Sunday, 15 May 2016

Referendum Blues

[Sorry for getting political but I just can't steer clear]

It's less than six weeks until the EU referendum in the UK; six weeks until we know just how screwed we are all going to be.  Yeah, I'm rather fearful that the people of the UK are about to vote to leave the European Union even though all common sense tells me that staying in is the only sensible option. And this covers all ends of the political spectrum.

You see being in the EU is good for Britain's businesses. We have full access to the European single market making trading within its borders much easier. This has many benefits - for one a lot of investment is drawn into the UK from outside because we have this access. Take that away and this money could well end up going to other nations like Germany and Ireland.

But it's not just the business types that should be in favour. The ordinary worker, you and I, have all benefited from the UK's membership. Many of the workplace rights that you have originated in the EU. The right for paid annual leave and fair treatment of part time workers are just two of the benefits we have that are down to the EU and whilst we stay in these rights cannot be eroded. Leave the EU and they're fair game to the whims of politicians.

I've seen an awful lot of utter rubbish about the EU over the years - misinformation and downright lies about its interference with the UK's sovereign affairs. And as for the old perennial about the effects of mass migration to the UK being a drain on our resources and services, give me a break. The migrants that have come here are net contributors to our system. They are far, far less likely to be unemployed than British born people and when they are they do not have the instant access to government money that a UK citizen does so the benefit tourism argument is bunkum.

Now I'm not saying the EU is perfect. There are many things that need to be improved and hopefully there will be a mood to make these reforms in future but us leaving is just nonsensical. And you don't just have to take my word for it. Most of the major INDEPENDENT economic organisations and think tanks have come out and said leaving would be bad for us. Just this last week the Governor of the Bank of England and the head of the IMF both described the negative impact an OUT vote would have. They should have some clue of what's going on.

All I can put it down to is a feeling of small islander, anti-foreigner sentiment, There is a lot of it in this country I am ashamed to say. I don't get it. Being English isn't being superior. (And by the way I am deliberately saying English. The Scots and the Welsh seem to have a far more sensible outlook and seem to have a majority of IN support)

I think I know a large part of what this is. It's our history. Britain has a history of being a world power; for a long time we were the major world power. Well people, that was in the past. We are definitely not where we were. And before you call out that we are still the fifth biggest economy let me tell you this is not a right. We are not  guaranteed to hold this position going forward and if we leave the EU I think we will be ensuring that we begin a long slide downwards.

And then there is the issue of the other side of our history. Through most of the last few centuries we've not exactly been best buds with France - the Entente Cordiale is only just a little over a hundred years old - go back just a century before and you'll be in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, Set it on rewind much more and you'll see war after war between us and France. History though is just that; history. We should not forget it because it can teach us many lessons and stop us making the same mistakes all over again but we cannot us it to build or foster prejudices.

Moving beyond France and we get to Germany and we have more history - more recent than that with France too. I'm not going to go over and over this but again - get over it. The Germany of today is our ally; one of our closest. If you've been to Germany you will know (or at least should) that the Brits and the Germans are very similar people.

But it's exactly the same outside the EU. If you say we should cosy up more to the USA then according to the rules of letting history cloud your decision making remember we had a few wars with them back in the 1700s and 1800s. Not that that should colour our opinions of Americans today.

Anyway I'm meandering. The core principles of this EU referendum are mostly going to be missed. We should be considering what will be best for all of Britain going forward. A lot of people are going to completely ignore this and just go with fears and resentments. After all why should Brussels tell us how we should live our lives? (Not seriously asking this you understand.)

One final thought before my meanderings end. We live in Great Britain. (Well, except if you are living in Northern Ireland but that's a matter for another time.) This is another part of the problem for me. It's the word Great that's my problem. Not that I don't think that the UK is a great country. I'm British and patriotic so of course I do. But having the word Great in the name gives you the wrong impression.; one of a superiority we have not earned and do not deserve (not to the level some people think.

Great in this sense is just a geographic term. Great Britain is the name of the largest island in the British Isles. Great means largest, physically, nothing more. We need to remember that and remember that for all our self importance the UK is a very small country. If you doubt my words go check out the stats on Wikipedia for largest counties. I did and we barely make the top 80. Do the same thing by population and we come in at number 22. That's a far bit higher but still not anywhere near the top.

We used to be important. We controlled the largest Empire anyone on Earth has ever seen. But those days are gone. In the future we will only survive through cooperation with others. So it's about time we got humble, realised our place, and started doing it.

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