I've been dithering for months, arguing on Quora and reading articles, watching debates on whether I should be a "Brexiter" or a "Bremainer". I've finally decided. It has not been easy because the debate has been very low quality on both sides.
I have also been put off to a certain extent by the fabricated figures of the Remain camp. But at least they cannot be accused of outright lying - which is more than can be said about the Leave campaign. Nevertheless I have decided to put down my reasons for the decision I've made. It has nothing to do with economics which the Remain camp have been putting forward or the immigration argument put forward by the Leave camp. I still have reservations about remaining in the EU so I put these forward before going on to the positives as I see them.
Negatives of remaining
- I fear that the UK will engage in a war of attrition within the EU. It will dilute, oppose, obstruct and veto anything that would hurt its own narrow self-interest. This will have the effect of weakening the EU on principle because the decisions made may be less effective and successful. It will also sow seeds of disharmony amongst other nations that will also come under pressure from their respective electorates for 'special' status. The Leave campaign has referred to this in passing by saying 'Let's leave so that we can go our way and they can fix their own mess. It will be win-win'. In that respect I was tempted to vote to leave. I have come round from this partly by reading how the lack of British involvement could empower other nationalists and fascists in Europe and trigger even more fragmentation of the EU, and partly because I fear for the type of Britain that would emerge without the 'safety-net' of the EU regulations and "red tape".
- I fear that it will hamper the remedies that the Eurozone needs to undertake if those remedies may negatively affect the City of London. A strong Eurozone is desirable for trade, but a fully stable and very strong Eurozone is not (for the UK) if it makes as much sense to deal in Euros as it does Sterling. The EU needs to fix the political and economic structures of the Euro - those fixes will not be popular in the UK and whilst we are not using the Euro or paying for the bailouts of members using the Euro, the UK will still want a veto against those fixes if it sets up the Euro in direct competition to the GBP. This may extend or exacerbate the Euro crisis. In that respect I favour a clean break and would vote to leave. I haven't really come round from this argument and I think I'm just hoping that when these issues are negotiated, the UK government has a pragmatic and technical viewpoint rather than a political or jingoistic one.
Positives for remaining
- We see what happens when a country like the US believes in exceptional-ism and manifest destiny. We see what happens when the attitude that solidarity, sacrifice for the common good, compromise are perceived as signs of weakness. The recent history of the world is littered with failures be it in dealing with nuclear proliferation, terrorism, climate change, the migrant crisis, Syria and the Palestinian issue because these globally significant matters require a leadership that looks beyond electoral cycles to the long-term greater good. These issues need to be tackled beyond populism and rhetoric. The EU doesn't automatically provide answers to these issues, but it is the only long term project out there which has a chance to provide a stable long-term view. I'm voting to remain because I don't trust ANYONE (Westminster or Brussels) to do what is right all the time. But with both in tandem I think we have a fighting chance.
- There is probably more than a grain of truth from those who say the UK is only welcome in the EU for our money. That said, I think it is money well-spent. Yes it poses challenges today because we can argue whether our money should remain here or go to a lesser developed EU member. What I think people forget is that those lesser developed members won't always be this way. Countries can change quite quickly and small countries can change even faster. They will progress because of the directives, regulations and institutions of the EU and yes, because of the money that we - collectively- provide. This will reduce the challenges of migration, healthcare and benefits abuse. I'm voting to remain because I think we have a collective responsibility to work with and help raise the living standards of all people on Earth, and we should start with our closest neighbours.
- The EU was born out of the ashes of the memory of two world wars and it has grown amidst the conflict of the Cold War. People argue that NATO has kept the peace. That argument works only if you consider peace only as the absence of war. To me peace is much more than that. It is the acknowledgement that we share a common destiny and are willing to share in the success and failures of our fellow human beings. With other European countries we share centuries of not just conflict, but also migration, and art, science, music and yes, even language. Not very long ago some of the members of the EU were on the other side of the Iron Curtain, with nuclear weapons pointing at us. Today they are part of the democratic family of European nations. The EU gives us a framework for embedding and guaranteeing the socially progressive democratic traditions of Western civilisation with rights and protections for the individual. It provides a structure that aims to harmonise the political, economic and social conditions of the citizens of its member states. It provides an opportunity to hold power of governments and large corporations to account through the collective bargaining power of 500 million citizens. It seems wrong to turn our backs on the lessons of history and our common heritage - be they positive or negative - simply because we feel that "we are better" and want to "take back control". I'm voting to remain because I think we are stronger and safer together and I believe perhaps idealistically that there is such a thing as a European heritage and destiny.
- Nationalism is like religion with the only positive thing to be said for the former being that it facilitates administration. It is an evil that I hope humanity grows out of sooner rather than later. I don't think the future of the human race depends on the survival of the nation state as a concept and certainly not whether or not Britain or the US or Germany or Switzerland or any individual state survives the next two centuries in their current form. What the human race DOES depend on is whether we can collectively deal with the global challenges I mentioned above. The Leave side are vehemently opposed to a federal Europe because they believe that this is what the EU will become and they fear the loss of Britain as a sovereign nation. I'm ambivalent about it: in the sense that if - and it really is an if - it does start to shape itself as a federal state, I would expect it to have all the checks and balances of a democratic Western nation with direct elections and institutions that are independent and answerable to the people. I would expect it to learn from and avoid the mistakes made by the United States on one extreme and India on the other. I would also expect that in a few centuries even the European identity would merge with a broader European-Asian-African one. The Remain side have tried to dodge this issue because it is politically toxic to be pro-European in this country. You can't argue FOR the EU; you can only argue for the British advantage of being in the EU. I think even most of them would draw the line at the federal Europe but the fact is that this referendum is not about what MIGHT happen. If a new treaty emerges to form a superstate Britain would be in its rights to hold a new referendum (I think most countries would do the same). We can decide at that point whether to become a state within the United States of Europe. Until then we can be members of the EU as it stands. I'm voting to remain because I want the option to have that choice later.