Here at Pertinent Problems, we strive to promote free and open debate, and inquiry at the very highest of levels on the global issues that matter. In an EU referendum campaign that has been too close to call, we think it would be helpful to those seeking to gain an understanding of the debate to present the unique opinions of three of our writers. An endorsement of either side in a post-factual and bitterly divisive national campaign would be naïve and imply a total mastery over facts and statistics that are frustratingly difficult to cite precisely. It is our hope that the following three opinions give readers some sense of the complexities of the debate.
Dhruv Kaushik: Remain
Stay and fight! Don’t quit! Why are you a quitter? We can do it!
Sadiq Khan’s pure, fiercely unadulterated shout of frustration at Gisela Stuart during the final televised debate between the leaders of the Remain and Leave campaigns, and the ensuing chaos that followed, served as a perfect microcosm of the EU referendum debate thus far: Floundering, confused and acrimonious. Up until the hour mark of the debate, there had been a relative level of decorum despite arguments being heated. Yet having clearly had enough of the back-and-forths during which each side simply refuted the facts of the other as baseless and incorrect and threw out fresh statistics of its own, Sadiq Khan couldn’t prevent himself from releasing his anger. It demonstrated just to what extent this debate has created and reinforced deep rifts between us.
When the Prime Minister promised the public this referendum during the 2015 General Election campaign, it was a measure to prevent the Conservatives losing some of their Eurosceptic voters to UKIP. Perhaps confident that a referendum called early would result in a vote to remain in the European Union by a comfortable margin, he has instead released something monstrous. And I do not believe this is an overstatement, nor a judgement that somehow dramatises the issue or gives it more weight than it deserves. While waiting for my regular 82 bus at Finchley Road last week, I saw a Remain campaigner hand an old lady a leaflet. She was clearly confused at first, but as soon as she read that it backed Britain’s membership of the EU, she viciously ripped it in two, tossing it into the nearest dustbin. This referendum is one in which we will clearly vote on lines of emotion and gut feeling, not reason. While the IMF, MI5, the Bank of England, Warren Buffett and Nouriel Roubini, among others, have all said the UK would be stronger in the Union, the endorsement of a wide host of economic and security experts has both attracted and repelled voters from the Remain cause in equal measure. Official polling shows the referendum is too close to call.
The only thing that I think both sides can agree on is that we have let ourselves down during this debate. Divisive rhetoric on both sides has led voters to try and distance themselves from the official campaigns. The great liberal journalist C.P. Scott famously said that “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” If neither side has made an effort to debate said facts directly and instead debate on a vague contest between democracy and economic benefit, we as the public cannot be expected to understand which choice is truly the best one to make. Perhaps the greatest gift this referendum campaign may give us, and the much-beleaguered Sadiq Khan, is its own end come Friday. Let us hope we can mend the broken links between us, and move from a post-factual national debate to a balanced, reasoned one in which positive, inclusive and outward-looking discussion bring us together, overcoming the negativity that has forced us so far apart in recent months.
Aditya Dabral: Leave
When we first voted to join what was then known as the EEC, it was to become part of a ‘common market’. It is clear that since those 40 years, the EU has not only become an economic, but political juggernaut. In my eyes this represents a worrying evolution that threatens to leave us unable to to properly have jurisdiction over decisions that heavily affect us (the infamous TTIP being one such example).
My main qualm with many who seek to remain is this perception that should we leave the EU, chaos would ensue to our detriment. Most countries in the world have the ability to selectively choose who comes into their country and are able to independently sign free trade deals with considerable success. To suggest then, that the world’s 5th largest economy would face turmoil being independent is not only be disingenuous but incorrect in my view. Should we leave, I believe that the UK will face little hassle in retaining economic influence. I am aware that most economic institutions are partial to the Remain camp, but they appear to be far detached from the hardship many working class Britons face due to EU regulation and red tape. It seems to be the case that many of these institutions are either funded by, or have much clout over the EU and so this too must be considered when listening to their cases. I am not going to deny that much of the Leave campaign has been marred by nasty politics and some dubious misinformation, but I am confident in Britain, and of Europe, to thrive outside of the EU, unencumbered by its bureaucracy, judicial supremacy, and sheer lack of democratic accountability.
I would like to believe that we can change the EU for the better, but we have challenged votes at the Council of Ministers 72 times. 72 times we have been rejected. The potential accession of a further five states which would diminish our voice even more does little to to quell this thought. I am in no doubt that there are risks associated with leaving but it is my sincere belief that staying in what is a sinking political project is a cause for greater concern. Not only to do I think that the UK is better outside of the EU, but that Europe is (I find it sad how the two have become synonymous) and thus I find myself wanting us to leave on Thursday.
Siavash Minoukadeh: Remain
I went into this campaign firmly knowing what I planned on doing – abstaining. After all, whilst the EU is undemocratic and often inefficient, it does give us crucial rights (environmental, labour human) that I don’t think the right-wing leavers would want to keep. However, staying would see Cameron make “reforms” that would undermine one the best things about the EU, the freedom to live and work, without tackling any of its core issues. Yet as the campaign dragged on, I saw that staying in the EU was the right choice. It was not the official campaign that won me over, their scaremongering has been shameful, rather it was the contrast of ideals between those who want to leave and those who want to stay. The EU, despite all its flaws, is built on sound ideas – cooperation, respect, individual rights. Working together with other members has allowed the UK to develop without intimidating our neighbours.
Those who want to leave want to isolate us, putting us against those on the other side of the Channel. This referendum at its core is really about what sort of country we want and what sort of people we are. That’s why it is so important. The EU has its problems but as the saying goes, a problem shared between 28 members is a problem divided by 28.
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