In or Out, Stay or Leave, I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is getting just a little bit bored of hearing these terms. To say that the EU Referendum ‘debate’ has become vapid and tawdry is something of an understatement and a partial truth – in that it didn’t become this – it began in such a manner and has steadily dredged the depths of crass mediocrity ever since. It even fails on the most basic of levels as a debate such is the failure of those involved to engage with each other, much less the British public, the very people who are supposed to be making an informed, and decisive, decision about the future of the country.
This is the case for one simple reason: the sadly familiar blandness of the politicians involved and the laziness of their rhetoric. What makes the situation all the worse is the incessant repetition of the same sound-bite sized nuggets of drivel that are churned out. The whole thing is white noise, that all who have had to endure, wish would go away as it has become depressing beyond all belief. Both groups make pronouncements based on half-truth, unfounded speculation and total fabrication, after which the other counters with more of the same. If this were an actual battle it would be unique in that both sides are firing blanks.
This is ultimately and unfortunately a well-worn sign of the times – proof in favour of the old cliché that you get what you pay for, or rather vote for. The people have helped to create the fetid swamp which serves as such a fertile breeding ground for our politicians to lurk in. Not that we are wholly guilty through our actions (Tory voters, you know who you are), but rather through our inaction. Laziness is the foundation on which they stand and, by not challenging the consensus, the populace has played a major part in its wreaking perpetuation. And so it goes, rather than undertaking even the most basic research online – research I should add that most ten year-old’s could manage – the voting public are happy to be spoon fed nonsense that is designed to prey on their base fears. Anything more than the most cursory of glances of the Leave Campaigns’ output reveals that the route to Brexit has more potholes than an average English ‘A’ road. Too many of their predictions are founded on baseless ifs and buts: take the prospect of increased trade is dangled tantalizingly – an appeal to the nation’s greed. Whom will this trade be with? China’s economy, while still expanding, is according to many beginning to stall. Conveniently the Exit brigade seems to have forgotten the 30 Billion Pounds that China invested in Britain only last year and that UK exports to China in 2014 were worth just under 19 Billion pounds. India is the other bright spot for future trade. Yet in 2014 UK exported goods worth £6.35 billion to India and services valued at £2.24 billion. So why are some of the leave campaign leaflets that I have been given claiming that ‘we’ are doing no business with either?
One doesn’t have to cast the mind to far back in order to find an example of just how dangerous this type of speculative promise can be. Think back to the Scottish Referendum: the SNP promised future financial security on the basis of North Sea oil sales. Yet how long after the referendum was it before the price of oil slumped? Can the Leave Campaign really be certain about its ‘facts’? Can they really be trusted to see clearly into the future when so much of what their campaign evokes harks back to a mythic past when Britain was a standalone global power? Let’s not forget that that past was a colonial one, where what is now, euphemistically, called trade was actually plunder.
And if the nation does leave, who exactly will be in charge of the economy? Can the people of Britain really trust Osborne, Gove, Duncan-Smith and Johnson to do right by them? They’ve done nothing so far – so would anything change? One thing that happen is that they would, with even more license to pursue their austerity agenda, have more money to deny the public.
Then the is the wet dream of many a fascist, neo-fascist, UKIP, Cotswold NIMBY and Tory back-bencher: Britain the island fortress with its impenetrable borders. A dream is exactly what this dire image is. Our geographical frontier was porous long before their political counterparts existed. The historical economies of these islands have featured trade with our continental neighbours’ as far back as the Bronze Age, trade that was both plentiful and culturally influential. From ancient trade, historical invasions and more recent migration, our history from a time before it was ours as a nation, has been shaped by others from “over there”, wherever that is. This semi-isolationist logic, bafflingly, ignores the blindingly obvious fact that artificial political borders are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Even ISIS have worked that one out and they are as regressive as it is possible to get.
