Last year we had the general election to elect the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom. This year we have already had the election for London Mayor. Neither of these two elections will have as much impact as the one this Thursday (June 23) where the UK decides whether or not we should remain a member of the European Union.
The impact of that decision will continue well past the election of the 66th or even the 76th Parliament. But what are the facts? What is the decision that should be made? Should we stay in this marriage for the good and the bad, or do we want to divorce ourselves from the EU and deal with whatever the fallout is in the hope that things will get better as a result?
Ultimately the scary part of this whole decision is there are very few facts, just informed guesses. Unfortunately the scaremongering tactics that have been employed by both the Leave and Remain campaigns makes it extremely difficult to cut through the distorted statistics to see clear arguments either way. Doing a maths degree taught me a love for numbers, but it also taught me that you can manipulate data to tell whatever story you want. This is what is happening here and it can leave things very confusing, particularly when opinions get masqueraded as facts. We can get a best guess on what the impact of either decision might be, but these can be open to interpretation.
One area that it is hard to get a clear understanding on is the economy. How much do we give to the EU and is it worth it? Well our economy, in base terms, is all about buying and selling and the fact is that the EU agreements make it very easy for businesses to both buy and sell to and from countries in Europe. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Governor of The Bank of England and 9 out of 10 economists tell us that there will be a severe economic impact on the country if we were to Leave the EU. This is reinforced by business leaders who say that the lack of regulation in place, should we exit the EU, means they may have to rethink their UK operations which could cost thousands of jobs. But these are not facts - yet.
There are two facts however that show us the real fear from investors – the value of sterling has dropped significantly in the past few days due to fears of a Brexit and over £100bn has been wiped off the value of the top 100 companies on the stock market. People talk with their feet and ultimately what this means is that people have been selling their shares in UK companies through fear of what could happen to their value should we leave the EU. People do not see the UK as a safe place to put their money in case of an Exit and there is overwhelming opinion from experts that leaving the EU would hurt our economy. I believe we should ignore this at our peril.
Perhaps the biggest argument coming from the Leave campaign is around immigration and being able to control our borders. This argument seems mostly based upon the feeling that all these Europeans are coming to England to ‘sponge’ off our benefits system. Firstly, the majority of people who I encounter in the UK from the EU are in employment, here to create a better life for themselves and are contributing to our economy., and what’s more, this ‘sponging’ off the economy has been partly safeguarded as part of the Prime Minister’s EU reform deal which means that anyone who does not find work within 6 months of coming to the UK will be required to leave.
I do agree with the fact that immigration in the UK does need to be looked at. But we are being sold the idea that should we leave the EU that all our immigration woes will suddenly be fixed – like some magic pill that will just remove all of the issues. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat and I believe that there are other diplomatic options that should be looked at and exhausted first before taking this drastic step.
But the main reason that I will be voting to Remain within the EU is not centred around the economy or immigration. It is because to do otherwise is too big a gamble with too many unknowns. We know what will happen if we Remain in the EU, things will continue as they currently are and we will have the opportunity to influence future change in steps. But if we leave? We have no idea. Nobody has done this before. It’s like putting all your money on red not even knowing what the odds are. To me it boils down to this question: do we believe that things are sufficiently bad in the UK that we need to take a gamble on something that could maybe make things better but could equally make things a whole lot worse? For me the answer to this question is an emphatic ‘no’ and that’s why I will be voting to Remain.
We keep getting told it is a once in a lifetime choice, and it probably is – particularly if we choose to leave. We won’t get let back in at a later date with our tails between our legs if it all goes wrong. However, if we choose to Remain and look at other means of solving any problems we have and they don’t work, we could always look to leave at a later date. In Monopoly terms, I believe we should try to roll our three doubles first before we play our ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card as a last resort.
Different people are going to have different opinions based on the parts of EU membership that are priorities for them, and mine is clearly just one of those. The most important thing, more important than who you vote for, is that you do go and vote. We live in a democracy which is a wonderful thing. This decision is being given to the people, not just being decided by a load of suits in the House of Commons. The more people that choose to exercise their democratic right to vote, the more certain we will be that whatever the outcome it is what the people of the UK decided – for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.
The referendum on Britain's membership of the EU takes place this Thursday, June 23. For more information and to find your nearest polling station, visit aboutmyvote.co.uk.
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