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In or Out? The Big Question in the UK

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Familiar beats of music pulled me into a gigantic room of balloons and lights. Was I in an EU Referendum event or a Saturday night party? I looked at the booth in front of me to be met with smiling faces of two young ladies. We greeted and they asked me, “In, out, or unsure?”.

As I glared over the stickers, I knew what my answer was. I wondered what their take on the subject was. I asked the lady on my left, “Have you decided what you’re going to vote?”

She immediately said that she’s ‘in’, but she’s still unsure. I guess most people were unsure that night. I must have spoken to nearly half of the room, although I hoped to get through more than a half.

As I explored the room of data, similar to the excitement felt walking into a museum, I searched information and activity that would give me a better insight into the situation. Kiosks circled the room containing different types of interactive activities, which encouraged people to talk about and develop their opinions. The DJ was in the heart of the room as he played arguments in favour and against Britain exiting the EU. But the kicker of the night was when spoken word artists took the stage with a memorable performance of arguments in favour and against leaving the European Union.

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This wasn’t the only highlight of my night. Everyone had quite a few (non-alcoholic) drinks at the bar. They were non-alcoholic for a strong reason; wait for it…

Bartenders prepared drinks according to people’s votes in the precise moments they had an opinion. They had a maximum 7 chances to get a free drink, which opened doors to formulate their stances and observe the patterns of their vote as it changed from drink 1 to drink 5, then 7 if they made it that far. Flavours were mixed according to not only whether someone was in, out or unsure, but also the degree to which they were sure or unsure about their current vote. I’ve had a bit too much pineapple in my drink, with an extra kick from a splash of orange. You can probably tell what my vote was by my drink. I won’t say it, but I’ll let you decide what it was.

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What was the point of this data rave event? Beatfreeks is an organisation in Birmingham that adds the flavour we all want in the climate of politics, society, culture and art. They brought the first data rave in the world to the heart of Birmingham to encourage the question of Brexit or Bremain, which remains a subject of debate as we approach 23rd June.

The best bit about this event is nobody told each other what to vote for and what’s the right answer, because there isn’t a right and wrong answer. There can only be a rational answer one arrives to by themselves.

I’ve observed reactions for some time, and noticed a particularly passionate and angered response from a small populace on both sides. I’ve wondered what could evoke fervent reactions in people, because I’ve seemingly met a great number of people who are undecided. Upon engagement of facts and a healthily lengthy conversation in the data rave had people formed a sounder stance on their decision. Some of them haven’t arrived at a solid vote, but they were more informed by the end of the night.

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There are issues to consider in great depth in the event that members of the UK put their votes in, but one of the striking narratives of this referendum is the voice of young people who this can affect in years to come. The younger generation are going to be the ones to deal with years of consequences of the referendum, and while everyone else would do so equally, the data rave connected young people in particular with other members of our community.

I’ve witnessed the desire to understand the situation effectively in bringing an engaged, informed and inspired discussion space for people between age 16 and 30. The data rave’s vehicle of success in bringing about a solid platform of expression was that it encouraged an unbiased approach to juicing out people’s views.

The economical and political facts have shaped reactions towards voters. Questions of immigration and foreign influence seem to reflect some pretty strong sense of unfairness felt by some in the UK and across Europe. Others feel there’s a lot at stake for everybody and that somehow it’s important not to interfere with how things are on a national and international level.

However, it comes down to facing complex, interdependent problems, and respond to them constructively. A moral case can be made for any issues related with remaining in the EU or not, but neither of them are right or wrong because there has to be more than being squeezed in just two options – Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

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Jill Robinson who works in Aston University says:

“On 23 June 2016 I intend to vote to REMAIN in the EU.

Why?

My head tells me that uncertainties around the current and future performance of our economy (already evident in the run up to 23 June) will only continue and will get worse if we vote to leave the EU. I believe that those who think we can ‘go it alone’ are living in a fool’s paradise. Britannia no longer ‘rules the waves’. We are no longer a world super power; yet many would have us believe that we still are. The geo-political climate has changed. We may still be the fifth largest economy in the world but for how much longer? Brexit supporters tell us we shall be able to make separate trade deals with a whole range of other countries that will be ultimately more beneficial to UK plc than being part of one of the largest economic blocs in the world. They need to think again. Do they honestly believe that global multi-nationals which have HQs or subsidiaries currently based in Britain to gain favourable access to the EU will keep a presence in Britain if we vote to leave? They can move to wherever they like in the world and some will. We cannot. We shall have to remain and pick up the pieces.