While I think it is a particularly Leftist’s form of arrogance that ignores the concerns of many working class Britons in regards to the effects of immigration – after all it is more often than not traditionally working class areas that are designated as being suitable for new arrivals – along with the alleged wage lowering effect of cheap labour – it is erroneous to blame the migrants. Let’s not forget that the majority of those immigrants are doing the very thing that people like Iain Duncan-Smith and many other Tories extol people to do, namely get up and find work. If blame can be laid anywhere for migrants ‘stealing’ jobs, it should be laid at the feet of the businesses that employ them over the British-born workforce. It should also be remembered that they are the same businesses which pay all people such terrible wages. I’m sure the migrants in question didn’t arrive and negotiate to be paid less than is the norm; I’m sure it would have been more of a take-or-leave-it-affair and let’s face it, some money is better than no money when you are out of options. Again this is a deliberate business strategy to boost profit by businesses, something that the Tory government has encouraged, not a conspiracy involving the people they employ.
As for the houses that migrants are given almost as soon as they set foot in the country: it is worth considering that the current government has done more to deprive people of the opportunity to buy houses than any migrant. By ensuring that new homes are built at a slower rate than social housing is sold off at, they have created a climate that ensuring that those few new homes are prohibitively expensive. This also ensures that rents are also outrageously high, something I’m sure that the the third of Tory MP’s who are private landlords, are happy about. Just look at Boris Johnson’s lamentable record on housing for evidence of just how bad things are.
The Tory faction within this campaign hasn’t got things totally wrong though. Many people have mocked David Cameron for his comments in relation to conflict in Europe. But let’s not forget that the European Union was created to prevent exactly that and so far it has succeeded. Think back to the breakdown of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, which as a result of a rise in ethnic-religious hatred led to yet another round of genocide. Now picture non-integrated Europe where national, religious and ethnic considerations governed foreign policy and treaty signing. Who would have sided with whom in that fight? How easily it could have spread across Europe – just as it did in both the First World War – and especially when the United Nations had failed so dismally to meet its mandate, which is to prevent this type of conflict. And what of NATO? Though it is not the case for all EU member states, many are part of NATO. If Britain moves, politically, away from the EU will ‘we’ also be willing fight with and for ‘them’, if the need arise? Could leaving NATO be the next referendum? Again, this would only leave Britain in a far weaker global position than it is now.
The most disturbing image conjured by the mind in relation to a Brexit win is that of a country at the mercy of the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith. A clear indicator as to the nature of this embryonic disaster is a sentence uttered by IDS just a few days ago. For reasons that any rational mind must struggle to understand IDS is quoted as describing Donald Trump as a “very decent man.” If the thought of the Brexit crowd controlling Britain, free from the constraints of those pesky EU rules that: give workers rights, protect the environment, prevent all manner of toxins from entering the food-chain, ensure that all people have the protection of a bill of human rights, as well as paying for regeneration programs and a whole raft of local initiatives, and allow us to travel without visas isn’t bad enough, then imagine, if your mind can handle it, a special relationship between Prime Minister Johnson and the walking orange nightmare across the pond who wants to build transcontinental walls, persecute Muslims and every other non WASP, who denies climate change, is ignorant of far too many world affairs, is pro-gun in a country where mass shootings could be considered the national pass time, and is a misogynist scumbag to boot. If all of that doesn’t chill the blood, then you have a far stronger constitution than I.
The future of this country must be viewed on a global level and being a part of of the European Union is by far the most effective way of doing that, especially if Britain is to financial compete against countries with far larger populations than ours. Britain benefits, as does every nation – from diversity in ideas, technology and people – all of which move more fluidly across real and artificial borders than ever before. No amount of nostalgia for the halcyon days, that have never actually existed, should be allowed to prevent that development. An isolated Britain gripped by right-wing paranoia will become nothing more that an outmoded outpost, a backward little island on the edge of a forward-looking continent which will be connected to a much larger world.