So I’ve come to the conclusion that I am going to vote Remain next Thursday; at least, that is the way I feel today. I was considering voting out, mainly to spite Cameron and his lack of vision: I think that the “deal” he secured from the EU before setting the date for the referendum was paltry, and much less than he was aiming for. Plus, I fancied a change. We’ve been in the EU for 43 years, give or take, and maybe leaving might set light to the entrepreneurial spirit that we (ironically, since “entrepreneur” is a French word) are so proud of.

But then when you look at the people involved in the discussions, it is hard to tell one from the other, and you certainly can’t side with anyone without a heavy heart. There’s Gove, Priti Patel, Osborne, Farage, IDS, Gisela Stuart, Cameron, Frank Field, Carswell, Johnson… All of them promising this and that, and having no intention of delivering anything at all. Gove and Patel suddenly discovering a long-lost love of the NHS is one of the most bizarre things I think I’ve seen recently. Johnson looking forward to getting rid of the “burden” of workers’ rights is more close to the mark, I think. All of them have, at one point or another, suggested privatising the NHS and adopting an American-style model, where if you use it, you pay for it. So of course that would leave the worst off out in the cold and unable to access help when required.

I just don’t like the terms of the debate. The Outers are making wild promises about how we can all benefit if we don’t pay this money to the EU, and the Inners aren’t making a positive case for staying in. If we still have to raise and spend the money we’re already spending, then really, what is going to change? Apart from the fact that now it’ll be “our” decision?

And the Inners, oh… All they have is the fear about stepping into the unknown, and the colossal costs that would be involved. We are one voice among 28 when it comes to the EU, and for the last few years we have been electing UKIP MEPs to represent us, who seem to take the cash and not actually represent the British people or participate to any great extent in the European Parliament. It is something we are part of, but something which we don’t participate in. And I think that will need to change – if we stay in. And currently that is not looking likely. So if we do stay in, we need to build up and promote European elections as an opportunity to have our voice heard in the European Parliament, not as a chance for some anti-EU diva to swan in, hoover up the cash, and then disappear.

I did think that there would be a swell of anti-EU sentiment which had not registered in Westminster or Fleet Street, and that seems to be becoming more apparent as people declare their voting intention. It’s got to be said, Cameron is a bit silly for calling a referendum where he wasn’t sure that he was going to get the result he wanted. If we do end up voting “Out” (as a nation), that’ll be his legacy.

So I looked at the figures. Currently annual UK govt. expenditure is approximately £750bn a year. The amount we give to the EU is about £13bn. We get some of that back, but since where that money is spent is decided by the EU, I am not taking that into account. So as a percentage of our annual govt. expenditure, the amount we contribute to the EU is 1.7%. With the amount of upset that a Brexit will cause, I’m not sure that leaving is worth it; that is, the confusion caused by Brexit would be disproportionate to the potential benefit. Plus, we can leave only once. If we stay in now, and things change for the worse, then we can always call for another referendum and change our minds then. I do think that if the vote is a close one, and we stay in, we won’t have to wait 40 years for the next opportunity to voice our opinions again.

However, I’m not sure that we can change. We’ve been in the EU for over 40 years, and it’s always been something that happened “over there”. The laws which the EU passes aren’t designed specifically to do Britain down, but unfortunately we have a very efficient legislative body, which gets the laws into our national legal framework promptly and even (sometimes) with an extra bit of gold-plating. Whereas other countries might bury or lose or forget to schedule legislation which they don’t agree with… So we have enacted all the legislation we should, whereas other countries may not have done so. But this is legislation intended to make life better, not more onerous – at least not in every instance.

I keep coming back to the fact though, that we are one of twenty eight. And Cameron did not have a successful negotiation. I am not sure that being in the EU is the right thing in the long-term, but I think that leaving now, when every economy seems to be tanking, is not the right thing either. And for the relatively small amount we pay to the EU (in relation to overall government spending), I think it is worth kicking the can down the road a bit longer. Maybe, if we actively participated, we could make the EU (the institution) a better and more responsive organism. However, I think it’s unlikely. But if the polls are correct, it looks like we won’t need to worry about that anyway…


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