My heart and my emotions also push me to voting REMAIN. Having spent a few years living in mainland Europe before the Berlin Wall came down and then spending nearly 30 years of my life in the UK working with people in many different EU countries, I feel European as well as British Britain may be separated by a narrow strip of water from continental Europe but we are part of this continent; our heritage, our culture, our social and political values, our legal systems are all underpinned by a shared history.

This Referendum is the most important election of my lifetime. I am angry and extremely frustrated at the wilful scare-mongering and manipulation of data around issues like immigration, the economy and employment by those who should be putting the common good above self or party interest. The future wellbeing not only of my own generation and that of my children but those who come after us is at stake here. So please don’t leave it to others, make your voice heard and cast your vote on 23 June.”

Jill isn’t the only one to choose REMAIN. I spoke with Alexander, a PhD student at Warwick University:

“I was undecided for a while but now leaning towards remain.

I am leaning towards remain because of educational and research reasons. Educational reasons because I like the freedom that students have in moving around the EU to access cheaper Universities without the rigmarole of applying for visas and therefore costing them more money to travel abroad and possible delays to their University Education. This open freedom should actually enable competition among countries to provide the best publically funded Education that can be provided, but for some reason the British Government are continuously increasing the University fees. I am also leaning towards remain because it is my increasing belief that the UK Government has more of a say than a lot of people are trying to make out because, for example, even though the First Railway Directive encouraged EU member states to implement an open market for competition among railway providers, it did not actually encourage privatisation and also Governments in different countries have implemented the directive at varying pace, to various extents. Consecutive Governments for the past thirty years or so have chosen to implement as a full privatisation of the railways as they can, at a fast pace, much faster and to a much greater extent than was originally suggested by the EU directive. So, that makes me have the belief that a directive is a guide or a suggestion and not an actual law or a command to carry out what has been suggested to such an extent shown by the UK, which makes me increase my belief that the national Governments have more of a say than is really and fully understood.

Also, for the UK specifically, if we come out of the EU we would be governed by a neoliberalist Government that is focus on selling off public assets. They simply do not like public spending, in or out of the EU. Sovereignty and circumstances are starting to make me have the increasing belief that we are better off in than out.

I might be bias because of my own fields of interest but I think an effective Education is the key. As we have found out with the EU debate there is so much misinformation and misguidance out there but people do not appear to be willing to really investigate and question what is really going on and why. Education is the key that unlocks the potential of every person, of every community and society as a whole. Without Education there is nothing else, so for me Education is the most important aspect for Britain now and in the future.”

Quinn studies Law at Birmingham City University also votes REMAIN:

“I believe that it’s important for the progress of both Britain and Europe to remain united and make the necessary changes within the union in order to fully benefit, change isn’t going to happen if Europe doesn’t work together and recognise the needs of the member states.

I believe it’s important for the rights of the citizens of the United Kingdom to retain the rights afforded to them by the union specifically with the HRA. The UKs system is one which doesn’t afford such rights voluntarily lacking in a codified constitution therefore the protections offered are ones that have to be taken into consideration and protect the rights of people within the UK.”

Nikhwat also studies Law at the Birmingham City University and votes REMAIN, but he makes an open case:

“I’m In.
BUT, there are issues.

There are genuine problems I feel with regards to the EU, I feel uncomfortable with certain elements of the EU such as their treatment of the Greek people, certain principles with sovereignty, the more biased immigration system to those within the EU and many other things which the darling of the left Owen Jones regularly speaks about (I just like most of what he says so of course I would call him the darling of the left). If anyone is interested in the issues surrounding the EU I would thoroughly recommend Yanis Varoufakis’ brilliant discussion with Paul Mason on “Why Britain must stay in the EU”

Why I’m remain however comes down to two things, Firstly workers’ rights and secondly the freedom to travel and study.

