The wrong debate, an inconclusive result

The Referendum Debate has been appalling. Here are three things that could have elevated debate, and might have resulted in a more decisive victory, one way or the other.

  1. Democracy.
    The last time the EU was democratic was before it was named the EU. It was still called the Common Market, and it seemed like a marvellous idea. Many nations of Europe had joined forces, removing the need for war, and acting as a single trading bloc.
    Those of us who voted for it in 1975 were paying no attention to Tony Benn, Barbara Castle, Enoch Powell and Peter Shore. These guys knew (because they had seen documentation which we, the people, were not allowed to see) that the intention was to move to a supra-national organisation which would create its own Parliament and start making laws, impinging on the sovereignty of all member nations.

    We were young, we trusted that both sides were telling us the truth. And, to be fair, they were. The debate back then was a model of propriety compared to the three-ring circus of 2016. But they weren’t all necessarily telling us all we needed to know.

    The problem was, we were not educated enough in the mysteries of political machinations and economics back then. What Benn, Powell et al were telling us was way above our pay grade.

    And absolutely all of it has come to pass. For the nerds among you:
    Democracy 101. There is no democracy without a demos. There is no European demos, therefore the EU is not democratic.One day, they might put a referendum question to all 500m of us:
    Do you agree:
    that Europe should adopt a federal system,
    where each country is a state within the system,
    with one currency,
    one fiscal policy,
    one central bank,
    one central treasury,
    one central Parliament
    and one President.

    Until that day it has no legitimacy whatsoever.

  2. The Euro and youth unemployment
    Across the EU, 21% of under-25s are unemployed. The fact that the UK does way better than that is down to the fact that we opted out of the Euro.The Euro has raised prices dramatically, particularly across southern Europe where we used to go for cheap holidays and buy a bottle of wine for a penny. (Just kidding, but not really). It may not have occurred to tourists that when the price of a bottle of wine, or a pot of jam, or a loaf of bread, started costing us pretty much what it cost at home, that those same swingeing increases applied to those who lived in the countries where we were holidaying.But their wages didn’t rise by the same level.
  3. Other people’s problems
    Voting for the status quo as it is in the UK is basically giving permission to the EU to continue wreaking havoc. We might not have understood economics 40 years ago.But it’s not too difficult in the 21st century to grasp the fact that a common currency without a common fiscal policy is likely to lead to /chaos.

    So, as Greece comes back for another bailout, so that it can pay the interest on the loans it received in the last bailout, which was given so that the country could continue to pay the interest on its original debt, incurred when it entered the EU (are you still with me?) you might wish you’d pondered a little longer as your pencil hovered over which box to put your X in.

    Italy, also, is bust. But somehow it manages to avoid the public spectacle of the Greek tragedy.

    How many times during the EU debate did people virtue-signal that the EU was a force for peace, a force for good labour relations, a force for good for our grandchildren, and would better protect our jobs and our rights.

    Try telling that to the 45% of under-25s who are out of work in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

    As for the ‘force for peace’ canard – any ‘peace’ that’s been kept has been done by NATO, not the EU. The EU doesn’t have a military.But go online and count – yes, count! – the number of European conflicts there have been since 1958. There have been dozens.
    And just in case you want to write them off as not that significant, they include the terrible wars in Bosnia and Kosovo.

    In any event, the European Coal & Steel Community, formed in 1952, had it covered. Germany and France would no longer have reason to go to war. We’ve come a long, long way from the ECSC to a common currency (but no common fiscal policy) and a European Parliament that has no democratic legitimacy.

If only the Leave Campaign had campaigned on the basis of these three things. Instead, both sides appealed to the worst of us. Stay preyed on our fear of the unknown, what it would do to house prices, jobs in the UK, trade and the economy. We were persuaded to vote for the status quo in our own selfish interests.

Leave preyed on our bigotry, particularly when it comes to immigration. The entirety of the immigrant community in the UK first hit double figures (12%) in the 2010 Census. That’s black, Asian, Chinese, and European. And yet millions of people believe that European immigrants account for 15% of our population.

Mind you, put like that, it’s no wonder the debate got so dirty. If people cannot even be bothered to go online and check what they are being told, we probably got the Referendum Debate we deserved; and, in the end, the result we deserved. Shame.

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