Wednesday 22 June 2016

My mind hasn’t changed, I’m still voting to remain in the EU

How are you feeling about the EU referendum? Do you know what you’re doing tomorrow? Have you had enough of the endless claims and counter claims from both sides?

Tomorrow I'll be voting to remain in the EU - it's never been in doubt for me. I'm one of those people who have always known their feelings towards the European Union. We could have had a referendum last year, 5 or 10 years ago and I will still have voted to remain in the EU. There was never anything the Brexit camp could say to change my mind.

I'm glad the vote is finally upon us. I've had enough of the debate. A few weeks ago I was really beginning to get fed up of the whole thing. Firstly because I've always known how I was going to vote but secondly because I was getting fed up of the nature and rhetoric of the debate.

At various points during the campaign I really feel as if both sides have insulted my intelligence. Comments such as the one made by House of Commons leader, Chris Grayling in which he said Brexit would help young people get on housing ladder!

Really! Surely building more houses might make a difference?

Then you have the NHS. We've had to listen to how leaving the EU could free up more money for the NHS? Or how staying in the EU is a threat to the NHS.

When it was announced that we would be having a referendum on EU membership I thought it was a good idea but now that we're at the end of the campaign I think holding a referendum has been a mistake.

Debating the merits of EU membership covers a whole number of different issues in regards to British jobs and the economy, national sovereignty, EU Laws and regulation, immigration, EU subsidies.

For those of us who follow politics and current affairs, understanding all the complexities of the issues and getting to the facts isn't easy and is arguably more difficult for those people that don't normally follow politics.

After reading this article in the Birmingham Post today: Opinion: Lets not have anymore referendums

I've come to the conclusion that having referendums aren't a good idea. Let our elected Members of Parliament make these decision on our behalf. That is the role of Parliamentary democracy and the reason why we elect MPs.

What we've seen is the debate reduced to simplistic soundbites like 'lets take our country back' or project fear from the Remain campaign. The one issue that has totally dominated the debate is that of immigration and even that isn't debated properly in an objective manner.

What I thought could be a really great exercise in democracy has for me been a bit of a disappointment. The Remain campaign have at times presented a vision of Armageddon should we leave the EU, while the Brexit camp have presented a vision of a glorious utopia ahead for the country should we finally cut ourselves free from the EU which for too long has held us back and forcing their laws on us.

The EU vote represents many different things for different people.

One thing that has really stood out for me about this referendum is that the way people feel and decide how to vote is very much a reflection on how they see and experience living in the UK. It's also about what type of you country you think the UK is and should be in the future.

I'm quite happy to admit that my vote to remain in the EU perfectly reflects my demographic background. I've lived and worked in London for the last 15 years. London and Scotland have the biggest support for remaining in the EU. I'm university educated, in fact I also have a post graduate degree. I'm reasonably well traveled and have visited many countries in Europe.

In terms of my job and annual salary I'm pretty much Middle Class. Although I certainly don't consider myself wealthy I earn an above average salary and in many ways I'm quite comfortable. All of these things point towards someone who would naturally vote towards remaining in the EU.

However, I've begun to realise that the country is incredibly divided. What's been really interesting is seeing how many traditional working class Labour supporters in the North and the Midlands are keen to leave the EU. There views and experiences of life in the UK are very different.

If you're in low paid insecure work, you live in communities which have received high levels of immigration from Eastern Europe, if you feel that mainstream politics has little to say to you or even understand your life you're more likely to want to leave the EU. Not necessarily because the EU is the cause of these things but because the EU referendum is an chance to express those feelings of unhappiness about the status quo.

During the last few weeks I've been watching a series of short films by the Guardian journalist John Harris. He's been travelling to towns and cities across the UK to discuss people's feelings about the EU referendum and how they feel about the state of things in the country.

I've found it fascinating to watch. In his latest film which you can click on below, he talks about a divided and angry Britain and the referendum campaign has highlighted this split.

From my own personal point of view, I don't share some of these concerns or frustrations but I understand and recognise that there are a lot of people in parts of the country which aren't thriving, where job opportunities aren't great, who feel threatened by EU migration and they want to make their feelings heard.

Leaving the EU won't solve these problems

As someone who believes it's better for Britain to remain inside the EU, the argument I would make to those people who feel fed and disillusioned is to say that voting to leave the EU won't solve many of the problems and concerns they have. It's as if voting out of the EU is a way of giving the establishment and the elites a bloody nose.

This would be all well and good if it somehow made a positive difference but I don't think it will. Even if we leave the EU, there will still be some form of immigration. There will be some downturn in the economy which many business leaders and economists believe will happen and many of the problems and frustrations people are feeling will remain.

Many of the problems people are protesting about are of the result of globalisation and economic policies of the last 35 years and what could be described as the crumbling of the neo-liberal economic consensus.

Admittedly it's up to individual people how they vote and their reasons for doing so; but I feel that some of the frustrations people feel shouldn't be directed solely at the European Union.

Why I want to remain in the UK

I've had a think of some of the reasons why I want to remain the in the EU. Here's a selection:

  • I want the UK to play a major role in the European Union, I don't want us to be outsiders. I think we will have more influence on a global stage by staying in the EU

  • The EU needs reforming and I want the UK to be part of and shaping those reforms

  • Economically we'll be worse off

  • Leaving the EU could lead to the eventual breakup of the EU

  • Part of me feels European

  • THe EU has given us rights and protections that many us benefit from even though we may struggle to recognise or identify these benefits

  • leaving the EU will probably mean a change of leadership in the Tory Party. I'm not interested in seeing Boris Johnson as PM

  • Tomorrow's vote is going to be close. I can't see either side winning more than 55% of the vote but I'm quietly confident that by Friday morning, those of us on the Remain side will have won.

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