The EU has helped enshrine certain rights which should be simple requirements not something that has had to have been fought for, but change never comes from the top down always the bottom up.

Maternity pay, paternity leave, protection against discrimination at work to name but a few.

It’s a depressing reason but one I strongly feel nonetheless, I do not trust our current government to honour these rights post Brexit, a party that has been historically opposed to a minimum wage, actively wishes to scrap the human rights act (this act protects humans so unless David Icke is right and they are indeed reptilian humanoids from the future WHY would you even consider this!?)

If we must put our faith in governments and institutions how can I be expected to put my faith in a government that is stating that employment is up, yet at the same time food bank usage is increasing? These stats just don’t add up.

I could continue on and be openly biased as to my distrust of the Conservatives not just historically but also in their current iteration yet I shan’t (I would like to point out, I distrust the party not those whom actively vote Conservative).

My second reason, the freedom to travel and study. I’ve benefited from the freedom to travel within the EU with next to no restrictions visiting both Denmark, Brussels and Amsterdam, feeling welcome in all three places. How we make treat people when they arrive to our country has huge ramifications and I felt welcome, I felt accepted. This matters, it combats tenements of radicalisation by giving people a sense of belonging, it improves geo political relations and in an ever evolving as well as more diverse world, understanding one another on some level is now more important than ever.
If we are to shut ourselves from the world, what message does that give to people?

How welcome do they actually feel?

Furthermore, post my undergraduate I wish to do a masters in human rights, the possibility to travel abroad and study in any of the 28 member states is both an exciting and daunting prospect but one that I will be benefiting from immensely, in turn I hope by doing this I can give back to people. Yes it’s a somewhat selfish reason but it’s a thing not only I benefit from, but WE all benefit from. At least I’m being honest with you!

There’s a quote by Malcom X which I’m paraphrasing “I am still travelling, trying to broaden my mind for I’ve seen too much of the damage that narrow mindedness can make of things” Travelling away, seeing something different. Learning something different. It makes you better, it made me better and I believe it can do the same for you.

We shouldn’t sacrifice that.

What’s important right now for Britain as a whole? Right now and always will be for me?

Its inequality, in every form all forms of oppression are linked through intersectionality meaning we as people don’t truly achieve liberation until everyone has their rights, liberties and freedoms protected and enforced.

We can never claim to be the best country in the world when poverty is falling faster than ever but the 1% are still making obscene amounts, when homophobic hate crimes are on the rise, when sexism is so rife in our society that we shrug when we read daily instances of misogyny, when 1/3 people in 2013 admitted to being racist on some level, when over a million people literally cannot afford essentials in the fifth richest country in the world.

These are just examples of inequality and issues that we need to collectively come together in and provide solutions and proactive ideas to tackling.

I’m critical of Britain because I want Britain to be better.”

REMAINS put forth a compelling case for staying in the European Union. But what do the EXITS have to say about this?

David from Southampton makes a case for Britain to exit the EU with his thought-provoking response: 

“Due to free movement of people throughout the EU and the resultant immigration, it means that there is an oversupply of unskilled labour competing for the low paid, low skilled jobs in the UK labour market. This creates wage compression for millions of unskilled workers, who struggle to make ends meet with minimum wage often being the maximum wage they can expect to earn. I think this distortion of the labour market is terribly unfair on the people it affects and for this reason I would like the UK to withdraw from the EU. We often hear leaders in big businesses telling us that people in UK would be better off inside the EU, but for which people? The rich do very well from this uncontrolled immigration, I’m sure. They have themselves a servent class, which they only need to pay minimum wage, to have them meet the needs of their big business and their personal needs. So to protect the low skilled, working class people of this country against wage compression and in the name of equality and stopping this gap between rich and poor ever widening we must withdraw from the EU.

The wage compression would instantly be rectified and I think our economy would be relatively stable. Even if the economy is harmed in some quarters I believe it would be worth it for fairness to British people overall. It will be worth it firstly because the current level of immigration creates unacceptable wage compression for low earners and that’s a major injustice. Secondly democracy is an important concept for me and to therefore gain total control over our own affairs is also very important and is worth it if the economy suffers a bit.

I think people have pretty much heard everything they need to hear to make an informed decision now.

