Like pretty much everyone else, I’ve been fed up of the debate surrounding the EU referendum since before it started. One thing that has particularly struck me is the lack of engagement with any of the real issues, on either side. The Remain camp are solidly focussing on short-term economic issues, while the Leave camp occasionally make shots about immigration, but mostly stick to short-term economic issues.
There are two problems with that: it’s virtually impossible to predict the economic effects of leaving the EU and both sides have been told off for the way they have interpreted the evidence to try to make their point; but more importantly, this isn’t a question about short-term economic issues. It’s not a general election where we vote for the next five years and then we can change our minds if it’s not working. It’s a referendum on a question that I don’t anticipate having another chance to vote on during my lifetime. This is a decision for at least the next 20-30 years and potentially much longer. What happens to our economy in the next 2-5 years is irrelevant. I’ll tell you what’s also irrelevant: whether you like Boris Johnson and/or Michael Gove. If you make this vote about their political careers you are shooting yourself in the foot.
So if that’s not the question, what is? Here are some questions I’d like to be discussed and which I’d love people to consider when they vote:
Questions of principle:
1. Is there greater political accountability in the EU or out of it?
2. Are the curbs on political corruption greater in the EU or out of it?
3. Will the increasing economic ties between EU countries continue to force increasing political ties? And if so, what does that mean for national democracy?
4. Is there any inherent benefit to having a smaller government or a larger one?
5. Nation or empire? Superstate or federal state?
6. What is the role of the monarchy in an EU nation?
Questions of pragmatics:
7. Does the EU really give us greater national security?
8. Has the EU been effective in preventing armed conflict in Europe?
9. Is there any reason we couldn’t have generous and compassionate immigration policies if we left the EU?
10. Is there any reason we couldn’t establish good trade agreements with EU nations if we left the EU?
11. If we left the EU, how likely is that to trigger similar decisions in other EU countries and potentially cause the whole project to fail? What would the consequences of that be?
I’m sure there are many other questions of this sort that I haven’t thought about. I’m not an expert on any of this. But please, please, don’t let the dreadful campaigns fool you into thinking this is a vote about how much better or worse off we might (or might not) be in the next couple of years. Please.