EU Referendum ahead
The British voter will soon be asked to decide on whether Britain will continue to have a future as part of the European Union (EU) or to exit it (i.e. Brexit or British Exist). The EU referendum’s date has not yet been fixed and must happen by 2017, but is widely speculated that it is going to be to be scheduled for mid-2016.
That question that will be put to the British voter is simple but fundamentally important, namely:
- Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the EU?
The options are either to:
- Remain a member of the European Union or
- Leave the European Union
This is a simple question with simple options, but it nevertheless is a historic referendum that will influence the future of the UK (and that of the EU itself) for generations to come.
Brexit the obvious solution?
I am a British citizen who lived, studied and worked in Britain. My parents, sibling and my closest friends remain in Britain. Nevertheless, during the last 20 years, I have lived and worked in numerous countries of the EU and elsewhere. I am married to a German and my business takes me regularly to different parts of the EU, potential future EU countries and beyond. I understand what the feeling is about the EU and that there is frustration with the way the EU is perceived to be interfering with British sovereignty and especially about the freedom of movement of people, which is widely seen to be adding to the social pressures in the country.
If I were about to cast a vote at the forthcoming EU referendum, I would feel apprehensive about it. If I were to believe what a hostile media and populist politicians stress, my gut reaction might be to vote for Brexit and leave the EU. I might not be greatly enamoured by the current state of the UK economy, the ongoing austerity, the decreasing wages and the job insecurity. I might well be hearing about the number of laws and regulations emanating from “Brussels”, which the shorthand for the EU, with the implication that Britain no longer controls its own borders and sovereignty. I might well be tempted to conclude that the EU is indeed to blame.
Furthermore, I might also be frustrated by my inability to get on to the first rang of the housing ladder while others point to migrants from the EU are taking up the supply of housing that I or my children want to make use of in our own country. This might lead me to concur with those that point to the “uncontrolled” borders and the EU migration caused by the freedom of movement of people. A similar argument is applied to the pressures in the health and education systems, and I might also be concerned about the “swarms” of EU migrants taking-up scarce resources that we are entitled to, since we are the ones who are actually paying the taxes while the others jump the queue and coin the market for social benefits.
In short, if I were to believe all of the above, I might be well disposed to giving “Europe” a bloody nose, just as populist politicians and the media are urging me to. I might vote to leave the EU: Britain was great on its own and can be once again.
The real issues
But the British voters are fair and reasonable. Rather than follow their gut reaction, they will want to balance both sides of the equation and be fair and dispassionate in making this historic decision. They will want answers to the following questions:
- Is the negative portrayal of the EU and all the criticism connected with it correct?
- Is it too simplistic to say that the EU is to blame for all the challenges in Britain?
- Is Britain indeed so tied-up by the EU that it is no longer in charge of its own destiny?
- Are there only costs to being one of 28 member of the EU?
If something sounds too simple to be true (it’s the EU, stupid!), then perhaps it is really is too good to be true. Simple solutions to complex problems are appealing but can the EU really be the fount of all of Britain’s ills and will the country really be better off immediately upon Brexit?
Looking at it through another lens, the fair-minded British voter might ask whether it is reasonable or not to only see “Europe”, “Brussels” and the “European Union” only in a negative light? Can it really be that Britain is only paying in but getting nought out of the EU? And, if things are not quite so black and white, what exactly are those positives that are so rare to hear about? Are the benefits so abstract that the ordinary voter simply cannot grasp them or related to them?
We all instinctively know that there are two sides to every story but the media and the loudest politicians do not excel at presenting the pros and cons. As a Brit with a foot on both camps, I hear a series of populist myths being peddled again and again. I often smell a red herring when I turn a newspaper pager. I often see the EU being used and abused by those who would attack a straw man.
So in making-up my mind about how to vote at the historic EU referendum, as a Brit, I would want to understand the costs as well as the benefits connected with the most important EU issues, namely:
- Is EU migration a good reason for Brexit?
- Is EU benefit tourism a good reason for Brexit?
- Is the housing crisis a good reason for Brexit?
- Is EU health tourism a good reason for Brexit?
- Are EU directives and regulations a good reason for Brexit?
- Is the state of the education system a good reason for Brexit?
- Is the EU the cause of austerity, low productivity and stagnating wages in the UK?
- Is the UK paying more than its fair share and getting little out of the EU?
- Is having the Euro (one currency in 19 countries out of 28) so bad?
- Is being able to visit, study and work in 28 countries so bad?
- Is being able to own a second home and retire in 28 countries so bad?
- Is having common trade arrangements in 28 countries so bad?
- Is having common environmental standards in 28 countries so bad?
- Is having common consumer protection in 28 countries so bad?
- Is reducing the time, stress, cost, etc. across 28 countries so bad?
- Is the EU undemocratic, out of touch and beyond reform?
- Is Britain better or worse off within the EU?
- Is the EU better or worse off with Britain in the EU?
- Are you better off with Britain in the EU or not?
Questions and Answers
If I were the average voter, I would want an answer to these questions before casting my vote.
I would also want the answers to be simple, short and to the point but backed-up by evidence.
This is exactly what the AngloDeutsch Blog will seek to do from until the referendum.
This will be a challenge, given my professional and other commitments, but I shall do my best to cover as many of these topics as I can over the next few months, starting with the EU’s freedom of movement of people.
Dr Ricardo Pinto, AngloDeutsch™ Blog, www.AngloDeutsch.EU, 13 February 2016