We outers are actually the true progressives in this debate. I mean the EU is an inherently old fashioned institution. It was devised before I was born, so I don’t think we outers are looking to take Britain back to the past, but to take us forward in to new territory in a very progressive sense. These federalist ideas belong in the twentieth century.”

JP Jon from Birmingham is unsure, leaning on LEAVE for Britain in the EU by 51%: 

“I’m unsure because of the blatant propaganda, lies and nonsense. Politicians like to scaremonger and no one is telling the straight up truth. The truth is something we have to proactively informed ourselves about. There’s obscurity because we pay poltiicians and the government very well to know things for us and do what’s in the best interest of the country. They put decisions on us – which I have nothing against, as I’d sure like to be an influencing factor in my country’s decision – but nobody knows what’s going on. There are complex problems in our country and the part we play in the EU, so there are issues either way. So can people really make a decision decision with just two of these options?

There’s manipulation going on in the sense that personal and corporate agendas exist. They have a range of agendas, whether it’s about jobs, funding, societal aspects, and everything else. There’s a bias going on, and for this reason opinions are massively obscured in the way they’re presented to us and we can’t get our head around it. We pay them so that we can know what to do, because they would show us what to do. They would have to present information factually to us.

It feels like the responsibility is on us because the ones who will make the decision in the end don’t want to take the blame. I think it’s so important to get a well-rounded set of facts and an informed discussion, in order to arrive to a rational response. There isn’t a right and wrong answer to this referendum. You’re just having to deal with it because it’s an option and you have to think about the best interest of the country when you decide what to do. You can make a case either way – whether you’re in or out.

I watched a documentary somewhere of the first world war. A man was torn about his life options. He either stays home with his sick mom to look after her, or he fights for his country. Would he play a small part in looking after someone, or have a big effect in the world by joining the army and fighting? He chose to play the small part in a massive way.

Which option would you choose, and which one is right? There’s no such thing as a right option. You can choose either to look after a sick person or fight in war. It comes down to your moral code. Nobody can advise you but they can help you to analyse the situation and your options within it. Nobody can tell you to do either of these two things. You can make a moral cause for either option. For some of the issues there isn’t a right answer. This Brexit and Bremain debate feels the same way.

I’m leaning on LEAVE because Britain can manufacture themselves. I don’t like how some people are delusional to think Britain will be what it used to be. Are we suppose to just strip off immigrants that moved to Britain already, technology that advanced us as a society, and the part we played in the middle east for years, and go back to the 1920s or the 1950s? What kind of past are we expecting Britain to go into for recuperating its greatness?

Instead of trying to make it what it was, we need to move forward into the times. We have to go forward with values that reflect the Britain we want, and leave what will take us back to the old times. We don’t need outdated values and beliefs about Britain. It’s not going to happen.

To go forward is to establish past values in the future. For example, don’t kick out recent immigrants and just understand how they’ve shaped the narrative of our Britain. If this changes where do you cap it off? Does someone have to be born here to not be classified as an immigrant? Or do the numbers of years someone has lived here determine that? What about families we’re connected to? Things like this need to be discussed otherwise we risk entering a climate of oppression, and end up in times where equal rights isn’t even a discussion. We’ll just end up in a whole different ball game.

My end decision is to LEAVE the EU because I’m fearful of the implications of finding the Britain that it used to be in the context of our contemprary world and the future that we need to move forward into as well as inevitably moving towards. Secondly, the European Union is in a mess. As much as Britain doesn’t have the influence it used to have in the world, it has a chance to potentially get more respect. It’ll gain more control over itself and the part it plays globally.

Ramisa, a student of Political Sciences at the Universty of Nottingham says:

“I’m voting LEAVE because if we took back a lot of the money we budget into the EU we can look after our own priorities. We have a lot of things to develop as a country and can do it perfectly on our own. EU has a lot of mess and a lot of the countries have suffered. Britain can go a long way on its own.”

The Prime Minister, David Cameron promised the UK a referendum when he was reelected, and he promised that he’ll go by the votes.

What would your vote be? Comment below. 

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11 comments to “In or Out? The Big Question in the UK”

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  1. This was very well written, It displayed a full range of opinions and gave a comprehensive view of the whole EU referendum.

