I’m voting IN, and you should too
Tue Jun 21, 2016
Well, here we are, two days out from the referendum. I’m voting IN, but that’s not the main point of this post. The fact that we are having this referendum at all, the fact that it is going to be so close, the fact that it has unleashed a wave of ill informed anger across the divide, all of these things have made me worry and despair a little about the state of politics in Britain.
We should never have had this referendum, David Allen Green has written clearly on this topic. It seems to me that the main reason for it is one of political expediency for David Cameron, and it seems to be backfiring, potentially catastrophically. That a position would jeopardise the future of their country for such small political gain is damning.
All of the arguments of the exit camp are spurious, all of them. This 30 minute talk from Michael Dougan skewers all of the economic and legislative arguments of the exit camp. If we vote leave the british public will have been hoodwinked into exiting the EU for the gain and benefit a a very small number of ultra conservative and far right politicians.
The argument about immigration causing a strain on services was cleanly punctured by of all things this news thump post on facebook. Immigrants pay more than they take out of the system. If the people collecting those taxes don’t re-invest this money in things like the NHS then that is on the tax collectors, and not those paying the taxes. Yup, conservative austerity measures are what is to blame, and they have allowed immigrants and the poor to be their whipping boys, and now the resentment they have drop fed for years is biting them in the ass.
That editorial also puts paid to the claims that there are £350M per week in funds waiting to be spent on the NHS, on social services, on pensions, on research funding, on student grants. The amount is equal to 30p per head per week in the UK, but more than that, even a 1% reduction in GDP owing to an exit, wipes that money off the table. The money won’t be there, if it were there it would not cover all of the things that have been promised for it, and even if it did cover all of those things, those advocating leave are more likely to engineer more tax cuts for businesses and their friends, than actually spend this on the people.
It would all be comical were it not so serious.
The majority of the arguments for remain have been driven by scare tactics, and penny pinching arguments about the risks of leaving, rather than speaking to our higher selves, to the ideals of a democratic set of countries working together for the betterment of their citizens and the planet. It all felt a bit like the following:
Make no mistake, warts aside, the EU has been improving the lives of its citizens. More than 70 years without war, generations of people with opportunities to travel and learn about each others cultures, the ability to advocate for climate change globally with a stronger voice. There are many things about the EU that need to change — the way that refugees are treated, the lack of transparency in Eurogroup meetings, the imbalance in economic power between the centre and the fringes, the harm that the current Euro system can cause to smaller economies, however all of these things do not take away from what has been achieved, and from the ability that the EU as a structure gives us to work on solving larger problems.
I am strongly pro European, and for me it is not some abstract ideal, it is deeply personal. I’m Irish and I was born in 1974. In 1976 Ireland joined the EEC. In 1979 the Pope visited Ireland. Over the past forty years the story of Ireland, and to a certain extent the story of my coming of age, has been about the Ireland’s focus moving from Pope to Europe, about the seismic shift from having an inward looking dogmatic view of itself to a country driven by an international and pluralistic vision.
I have seen the lives of my family, my friends, flourish within the European union. I remember the curiosity that I had in the early nineties when I would meed students from the continent that wanted to come to Ireland. This was in the days before mobile phones, before the internet. These were for me the first inklings that were were not culturally isolated, but were part of a larger network of a more future looking and hopeful generation.
The European Union enabled me to study in the UK, it enabled me to work in Germany, and then in the Netherlands, where I met my wife. It enabled us to come and work and live in the UK where we have had our two children. The freedoms of travel and work within the EU have very literally enabled me to have the life that I have now, and it is a far better life that has been filled with wonderful opportunities, than the one I imagine I may have had, were Ireland to have been excluded from those possibilities.
I see the denunciations that the leave campaign are making against the EU, and their call to create a stronger Britain, but what country could be stronger than one that leads the thinking, philosophy and energy of a grand union of nations that are communally tied through democratic values that have come out of the enlightenment, and have been torch papers for all democracies across the world?
In the language and tactics of the leave campaign I see only base demagoguery, backed by lies, and a howling and shouting down of the evidence in a way that is clouding the facts for the electorate. Myself and my friends have been in despair, but we are like minded people, and no amount of fear shared amongst ourselves is going to shift the debate. All of the channels that I might express myself in are probably filled with audiences who have already self-selected me as a source, and so you dear reader are probably not going to be the person I need to convince. They say that all politics is local. Apart from retweeting things I agree with, and complaining with my friends on Facebook, I’ve not done much, and yet this vote is so important.
Last night I hand delivered a letter to each of the other 25 apartments in my building, with an appeal for them to vote remain. I kept it fairly short. It felt a little odd, stepping out of the polite bubble that we construct in a city that keeps us pleasant but isolated from our neighbours. It was odd to discover how hard it can be to push a flimsy letter through some letter boxes, but it felt like the right thing to do. I don’t know if it will have any effect, and I can’t honestly say that this is the most that I could have done, but I’ve at least tried to do something. I’ll vote now on Thursday, and then I’ll watch the results roll in, and I’ll hope through it all the Britain comes to her sense, and that by Friday we have chosen on the side of the enlightenment.