After a less than edifying campaign, the EU referendum finally arrives tomorrow. I can’t say I’ve been especially impressed with either campaign but, having intended to vote Remain from the outset, I did expect to see one or two Leave arguments that I could at least see the logic of. If there are any compelling reasons to leave the EU, they certainly haven’t been put forward to me. In fact, none of the Brexit (sorry, horrible word but there’s only so many times I can use ‘Leave’) arguments stack up at all for me when any time is spent considering them.
Let’s start with a blatant lie; that the UK sends £350 million to the EU each week. This has been repeated ad nauseam and blazoned across the side of Boris Johnson’s battle bus. The problem is, this is a gross figure and so completely meaningless. The net figure, once the UK’s rebate and other money we receive is taken into account, is closer to £190 million1. That’s obviously still a lot of money but let’s not pretend that we wouldn’t need to spend money on some of the things that the EU currently provides should we leave. So, the cost argument has been hugely exaggerated.
Possibly the only thing that we have heard more than that £350 million figure is the phrase “take back control”. The idea that the EU somehow has the final say over how we govern the country is a myth that has been around for as long as I can remember and probably for as long as the EU itself. Firstly, just about every law that the EU makes must be passed by both the Council of the European Union, which is made up of government ministers from each member state, and the European Parliament, every member of which has been elected (you know, in those elections that we hold to elect unelected MEP’s)2. So, the people who make these laws are both elected and accountable – with the slight caveat that the UK government currently includes 24 members of the House of Lords who are, of course, unelected. So any issue with accountability here is clearly a UK issue, not an EU one. It is fair to say that we don’t get to vote on members of the European Commission but we do vote for those who appoint them. We don’t get to choose the UK cabinet either but this does not make our government undemocratic.
Secondly, the thing that really buries the argument that we have no control over our own laws are the statistics. I know using facts and evidence and the like is considered unnecessary when it comes to modern political discourse but I think it can be justified here. Since 1999, the UK has voted in favour of 95% of laws passed in Brussels3. That’s 2,474 times against the 57 times that we have disagreed and 70 times that we have abstained. it is very clear that we already have control.
Still, there’s always immigration. It’s well established that we are, in Nigel Farage’s words, at “breaking point”. Well, firstly, nationals from EU member states account for less than half of immigration to the UK. Secondly, it has been long-established that migrants have a positive effect on our economy4 and there is no evidence that EU migrants have had an adverse effect on wages5 despite all the jokes about polish plumbers. I have no doubt that services in some areas will feel the strain if there is a sudden influx of immigrants but given the above evidence of their net contribution, there is no reason for that pressure to be anything other than short-lived, other than underfunding from our own government. That has absolutely nothing to do with the EU.
So, I’ve yet to find a compelling argument to leave the EU based on the cost, immigration or sovereignty. I do, however, always like to get one over on the establishment. Nigel Farage has long portrayed himself as some kind of man of the people fighting the bourgeois, elitist leaders that we so often seem to choose. The reality, of course, is that he is a publicly educated commodity broker; the very essence of ‘establishment’ some might say. As Paul Mason puts it so brilliantly, this is a ‘fake revolt’6 led by members of the elite with a vested interest in the status quo. Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have no interest in helping the working people of the UK, they have an interest in helping themselves.
Experts – the bane of Gove’s life – believe it is inconceivable that a vote to leave the EU would not have an immediate negative effect on our economy7 and, despite Boris Johnson’s promise to apologise8 if we enter a recession, I have seen no evidence that Brexit would reap the rewards to make that worthwhile.
More than anything, however, it is a sense of cooperation that compels me to vote Remain tomorrow. We live in a world where turning our back on our neighbours and isolating ourselves is the last thing we should do. With this in mind, and in a somewhat unexpected turn, I leave you on the eve of this historic vote with the words of David Beckham:
For our children and their children we should be facing the problems of the world together and not alone. For these reasons I am voting to Remain
If the above is not enough for you, consider this; a vote to remain in the EU may be a nail in the coffin of the political careers of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.