  2. I’m voting to stay in. Leaving would risk our trading agreements with EU countries. It’s very uncertain what any subsequent trade deals would look like and uncertainty is bound to affect the stock market adversely, which affects us all adversely.

    We should also remember why these institutions were set up in the first place. In the 20th century there were two devastating world wars which started in Europe. If there are bodies which set and enforce legislation regarding human rights and fair trading agreements then extremist governments are kept in check and hopefully war can be prevented. If we start thinking that it was all a long time ago and it couldn’t happen again then we open the door for it.

    Thirdly, we should remember that we should not only consider the welfare of Britain, but of all the other countries of the world. Let’s face it, Britain’s high standing in the world has been built largely on the back of the empire, which was a bleak period in history. For us to cut ourselves off politically and financially from the rest of the world would be a backward, isolationist step at a time when we increasingly have global challenges of climate change, terrorism and poverty. I look forward to a time when the arbitrary borders between countries, drawn up by conquering military powers, are dissolved and all the peoples of the world are free to move and enjoy equality of opportunity, rather than being trapped by the random dice of birth nation.

  3. I vote in, the benefits of being part of one trading block are enormous, the Swiss deal with China was appallingly bad, with Switzerland removing all of their tariffs and China promising to remove theirs gradually over a 15 year period, in addition we have seen how China has flooded the steel market with government subsidised steel while maintaining tariffs on anyone trying to import into China, the EU is powerful enough to protect its own industries against this predatory activities, although currently Cameron is blocking EU attempts to impose tariffs on Chinese steel to make the market more equal.

    I like the legislation provided via human rights, which is integral to EU law, then we only have those rights if the Human Rights act isn’t repealed, the Conservative government has already made it clear that they want to repeal the law.

    I like the freedom to travel and to work in any country that needs my skills and to live in any of those countries and be given the same rights and opportunities as everyone else within those countries, leaving the EU is also exceedingly unlikely to reduce immigration, both Norway and Switzerland have more immigrants per head than the UK, they accept this on condition of having certain access to EU markets, markets we already have access to.

    I like to be able to set up business and trade within the European Union on a competitive basis without having and additional tariffs adding to the cost of the items I am trying to sell into Europe, the EU is the worlds largest market, withdrawing from our ability to sell into that market tariff free will have economic consequences, its a market many other countries want to gain access to.

    Also I prefer a democratic process and frankly the EU is far more democratic than the UK, with its appointed and hereditary peers, as well as its Bishops serving in the house of lords and a monarch who veto’s laws they don’t desire.

  4. I’m not in the Beat Freaks target audience for their events so have never attended but each time they pop up on my radar I enjoy their fresh approach to questions.
    Thanks for the review, much appreciated. I’d have liked to have a cubicle there entitled ‘A lefty oldie’s view’ and engaged with some of these very interesting young people. Being someone in the Remain camp I’m most concerned about convincing my own age group that it’s the right thing having been so encouraged by the majority of younger people being in favour of staying. I wish the voting age on this was 16yo then the work would be easier, I guess someone who blocked this idea knew that. Meanwhile so agreeing with Richard above, a great post.

  5. I’m voting to remain in… Still not 100% sure whether this will be the right decision in the long-term but, with the information I have been provided with, I believe this is right for me.

  6. For the last six months I have listened, watched and heard both sides of the argument.
    It has been a very negative run campaign on both sides which has been full of scaremongering and treating the British public like idiots most of the time.
    I’ve firstly looked at who’s sitting around the Brexit campaign, Gove, Farage,
    Boris who even on a good day I
    Wouldn’t Agree with.
    Then listened to the people who keep
    Us safe our security services who have
    Said we are better protected being
    Within Europe.
    All economic experts from Mark Carney
    to most major players who employ the
    most people working public are saying
    We should stay in too.
    This is just a synopsis of what I want to write as I could probably write a book on it but I won’t.
    So these are a few of the reasons I’m going to vote to stay in.

  7. I’ve found some valid arguments made by both sides, and I’ve also found some really bad arguments made by both sides too. I’m by no means an expert as well, but tried to come to an informed choice by listening to both sides of the story.

