them in the arse. For the sake of short term gains, they have jeopardised the future of this country, they haven't provided the public at large with enough information for enough people to be considered well informed. That's not me saying the only reason people would consider voting leave is because they're uninformed, this is a statement about the public regardless of the side they vote on. Many on the remain side are so because of caution and safety, not because of genuine support and understanding of the EU and its advantages. Many on the leave are doing so because they've been mislead and those misleading have gone unopposed.
A good comparison to draw would be to the Scottish referendum, I believe the case for independence for Scotland wasn't very strong and hung on many similar feelings to the EU Leave campaign (e.g. pointless nationalism), but I feel that both sides were considerably more informed and in a much better position to make a decision. There wasn't anywhere near the amount of lies and myths built up about Scotland's position in the UK as there are about the UK's position in the EU - I'd have thought if Scotland left the UK that they'd have made the wrong decision, but as far as a public debate on the issue went, I'd have felt there would have been more significantly more merit in the decision than the one for leave.
The aspirational angle
Like the Scottish referendum, the Leave campaign can perhaps more easily play on the aspirational angle. "Believe in Britain", "Our independence day" and the like, unfortunately that brought out language and feelings of those voting remain of dangerous nationalism, but that's besides my point. The remain campaign focused on what should be a good position, the data, the statements of support from experts, think tanks, research centres, heads of state, universities, businesses. I think it'll be difficult for anyone (after the referendum) to argue that those who provide us with perspective with raw data and numbers have come out in favour of leave vote. There are very few notable and recognisable institutions that believe a leave will be good for Britain's economy and stature.
But it doesn't seem to have mattered, the Leave campaign has brought it significantly closer than I and probably many others would have thought they could do. A lot of this I believe is due to misinformation, but a lot of it is, I believe to do with this aspirational angle. The UK is good at what it does, it can go it alone, it doesn't need to be part of this larger bloc to make its way in the world. It has the confidence and competence to do so.
You then point to countries like Norway and Switzerland, who are outside of the EU and say look, "they don't need the EU!" - totally ignoring of course their existing relationships with the EU that, for us, would be a step down in our own ability to have a say in things that affect our country - something we would lose a lot of if we were to leave and enter separate agreements with the EU. If people wanted to know what being dictated to felt like, then yeah, vote out of the EU - because there's no way we'll have the clout with most of our largest trading partners that we had within the EU. It's just not realistic - from 28 countries to 1, from $18.6 trillion USD to $2.7 trillion USD GDP, from 500 million people to 64 million people.
But again, this doesn't sway people as I and many others think it should. Perhaps because it's an argument almost completely devoid of emotion.
and this is where I left this... unfinished.. never really getting to my point