UPDATE: turns out I missed the most important argument for remain. It makes it easier for the gospel to spread by church planters continuing to be free to relocate across the continent. Not for the first time Terry Virgo has shown me the way.
Right up to today, I have been undecided about how I should vote in the referendum on whether or not the UK should leave the EU. But this weekend I have made up my mind. And I am voting to remain.
There are several things that have swayed my mind, and I can tell you one thing, it is not the increasingly shrill and unhelpful comments both campaigns have been making.
I don’t believe any of these arguments below are new or unique to me, but I regret that I cannot remember where I first came across most of them. These are just the comments that have stood out to me.
- We should never have had this divisive referendum in the first place
A friend of mine on Facebook, and I am sorry but I can’t remember who, said a few weeks back that he felt this whole referendum was a mistake. We don’t usually do these things in the UK for a reason: we have a representative democracy. We elect our representatives. They make the decisions for us. If we don’t like those decisions, we punish them at the poll booth and then elect some more. At the time, my friends argument did resonate a bit with me, but the counter argument was that such a crucial decision should surely be made by an informed electorate.
The problem is, that ordinary people like me are definitely unqualified to make such a decision, and nobody has been properly informing us in a calm rational manner.
2. Our elected representatives by a large margin think we should remain in the EU.
If we believe that those we elect as politicians are more qualified to make these decisions, then we should pay heed to the fact that a vast majority of them believe we should not leave. If the referendum didn’t exist, parliament would not vote to leave. Therefore, if you believe asking the people in this way was a colossal mistake, then the choice is simple: vote remain.
3. Both campaigns have turned this into a divisive and dangerous mudslinging match
I think the following tweet summarises the view of many of us:
I hate this referendum, for turning a question of unfathomable complexity into Lord of the Flies. Hugh Laurie on Twitter.
Our politicians on both sides clearly don’t trust us to make a reasonable, dispassionate decision based on clearly and calmly articulated facts.
Whether we are talking about the ridiculous threats that us leaving the EU would lead to World War III, or the notion that millions of marauding migrants would invade us if we stay, both sides have been guilty of the worst political campaign in living memory.
I think both campaigns have been lying to us, and both of them probably know it. As someone else that I can’t recall has said, if Cameron really believed that leaving was going to cause as much damage to our country as he says it will, why on earth did he chose to offer the country this choice. Nobody forced him to. As such, I do think that his position as prime minister has been weakened. He is irresponsible for bringing us into this irresponsible and divisive referendum.
4. Things have got so bad this referendum seems to have contributed to the death of a much beloved politician and mother
Whipping up hatred and fear of the outsider has been the clear goal of some in the leave campaign. Christians we are taught to love our neighbors. Although not everyone supporting the leave campaign are xenophobic, it seems to me that if I was to vote ‘leave’ I would be lending my support to some who would seek to re-create a Britain who was ‘great’ again. By which at least some of them would mean ‘more white’ or ‘more English.’ I will never support such racism.This irresponsible rhetoric regarding immigration has been filled with lies and exaggeration, and it seems as a direct result to have prompted the murder of MP Jo Cox who was known to support the rights of asylum seekers, and to be pro-EU. With reports that the murderer shouted ‘Britain First’, it is no wonder that both official campaign groups for the referendum have suspended their activities in response.
I do not want to vote in a way that might seem like I am supporting such vile hatred as we saw this week.
5. We are being offered a choice between a present that we know (and dislike) and a future that nobody has clearly articulated
However much we dislike the EU, however corrupt or undemocratic it may seem, at least we know what we have currently. In all these weeks of campaign, I have not seen a clear description of what life outside the EU would look like. I don’t necessarily believe all the doomsayers who are being lined up to say that it would be a world-wide cataclysmic event. Nine out of ten economists may think that us leaving would lead to a recession and irreparable damage to our economy. But didn’t a similar proportion think we should join the disastrous Euro?
I might have been tempted to vote leave if a clear vision of a revitalized Commonwealth of Nations transformed into a free trading block was being spelt out to us. Or indeed if a proposed relationship with Europe that allowed access to the common market without some of the burdens of full membership was being outlined. The truth is there is no singular view of what a future post EU would look like. It would be a leap into the dark. And there would be no clear vision to guide us.
To leave the EU we really need to know what we are leaving in order to achieve. Nobody has managed to articulate that in a way that is compelling to me.
I am not voting to remain because I like the EU. I do believe it needs dramatic reform. I am not voting to remain because the remain campaign has persuaded me. I am voting to remain because both campaigns have failed to persuade me, and if in doubt we should stick with what we know rather than leap into the abyss of the unknown.
If I am uncertain about whether I want to be in or out of EU, and it seems many of my fellow citizens are also, then that very uncertainty should not lead us to flip a coin and vote depending on the result, it should lead us to vote with what we know.
6. We can always leave later, but if we leave now it seems unlikely we will be allowed back in
I am sure some people think that if we vote leave there will be a renegotiation and a better deal will be offered us to stay in the EU but with a looser relationship. It seems to me that is unlikely to happen, and that instead our European neighbors will say ‘good riddance!’
We are something of a fly in the ointment in Europe. But that is not a reason to leave, or at least not yet. The EU is desperately in need of reform, and it seems to me that a narrow victory for remain will surely be an impetus for some form of change on the continent.
So there you have it. My reasons for voting remain, and my frustration with both official campaign groups. I do hope we can put this ghastly referendum behind us as quickly as possible and get back to normal life.