Thoughts on the EU referendum

I’m sorry, I tried to keep quiet about this, but I woke up this morning realising that the referendum was mere days away, and was filled with an absolute dread for the outcome.  I was going to do a quick Facebook post stating my voting intention and some reasons behind it, but I found myself getting deeper into it, the post became too lengthy and so I transferred it over here.

I thought I was undecided. It seems about 80% of the British population is undecided. It’s not like me not to have an opinion on something like this.  Then I realised I was just struggling to reconcile my Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum with a leaning towards an Remain vote for the EU referendum. Why vote FOR one form of separatism, but AGAINST another?  What it came down to, what tipped the balance for me in the IndyRef, was the desire to preserve Scotland’s social ideology. English politics is becoming more divisive, elitist and right-wing at an alarming rate.  In 2014 I felt the best way to maintain Scotland’s long -standing culture of social justice and progressive policies was to vote for Independence.  Now, in 2016, I believe the best way to do it is to vote to remain in the EU.  The only way to halt the destructive forces of the Tories, UKIP and the like is to stay in the EU, work together with our European neighbours to temper their right-wing agendas.

I lived in Sweden for a year. I decided to take a year off between school and university.  I had visited Sweden with the Guides a couple of years previously, so I took off there for a year, living and working in a community for people with various learning and physical disabilities.  I didn’t think anything of it. I could have gone to France, as I had been learning French at school. I could have gone anywhere in Europe.  In theory, I could have gone anywhere in the world, but I was 18, not exactly street-smart and the cuisine in most non-European countries wouldn’t agree with my (anaphylactic) allergies to nuts, egg and soya. The point it, I felt that the whole continent was open to me and I had the opportunity to explore it and make it my home for as long as I wanted to.  When I came back and started university, I found lots of our European neighbours were doing the same in the UK.  I want those same opportunities and freedoms to be taken for granted by my children.  I want them to feel part of a European family, where they are welcomed, learn the language, understand the culture and are fascinated by the differences but eventually come to realise that we have enough of a shared history and culture to essentially be the same extended family.  In this corner of Scotland, you can find evidence of both Roman and Viking settlements. We are made by Europeans and of Europeans. Our language is a wonderful amalgam of that of the various peoples that have invaded, settled and become us.  We can’t extract ourselves from that heritage.

I have only ever travelled and holidayed in Europe. I have a 5 (now 3) year plan to go further afield and I hope that happens, but in thinking about it, I plotted out all the places I’d been.

(I’ve been to more places in Britain, but only plotted places I’ve lived)

I have benefited hugely from being able to travel freely in Europe, and I hope to take my daughters around the continent when they are older.  To me, it would be strange and unnatural to have restrictions on this.  Leave voters would argue that we would have some arrangement, that we would be able to go wherever we wanted (but of course we would have to restrict those nasty immigrants from coming here) but we just don’t know that. And in any case, why should we? We may be an island, with a physical barrier to the rest of Europe, but the rest is artificial

Most of the discourse has been around the economic impact. You know what? I don’t give a shit about the economic impact.  I don’t care if it costs my me or my family £SomeMadeUpNumber to remain / leave. The numbers are being plucked out of thin air, economists are terrible at predictions, and the EU is about more than economics. It’s about resolving never to go to war with one another again. It’s about recognising the mistakes of our past and a determination never to repeat them. It’s about the world getting smaller and the belief that we are all stronger if we work together. It is about much more than economics, it is about ideology, cooperation and peace.

What really bothers me about this whole affair is that we are only having the bloody referendum in the first place because David Cameron wanted to appease the Eurosceptics in his own party.* Because Cameron couldn’t get his act together and unite his party, or adequately deal with the threat from UKIP, he took the easy way out and “let the people decide”. Except the people can’t decide. The people have no idea, and don’t trust any of the information being put out by either side. And now the Leave campaign have been given their biggest platform ever to peddle their anti-immigration, frankly outright racist messages.

Thanks, Dave.

So I am fearful of the outcome. I am worried that the UK will vote to leave the EU and cast us into unknown territory, destabilising Europe and giving a huge boost to the far-right, UKIP et al. I am worried that if Scotland (and other nations within the UK) vote in the majority to remain, it will have a destabilising effect on the UK. I may have voted for independence, but I’m also ok with being British, and don’t relish the idea of untold years more of uncertainty and constitutional wrangling. Well, the politics nerd in me will enjoy it to an extent, but only if we could fit the whole debate and outcome into a very short space of time. If we could bring in Kirsty Wark, debate it in a day and move on with our lives… But that’s never going to happen, it would be years more of Boris, Gove and Farage. Eww.

That’s why I am not one of the many undecided. I am firmly Remain. And I am not going to sleep well on Thursday night.

P.S. Because I can already anticipate some of the comments – I will offer my usual disclaimer. I am not attempting a thorough analysis of the whole affair. I’m not trying to start a debate, or contribute to a debate.  I am merely outlining some of my thoughts on the issue. And these are only today’s thoughts. A whole lot has been written about the referendum, most of it by people better informed then me. If you are still undecided, go and read some proper commentators from both sides, then make up your mind. I just had to get this off my chest.

*This is a good article explaining how we came to have a referendum in the first place. 



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