    In the end, I’d lean towards Bremain, because my distaste towards nationalists is a little too much together with many made up facts and intellectual dishonesty to lie to the public, more so than the regressive leftists. I think that is what eventually made me choose a side.

  8. The UK doesn’t really export products and their economy is vastly built on services, i.e financial services, property investment to name a few significant ones. So how does leaving a trade agreement (which has attracted a number of investments) help business or economic growth in country!? On top of the fact that Business confidence has slipped with fears of the brexit.
    Oh I see, let’s leave because immigration. Let’s have a little analysis into how migration and immigration helps the UK. International students helps boost British university reputation and gives them an international outlook, which helps the Universities being regarded amongst the best.
    They invest in various assets. London will not be the 2nd largest financial/business hub in the world had it not been for “foreign” companies basing their headquarters in the Capital. There are other factors involved, I agree.
    But more on that topic, if a number of companies use London/the UK as a gateway to business in Europe. What happens if we leave, oh yeah now Paris or Berlin will take our place, including the various jobs and very nice salaries they provided.
    What about the spontaneous summer holidays to Spain, France, Italy and much more without a visa. Or the Brits that are currently living there
    Lets not also forget the diversity of food and culture we have here.
    EU Bureaucracy is a problem? After financial crisis EU regulations and legislation have been firmer on getting financial institutions to be more responsible and create fairer transactions. Albeit, still work in progress, but at least the effort is there.
    Yes immigration needs to be controlled, but leaving the EU for that reason alone…

  9. “I think that Britain should leave the EU, because the EU is a failed project. The EU is a conglomeration of bureaucratic nations who depend on one another to support their floundering economies. Out of the strongest nations in the EU are Germany, France and Britain. All the other nations depend upon – to some degree – the stronger economies of the others. Instead of independent economies and nations that are formed on alliances, as well as partnerships, the EU is a mess of interlinked economies that are dependent on one another for stability. Furthermore, when a country goes down economically, such was the case with Greece going bankrupt, it brings other economies down and forces stronger countries to bail out, such was the case with Germany.

    Moreover, the EU’s current security and border policy is a joke. Currently, if you own a passport of a nation within the EU, then you can virtually have access to other countries that are a part of the EU. This is very bad for security, as ISIS’ cells can just hop – along with the mass migration of Middle Eastern people – from one country to another with not much hassle. Furthermore, the current open borders policy and political apathy of European politics fuels far-Right nationalism and gives a ‘justification’ for bigots and racists to employ their ‘close down the borders’ approach to a much wider audience – praying on civilian fears.

    I say that Britain is better off out of the EU, as it is an economically strong country and has the means of self-sufficiency.”

    The above-mentioned comment was my view towards Britain’s membership in the EU and the necessity of Britain to leave it. However, after reading a couple articles and reports on the EU and Britain’s history of membership in it, namely from such organisations as the ‘Quilliam Foundation’ ( Notably their report ‘ The EU and Terrorism: Is Britain Safer in or out?’), I have changed my views….

    ” I changed my mind.

    I think Britain would be better in the EU. Most of the arguments for leaving are nationalistic or reactionary in nature. They are either making the case for a stronger Britain and making #BritainGreatAgain, or they are reacting to recent Islamist extremist attacks throughout the globe and are advocating for a separate Britain, as well as a safe Britain. However, I do not buy the arguments anymore and I have placed my internationalist cap on, and figured out the intent of the EU and what its purpose is. Its intent was for trade and over time it added certain things to this trade arrangement, thus influencing the current state of the EU. In addition to this, I agree that the EU needs a reform, but I say that Britain would be making a mistake by leaving the EU.”

    The above-mentioned comment was written just five days after the first. It was a process of research and reformation on my part that led me to change my mind on Britain’s actions towards EU membership. Noting that a good number of the arguments against EU membership focus on British nationalism and security concerns, I could not help but notice a pattern in my thinking. Here I am, a non-British Citizen and a self-proclaimed internationalist, advocating for a nationalist’s position. There was a contradiction.

