Saturday, 20 February 2016
EU Referendum – I’ve Finally Decided Which Way to Vote
Well, after all the speculation we will now have a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union on Thursday 23 June. The Prime Minister, David Cameron got agreement from all the other 27 heads of state on reforms to our membership, and this will now be put to the British people to decide on whether we remain in or leave the union after over forty years of membership.
Cameron’s reforms don’t amount to much, despite his hyperbolic rhetoric about his reforms achieving a special status for Britain. The restrictions on EU ‘immigrants’ claiming welfare benefits will only fully affect new claimants for twelve months, and then be tapered off. Child benefit for children living abroad will be paid at the indexed rate in the country they reside. This affects a tiny proportion of the total child benefit costs in the UK, and will probably cost more to administer, than it actually saves. All of this though is unfair and discriminatory, I think.
Protections for the City of London, against Eurozone decisions that may affect profits, only amounts to the UK government being able to call a meeting of all states, to discuss any proposals.
Cameron also secured an effective opt out for the UK from the EU mantra of ‘ever closer union’. This really only applies to states that are members of the Euro anyway, no one has seriously considered Britain will aim for this goal since we rejected joining the single currency. It is just words really as far as we are concerned.
So, not much change really to our current membership terms. But all of this of course has been an exercise in management of the Conservative party, which is hopelessly split on the issue of Europe. Cameron has just about kept them together with his promise of reforms and a referendum on the issue, but I expect to see fireworks now the deal is done and with the vote looming. So much for the good of the country, it has all been about cynical political calculation.
Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’ve been undecided on this issue, a pretty strong supporter of the EU all my life, the sickening treatment of Greece’s financial crisis last year, despite a wholly incompetent strategic approach by the Greek government, gave me pause for thought. Do I want to be in a club that treats its members this way, kind of thing?
The EU is constructed for the benefit of big business, and increasingly so. We have the TTIP trade agreement coming soon, which amongst other things, is likely to allow corporations to sue democratic governments that stop them making huge profits out of privatising public services. It is a free market utopia, and anti-democratic. The TTIP negotiations have all taken place in secret, democracy is an irritant and barrier to the free market, just look at what happened to Greece.
Probably the vast majority of the political left will campaign to remain in the EU though, with the vague idea promoted by the more radical elements of changing the system from within. It is not clear to me how this will be achieved, and I doubt it is really possible anyway, given the anti-democratic nature of the EU beast. ‘A people’s Europe’ is the slogan, but this is just a pipe dream at best, dishonest at worst. Let us vote on the reality of the EU, not some fantasy EU, which it never has been, and never will be, in my opinion.
On the other hand, the leave campaign is dominated by the right wing, little England tendency, nationalistic and racist/xenophobic, take your pick. I have sympathy with the small part of the left that will campaign to leave on the basis that the EU is anti-democratic and a capitalist worshipping club, but I have to ask myself, would we be any better off outside the EU? The establishment in Britain like this state of affairs and would no doubt want to replicate this, and perhaps go even further in following this route as a nation state.
So, I think either way, the British people will be the losers. And here we come to nub of the argument. This referendum is pretty irrelevant to most people’s lives, whichever way the result of the referendum turns out.
Which way to vote? I have even considered abstaining, but it really isn’t in my DNA not to vote, although I’m not naïve enough to think voting ever changes much. I still see it as a duty, fought for, with much sacrifice from my forebears, I do not want to disrespect that sacrifice.
In the end, I’m going to go with my emotions. I am an internationalist, and I have always liked the idea of a community of European nations and peoples. I am going to vote to remain, although, I have to say, with not much enthusiasm for the EU of the corporates.