This referendum! It's such an important and far-reaching thing. It's an historic event.
It really matters which way the vote goes, because it will oblige the government either to conform (unwillingly) with EU requirements now and in the future, or to set in motion a procedure that will disentangle this country from the EU with completely unknown consequences. Neither course will necessarily turn out well.
But for once the ordinary voter does have the power to compel the government to do what it wishes. The expressed wish of the majority will have to be acted upon, and this will affect the far future, for better or worse, pushing not just this government down a certain road, but its successors also. It will alter Britain's standing in the world, and the way other countries will perceive us. Nobody knows whether this will be good or bad.
In fact nobody seems to know anything definite about what the position will be if we leave the EU. To be sure, there is plenty of assertion and speculation and expert opinion. But the actual long-term effects of withdrawal are shrouded in fog. I suspect that all other countries (not just EU countries) are holding their breath, waiting to learn what the voters of Britain want, and that they are prepared to be surprised. If the British government gains the freedom to pursue a global role, rather than just a European one, it will affect many nations.
And do the voters of Britain know which way they will vote, and why? I think that most of us are weather-vanes, turning round and round in the wind.
The economic arguments don't seem to be very convincing. Big figures like '£91 billion a year' and '£350 million a week' are thrown around, representing the value of EU membership to our economy on one hand, and the cost of EU membership on the other. But these are very small figures compared to - say - the the government's tax take, which in 2015/16 was £716 billion. And that tax take was just a fraction of all that was earned by individuals and companies. The total value of economic activity in this country is truly colossal - around £2 trillion - which (I believe) is £2,000 billion. So if membership of the EU adds £91 billion to our annual income-generation, then I'd say that was a useful contribution, but hardly of vital concern.
I'm much more impressed with the arguments connected with keeping this country safe, secure, and distinctively British. And to have all these things we surely need complete control over our affairs. You know: the freedom to formulate all our own laws; and the freedom to act decisively in our own interests. That indicates a 'leave' vote.
If we did get out of the EU, then I'd expect successive governments to act rationally and responsibly, and get their investment and spending priorities absolutely right, because there wouldn't be any EU handouts any more. (I wonder: were we getting too dependent on them? Was this the infamous 'benefits culture' at a national level?)
I'd expect successive governments to draw up laws to support the mainstream culture of this country. The 'mainstream culture' is the shared culture of everyone who wants to embrace the British Way of Life. I don't mind all kinds of colourful variations on the British Theme. But anyone living on this crowded island must be whole-hearted about their Britishness, whatever their origin. I don't want to have in our midst people who are here merely to undermine British Society; people who have no intention of 'joining in', who won't agree that British Laws and Customs and Attitudes trump any foreign laws and customs and attitudes they have brought with them; people who actively want to spoil it for the rest, or even to behave traitorously. They should be asked to think and behave differently - and if they won't comply, then be compelled to go somewhere else.
I don't want these people around when I'm very old and very vulnerable. I shouldn't think anyone who might suffer at their hands will want them around, and that might well include generations of past immigrants who made a home here and love this country. The world is wide. Let the troublemakers and malcontents move on to where they are not aliens, where they are not fighting against an indigenous culture that doesn't suit them and their beliefs.
And why not kick out our own home-grown, loud-mouthed, bad-attitude troublemakers too? The sort of crass, obnoxious, ignorant fat-bellied 'patriots' in stupid baseball caps worn the wrong way round. Or the more subtle ones, who sneer and carp and cavil and complain in educated tones, but are still acting like spoilt children. Let them all have a good slap in the face, and a free one-way ticket to an island on the other side of the world. Let's have penal reform, and bring back transportation for not being cheerful and caring.
Some may remember the 'I'm Backing Britain' thing of fifty-odd years ago. It wasn't government-sponsored. It was a ground-swell from ordinary people, a national (and natural) expression of faith in what Britain, with everyone pulling together, could achieve. It was a pre-EU phenomenon. Might not that spirit emerge again, post-EU? Why not?
I'd want to see a Britain newly-obliged to be more 'out in the world' to think even more globally, and take an even more active role in combating planet-threatening dangers. That implies seeking links with countries the world over. It implies a cleaned-up Britain taking a lead. Being a broker, a host, a peacemaker, a negotiator, and a facilitator, as well as a trader. I can see Britain having an enhanced role as a middleman and lead-taker in many things; and in particular I'd like to see international agencies such as the UN, and many others, based here. Britain is the right candidate for a balance-of-power role in a world where the larger superstates have grown tired-looking, tainted and untrustworthy.
It looks as if I've definitely swung back to voting for an exit! But an exit with a positive global vision and manifold worthwhile responsibilities to take on.
I'm not simply one of those coffee-club ladies with glum grumbling faces. Whose bigot husbands 'hate all foreigners', and sourly complain about everyone and everything. There's an awful lot of them about. They're not my sort. They can retreat to an English Bar by some Spanish beach and stay there, so far as I'm concerned. And I hope the sunshine mellows them.