    The old days of Kipling and Rodes Imperialism are gone, and this romanticization of the past from parties like UKIP, of a ‘Strong and Great British independence’ is just false. What makes Britain what it is, namely a great country, is its unity and diversity of culture, races and so on. This unity comes in part with its strength in forming alliances and trade agreements, one of which is what the purpose of the EU is. Furthermore, the EU project may need improvement, however, it is a desirable internationalist vision that shows what can be if nations come together in trade and alliances.

    Now, reactionaries who watch the news and see the Islamist extremism, may disagree with me and say that Britain is ‘not safe in the EU’. However, Britain currently has one of the tightest border restrictions in the world. Furthermore, reactionary responses of a conservative nature will only make things worse, especially if Britain leaves now in the height of this recent Islamist extremism wave of attacks. One should not give into fear to make a decision.

  10. What to do, what to do…

    Cards on the table: I don’t have a clue what will happen if we leave, and I don’t have a clue what will happen if we stay – I don’t believe anyone does. There has been scaremongering over food prices, food shortages, TTIP, the prospect of our being subsumed into an EU army and a thousand other things. I do feel that the Leave campaign haven’t presented very good arguments, and I grieve that in spite of this they are still doing so well. It is nothing but testament to the lack of critical thought that seems to be such a part of the zeitgeist. But that considered, there is still a significant fraction of the population who allow themselves to be swayed by such arguments, so why is that? It’s a question that I don’t think we’ll answer quickly, but old-fashioned racism and xenophobia may be depressingly high on the list.

    I have very informed friends who want to leave, and I have equally informed friends who want to stay. I can’t pretend to know even a tenth of what they know so how can I reasonably hold any opinion with even a modicum of competence? The truth is that I can’t, but I have to. This referendum may be more important than every general election in my lifetime and I have to make the best decision I can, even in the absence of being informed enough to do so – quite a paradox.

    I believe that we are living through an end times; a fall of an empire. Though the dream of Europe is admirable and sound – that of increased economic integration leading to a space in which in there would be no room for making war – I feel that the dream has metastasized into something bloated and swollen. Even if the UK votes to Remain tomorrow, I still feel that the European ideal is running down its clock. If not us then Sweden. Or Holland. Or (unthinkably) France or Germany. I don’t want it to fail but I don’t think any country knows how to claw back enough autonomy for themselves in order to stave off an inevitable fracturing, and the more it grows, the less coherent the core. But I don’t want it to be us who starts it, because if we do then at the moment the end could come quickly. I’m an optimist and I’d like to think that if we can only just stay in, then perhaps the closeness of the vote will induce someone, somewhere to start leading Europe back towards its idealist high ground.

    So I’m voting to remain. Even if its childish, optimistic and naive, I don’t think we’ll fare any better out than in, and I think that if we can just stay in, then as a country we might just be stubborn and bombastic enough to change things for the better.

    But one thing is certain: this campaign has shown an incredible weakness in our country. There is a large section of our population who would rather run on their gut than carry out even the slightest research, yet who nevertheless expect to have their opinions respected regardless of this vacuity. I feel this referendum should never have been called and if we do collectively vote to leave, and should catastrophe follow, then it will not be the fault of the electorate. Instead it will be the fault of successive governments who have treated education like a business; who feel measurable outcomes are more important than sparked curiosity and who for three decades have reduced successive generations to lists of letters; evidence of attainment but no raw hunger for knowledge.

  11. I’m not pro-Brexit because I think any nation can’t share it’s sovereignty with other nations. I’m pro-Brexit because I think law makers should be accountable to the public, something that the structure of the EU doesn’t facilitate. The EU makes laws that fundamentally, the british public doesn’t have the final say about. The EU has created some decent laws. But I’m not convinced leaving the EU would destroy them, as much as make us rely on more democratic mechanisms for sustaining them. And by leaving the EU, we’d also be leaving some potentially nasty laws, like the EU’s hate speech regulations that are incompatible with freedom of speech and the right to dissent from popular opinion. There are also political possibilities not present if we remain. If we remain, we can’t, for instance, nationalise the railways. Now, perhaps that will never happen because the British people don’t want it. But again, I’d like the British people to make that decision.

