The big day we’ve been talking about for so many months has finally landed.
The clock is ticking for those who haven’t yet registered to vote.
The opposing battle lines have been drawn (and redrawn).
It seems that the media is talking about nothing else, certainly in the UK, with just a few lines dedicated here and there to the French strikes, Euro 2016 and the plight of refugees.
Yet, are things really any clearer? Does the average Brit really know what they are voting for?
Focusing their attention on immigration and the economy, the Brexiters has produced a panoply of deliberately shocking statements ranging from claiming the UK pays 55 million pounds ($79 million) per day to the EU to saying that the Brexit would lead to near zero immigration.
Against a backdrop of public anger at increasing levels of immigration largely from within the EU, Boris, Gove & Co. have slowly crossed into territory usually dominated by Mr. Farage, who, despite being forced to take a backseat, has still managed to make some controversial remarks.
THE REMAIN CAMP
On the other hand, the Remainers, led by a battered Cameron still reeling from Boris’ betrayal, have pulled out all the big cards – Barack Obama, IMF and Bank of England – to demonstrate that the (as yet unknown) economic consequences of leaving would be apocalyptic. According to the UK Treasury, British output will decline as much as 7.5% after 15 years, costing as much as 2,100 pounds per person.
The truth is we don’t know what will happen.
TRADE AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
We don’t know what kind of relationship we would be able to rebuild with other countries and it’s clear that a solution wouldn’t be reached for many years. There are no guarantees that the countries we’d abandoned would be one our side, especially if they wanted to deter other EU countries from doing the same. Barack Obama certainly suggests that we wouldn’t be a priority trading partner for the US.
Let’s not forget that a single market of 500 million consumers has enabled the EU to secure favourable free-trade deals with much of the world and the European Union allows us to live, work and travel visa-free across many European countries.
We don’t know what will happen to 1.3 million British expats who’ve taken advantage of this freedom of movement to set up in EU countries – Spain alone has over 300,000 British people attracted by the sun, free healthcare and cheaper cost of living. And, what about the thousands EU nationals living in the UK? Will we kick them out despite having paid taxes and contributed to the economy for many years?
We don’t even know which of the numerous statistics pulled out of the hat on both sides are actually true!
But, despite all this uncertainty, I personally can’t help feeling that turning inwards on ourselves isn’t the answer. Surely there is strength in unity to fighter terrorism, enhance security, protect the environment and establish favourable trade deals.
Yes, it is hard to control immigration, but the Brexit doesn’t offer any guarantees either. It certainly isn’t the case for the much cited example of Norway. What would happen to the National Health Service largely run by non-English staff?
Yes, in some ways the European Union is undemocratic and does take away some of our sovereignty. But we do have a say. Which is more that can be said about the House of Lords. If we want to continue trading with the EU, we will still have to abide by EU regulations without having any role in creating them.
Yes, the European Union does need to evolve to match a context that is very different from in 1975, when we voted to join. But is leaving the best way to negotiate this? The EU has accepted that we want out of euro, Schengen and an « ever-closer union ». What’s more, we aren’t the only ones who want change. But we can’t play a pivotal role in bringing this about if we’ve opted out!
Do we want to see the end of the United Kingdom despite having recently campaigned so hard to have Scotland stay? What about Ireland?
There are definitely lots of questions and so far very few definite answers. Everything is still up in the air, each side is adding their final arguments to the fire and the undecided are still making up their minds.
We’ll just have to wait until 23rd June!