Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The EU Referendum: How I Have Come To My Decision

by Tom Fairman

There has been so much written and so much said about Thursday’s EU Referendum that I am unsure how much I can add to this.

Economic experts and business leaders have argued either way, with different forecasts and figures being bandied around. This is the beauty of Economics but also its main problem. In the context of an age where uncertainty is deemed to be worse than being wrong, this ambiguity has been replaced by false assertions of unknowns as facts and has led to a distrust of the figures and the figures who make the claims. The economic impacts of Brexit or Bremain are therefore uncertain, but invariably life will go on. There will be recessions and recoveries, growth and crashes. Public services will continue to be underfunded and the gap between rich and poorer will continue to rise, whether we are inside or outside of the EU. The current trend of austerity and de-regulation that is in vogue with Western institutions exists inside and outside the EU. The inevitable conclusion of these factors is that we find ourselves in a position to vote on a subject where we feel we have no solid facts to base our decision upon.

The inability of the majority of politicians to stay away from hyperbole and admit their own uncertainty has only added to the erosion of trust in politicians, whether they be the EU Commissioners or the elite British political class, which has left people in a position of not knowing who to believe. I find this a difficult conundrum on two levels. Firstly, I believe that politicians start off their careers wanting to make a difference to their country, regardless of their own political leanings. Whether they can maintain this in the highly pressurised world of national politics, with the power and the lobbying, is another matter, but for democracy to work that has to be the assumption. Which leads onto the second difficulty I have, which is the assumption that our British political class is in some way superior to its European counterparts. Nothing I have heard or seen supports this view; each organisation has its issues, corruptions and unaccountability (read HS2 for Britain and EU agricultural policy). Therefore whoever has our sovereignty, I can see no change to the systems we are under or the impact on everyday life.

The issue of immigration, therefore, has been at the forefront of the debate as something that is quantifiable and appears to have an impact on our lives through housing, schools and the NHS. When you speak to people about the referendum, it is the final issue in the majority of cases. Again it is surrounded with claims and counter claims, rational concerns and blatant racism. There is another prevailing current in the media and politics which is to scapegoat and blame an “other” for the ills in society, to unite against an enemy on our borders or in our midst. It is unhelpful when attempting to understand an issue and needs to be named before it can be addressed and dealt with to allow us to be able to see clearly.

These three areas are the main ones I have heard debated although other concerns do exist, but, as I have tried to explain, the conclusions I have come to about them have been inclusive for me. This may be strange to those who know where this is going, but it has led me to try to look for a different perspective. If these issues are the practical, but important day to day factors, there must be a bigger picture to consider.

The EU referendum has therefore become a symbolic vote for me, a statement of how I feel the world should be working. The current trends I see in politics are isolationism versus deeper integration. The isolationalists seem to take the view that our problems are coming from outside our borders, whether they be economic pressures or security issues and the solution is to shut up shop and batten down the hatches, dealing with the world as and when we decide. The opposite trend of deeper integration sees problems everywhere but believes the problems can be cured by tying economic and political interests more tightly together. However this has an isolationalist aspect as well, against those not in the club. This dualistic approach does not offer much middle ground as the EU is currently discovering.

Two of the great challenges I feel we are facing at the moment are climate change and the migrant crisis. Climate change and the environment is a crucial issue that, due to the costs and long term nature, cannot be solved at a purely national political or economic level. It requires a co-ordinated, integrated solution. The migrant crisis is a problem that will not go away because the world’s wealth is so unequally distributed. People will always be looking for a better life or trying to escape a worse one depending upon your point of view. This can be considered a problem solely for the closest countries, but given the historical context of what the wealth of the West has been built upon, there is a moral obligation for there to be a co-ordinated response.

This has led me to the following positive conclusions. The EU, despite its many flaws, offers an existing framework for us to try to solve these problems. I want to vote to be part of these solutions, to try and work together to solve them. I don’t want to stand on the sidelines and let others sort it out. We have the fifth largest economy in the world, blessed with more than we need, and a rich history of not standing on the sidelines and letting others fail. We have the capacity to make a difference and the obligation to at least try. If the EU is failing, we should be part of trying to help fix this. We are part of Europe by geographical location and, whether we like it or not, have always been and will always be connected in our respective fortunes. I don’t want to be part of a generation that turned its back on others, on the environment, on those who needed help. I know the EU is not perfect, but for me that does not mean trying to start again, alone. I like to think we as a nation are better than that. I will vote as a symbol of unity.

I hope this has explained how I have come to my decision and I hope you can make your own one too.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Tom, this is long! But so well written. thank you for taking the time to write it & I agree with everything you've said.


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