    The reason typically given for staying in the EU is that in exchange for this diminished accountability, there are overwhelming benefits. I don’t see the benefits outweighing the losses. I also don’t see membership in the EU as analogous to Scotland’s membership in the United Kingdom, because there are devolution arrangements in the United Kindgom there is nothing analogous to in the EU. Membership in the EU is also quite different to NATO membership, because international law for how countries behave in relation to each other is quite different to laws about a country’s internal practices. The EU laws primarily effect not just how Britain trades, but what Britain does inside of Britain. And again, it does this without Britain having the final say about EU law.

    I’m not particularly persuaded by the anti-immigration case for Brexit. I’m pro-immigration. But I don’t particularly agree with the EU system that priviliges EU immigration. If you are a true internationalist, you shouldn’t have open borders for Europeans and a point system for everybody else that makes it incredibly difficult to immigrate if you aren’t uber-middle class. I think if we’re pro-immigration, we shouldn’t have policies that privilige european immigration, as europeans are not intrinsically more desirable than anyone else.

    I’m also not terribly persuaded by the economic arguments for remain. It’s true that some workers protections have come from the EU. But some of the best workers protections (like the British minimum wage) came from Britain. I don’t see why leaving the EU would jeapordise most of the better protections, as they are fairly popular with the public. Moreover, it’s not clear to me that the EU is responsible for the economic stability of this country. A recession could happen, regardless of whether we stay in the EU or not. If we leave, we could have a greater access to trade with developing economies throughout the world. Our trade itself wouldn’t be so Euro-centric. And if we leave, because so much of our trade with Europe is important to Europe, that’s an incentive for Europe to create decent trade deals with a post-Brexit Britain. At the end of the day, it is possible to have a thriving economy outside the EU. Switzerland and Norway aren’t part of the EU, and they are doing just fine. For most of Britain’s economic history, we should remember, Britain was not in the EU. It’s only been in the EU for a little over 40 years.

    If I’m honest, I’m not particularly impressed by the EU’s role in managing the European economy. The Euro-zone seems like a disaster we were lucky to avoid. The EU’s role in everything from 23 million unemployed Europeans to the 2008 economic crash doesn’t particularly inspire confidence. In the early 2010s, the EU largely strong armed Greece’s government, while de-clawing the powers of unions in other countries (in exchange for membership and bailouts). Austerity is written into EU law as a non-negotiable obligation. The supposedly progressive EU is what endorsed the TTIP agreement where corporations gain looser regulatory barriers, an increase in lax food safety laws, lax environmental legislation, and a potential to undermine the authority of governments. The EU also, in it’s Laval and Viking judgements, subordinated the right of workers to strike to an employer’s right to do business freely. If Corbyn got in, he’d be implimenting his manifesto in defiance of EU law.

    If Brexit win, the Tory party will probably crumble, creating a larger space for an anti-austerity politics. I don’t think the EU is a particularly powerful protector against the extreme right. If britain ever became fascist, it would most likely have a referendum, undoing whatever obstacles the EU would be to the far right coming into power. The EU only works as an obstacle to the far right if you can’t leave. And Britain’s membership is predicated on being able to leave. On a personal level, I don’t like the idea that undemocratic institutions are necessary to stop the public from voting in laws that are racist. I know that idea resonates with many lefties, but I don’t see the left as having a moral high ground on racism. Most of the fashionable racism of today comes from the left, and that racism is racism of the sort the EU probably inflames. More importantly, a liberal democratic society that isn’t racist (or sexist or classist or whatever else) only works if you have a system with democratic accountability in it. Laws which prevent descrimination don’t work in the long run, if they have no connection to what people actually want. Democracy is largely about persuading one’s fellow citizens, and sometimes accepting that you don’t always get the politics you think are the best ones. The idea that you can by-pass democracy when you don’t get the politics you like is well….authoritarian. And it’s democracy, rather than authoritarianism, that is responsible for the prosperity, creativity, high standards of living, and public consciousness of modern Britain. Every important mainstream political idea which allows people to live humanely is a result of liberal democracy. The public dislike of bigotry and predjudice is a result of the liberal democratic project. Workers rights are a result of democracy. The valuing of free speech, discussion, and debate is a result of democracy. And yes, the welfare state (and its NHS) is a result of democracy.

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