Sunday, 3 April 2016

Brexit: bleak thinking

For goodness sake, the EU referendum and the question of whether Britain should stay in or exit, is only seven weeks away. Where is the serious campaigning? Why is no reliable and unbiased printed information on this terribly important matter coming through my front door and thudding onto the mat inside, for me to study and discuss? Why are there only 'warnings' from various parties with vested interests, whose partisan position can hardly be taken at face value? Why is so much being heard from the Money Men, and so little from other people - some of them surely experts - who could speak up on all the other effects an exit might bring about?

Economics is only part of it. What about the British Way Of Life in general? How might day-to-day living for ordinary people change if we baled out and went our own way? What would happen to our culture, our freedoms, our scenery? Would we still have friendship and respect from other countries? Would they admire us or sneer? Where could we all go on holiday?

The point is made again and again on the radio (I don't waste money on tub-thumping newspapers, and confrontational TV debates turn me off) that while the broad picture is clear if we stay in, it's all very uncertain if we go. And that's the trouble: lack of hard information. If the consequences of leaving could be explained in fair detail, then it would be possible to form a rational opinion based on facts. Perhaps there really are no worthwhile facts to get hold of. One will have to rely instead on faith and hope, and the famed British ability to muddle through.

Of course it's appealing to think that, freed from Europe, we can go it alone in some blind heroic endeavour. But we won't be sailing majestically away and ruling the waves. We will have to become Fortress Britannia, that defensive island off the Northwest coast of Europe. And Europe will still be where it is, on our doorstep.

I'm now beginning to edge towards a personal default position where (for want of any credible information and guidance from somebody in a position to give it) I will vote for staying in. It seems best to recognise obvious geographical facts and political realities. We are a second-tier power - important, yes, in various ways, but not the most important or influential. The ability to set things in motion slipped from our hands a long time ago. Nowadays we do not create events - we react to them. We have to watch our step with China, with America, with Russia, and a host of lesser nations that perhaps underestimate us, but will cause difficulties if they sense any vulnerability. To some extent, as matters presently stand, an attack on Britain (verbal or otherwise) is also an attack on Europe. EU membership may irk True British Instincts but it is useful where the world stage is concerned. We all stand strong together, and look after our own. Well, that's the theory.

And what about the overwhelming global challenges slowly emerging - climate changes, energy shortages, food shortages, water shortages, mass-migration, enhanced longevity? It seems best to face them as part of a larger alliance. I dare say this risks getting drawn into a United States of Europe at some point. But might that be better than the risk of becoming (in effect) a colony of the good old USA? Because if Europe is rejected, the only other obvious ally to attach ourselves to is America. Europe lets us be independent of America and the other superpowers. America is of course friendly, but it's still a big devouring animal that likes to take you over. If we abandoned Europe, we might end up having to do and say exactly what America wants us to. That's the price of security.

Another thought. I have a strong suspicion that most of our self-seeking, wobbly politicians tremble at the prospect of having to run an 'independent' Britain. They fear the challenge. They know they might prove incompetent. They know that the light harness of Europe provides a ready-made excuse for not delivering on difficult plans. For procrastination on many issues. For, indeed, maladministration, inefficiency, stick-in-the-mudness and waste. If we were really detached from Europe, and fending on our own, then the quality of leadership and the quality of decisions taken would have to be much, much higher. I don't see anyone in the present government (or the opposition) of sufficiently star quality. Even if the careerists concerned would like the chance to 'have a go', to make their mark on history, could they really be trusted? I think I'd rather have the 'bloated' European executive and legislature on hand to prod our bickering ministers (governing or shadow) into doing something sensible, with less of the 'me, me, me' attitude so many display.

There is another, bleaker vision to contend with. The one where Brexit fails, and it all turns vicious. Never mind the politicians. Are the ordinary people of the UK are of sufficiently star quality to embrace the consequences, whatever they may be, with cheerfulness and enterprise? What if there are lots of losers? Will society implode, become selfish and miserly, and generally deteriorate in disastrous ways? Brexit could lead to a renewal of national self-respect, and a true pulling-together; but it could also lead to rampant nationalism and ugly scenes of discrimination. I don't want to see that.

1 comment:

  1. My track record of making accurate predictions is such that I should know better than to comment on such a topic. However, I can't resist. I think that in the end the fear of the unknown will tip the scales in favor of staying in the EU.

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