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Debates

The UK and Europe

The three-minute guide to the UK-EU referendum

Nick Inman / Mar 2016

Image: Shutterstock

 

“Why oh why” ‘asked a Telegraph columnist recently “is nobody setting our choices in clear terms that we can all understand and debate?”

Why oh why, I want to know, is the British media not getting to the core of the issue? Most people are ill-informed about the EU, or turned off by the whole thing, or both. The media is not doing a very good job of explaining the issues and making them relevant to ordinary people. If the Continent is not to be forever cut off by foggy thinking, every British voter, however, should be urged by all media to think about the following ten points.

  1. Every referendum is an attempted stitch up. Those who organise a poll will do their best to get the result they want. We shouldn’t, though, focus on the outcome alone. This is an opportunity for a debate we have long needed to have and which hasn’t been helped by the Europhobic overtones of the British media.
  1. It is not a yes/no, in/out question and we shouldn’t let them sell it to us as this. We should not be listening only to for and against pundits. There is no one short answer to the question. We’re adults, we should be prepared to tackle complexities.
  1. This is not just an economic or political issue about countries. Ultimately it is about people and we must consider the impact on individual lives.
  1. Most people won’t be directly affected by the outcome – but one group will be losers. If Britain leaves the EU, 1.5 million Brits resident in the EU may have to return home, making demands on services and the UK housing market. This will give a new twist to the immigration debate.
  1. This is not about you or me but the next generation. Leaving the EU will take at least 2 years. Renegotiating what is to follow it will take who knows how long – 5-10 years? Britain’s decision will affect where economic and political power is to be concentrated in the world – and where jobs are created for our children – in the 2030s and beyond.
  1. The facts are almost all speculative. Anyone who claims to have accurate figures about what a Brexit would mean is dreaming or being deceitful. Mass immigration, for instance, long predates Britain joining the EU and it will continue to be a complex issue whichever way the referendum goes.
  1. Europe is not only the visible, tangible items on a balance sheet. We mustn’t forget the invisible cultural wealth that The EU (for all its faults) also represents some hard-earned values - freedom, tolerance, peace-making, the importance of heritage, social justice etc.
  1. Returning sovereignty to Westminster does not mean that “the people of Britain” will suddenly regain power over their own affairs. For that to happen there will have to be a mini-revolution at Westminster to remove powers from the executive and give them to parliament - and arguable reform the electoral system.
  1. Don’t expect there to be less red tape if Britain leaves the EU. Brussels has become a byword for bureaucracy but the UK government and civil service generate plenty of administrative waste themselves.
  1. “Leaving” is easy to talk about but it is a reaction not a positive action. If the exiters believe they have more to offer than a tantrum they need to come up with a positive strategy for the future for Britain alone and Britain in relation to Europe. The last thing we want is Britain to degenerate into a state of petty isolationist nationalism and suspicion of foreigners.

There is lots to talk about and while the people of Britain badly need to talk to each other in an informed and reasoned way, there is an even bigger need for all the people of Europe to talk to each other - and not just through their politicians – about how to make their continent a constructive, prosperous, humanitarian and democratic force for good in the world.

 

Nick Inman

Nick Inman

March 2016

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