The European Brexit Referendum – In or Out?

BrexitNow the Prime Minister David Cameron has returned from his lengthy European country hopping tour, clutching what has become know as “The Deal” of reforms the EU has not so graciously awarded the UK, he immediately announced a date of Thursday 23rd June as polling day for the long awaited referendum, (or Brexit ), on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union (EU). I for one cannot help but be reminded of the similarity when another British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain also returned from Europe brandishing a piece of paper with appeasement written all over it.

Campaigning by both the Leave-EU and Stay—in factions has now begun, but so far I find both of them quite lack-lustre in putting any form of message across. I find that disappointing considering both campaigns have seasoned politicians from all sides of the political spectrum as their front-runners. The Stay-in campaign appear to have adopted a ceaseless barrage of fear in a attempt to persuade, or even scare voters to remain in the EU. Fears like national security, job opportunities and so on, all of which I find feeble and groundless. The Leave-EU campaign however I  find  are also failing to put forward what should be the positive benefits for leaving the EU. In short, so far the UK electorate have faced a totally negative fear campaign on one side, and a far less than positive one on the other side.

Although it is still early days for both campaigns, opinion polls tend to indicate the views those in favour of leaving or staying are reasonably evenly  divided, with about a third of the electorate as yet undecided. Apparently there is even a marked trend in age difference between the two sets of opinions with younger voters more likely to vote to stay in the EU and with more older voters wanting to leave. In a way I suppose that is understandable as no one below the age of 40 will have had any experience what being a totally independent country and what the opportunities that brings really means.

With the exception of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the leaders of other political parties have declared their parties are for remaining in Europe. However one cannot help but wonder just how many grass roots members in their own parties they are speaking for?  Reports indicate the Conservative Party appear to have deep internal divisions on the issue, and I would not be in the least surprised if other political parties are facing the same problem. Either way a referendum does not depend on what individual political parties, local or national politicians say. A referendum is where a country as a whole votes for a national policy, not a local political party or politician. It is where the individual electors collective opinion counts only.

As for myself, I am definitely for Leaving the EU. I voted not to join the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1975. Although in many ways at the time this was little more than a glorified European street market, I could foresee the ramifications of what those who were then pushing for, and still are, for ever greater political union, would really mean. What we have now is something bordering on just short of a European super-state. The danger with something this big is ultimately it tries to make “one cap fits all” policies, and  for an area as big and diverse in people, customs, practices and beliefs that Europe is. Such policies can only lead to resentment which does no one any good.

To me the EU’s recent concessions to the UK are merely unimportant bread crumbs. What was given on one hand can be taken back again by one method or another if we remain members of the EU. What I found more important as well as infuriating, humiliating and disgraceful was  a week in which my own Prime Minister had to effectively plead with the leaders of 27 other countries as they debated and decided what they would allow my country to do or not do. That in a nutshell sums up what the EU is about. It does seem as if individual national governments and the voters that elected them are now in effect starting to become subservient to the collective decisions of other countries. It no longer matters what part of the political spectrum anyone’s views are,  as national governments are in effect gradually becoming almost like puppet governments in terms of EU policies they would have to comply with even if ones own government and public opinion are totally opposed to it.

I am also mindful of ideas like a European army that have already been floated around by European politicians. Although these ideas received little support for now, I have no doubt they will be raised again in the future and all that entails. I understand the EU is even seeking to bring the UK Coast Guard under its control and likely unpopular proposals like the power ratings of electric kettles seem to have been temporarily shelved while the Brexit campaign is underway. I look at our once proud and robust fishing industry now totally decimated and cannot help but think this is what the policies of the EU gave to us, or should that more accurately be, took away from us.

It is true to say that UK politicians do make mistakes, but then so do other European politicians. The difference is the electorate has the power to dismiss a UK government through a general election, but has no power to dismiss European politicians.

Winston Churchill was a great wartime leader whom without his anti-appeasement stance and defiance, it is unlikely the UK could have withstood, let alone be a essential part in winning World War 2. Although I am unlikely to have ever agreed with his peacetime policies, I do recognise Churchill had great foresight. One of his quotes on Europe was

Of Europe Churchill once said;

 ‘If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.”

Being anti-EU however does not make me anti-European, quite the opposite. Europe is rich and diverse in its many cultures and long may it be so. I have always found individuals warm and welcoming and  I would not what to see such diversity gradually eroded away by the desire of some for increasing European conformity.

Despite the negative fear campaign being waged by the Stay-in the EU group, I am not in the least bit afraid to leave. What really scares me is the thought of what Europe will become if we remain in it, and what the UK will also gradually be forced to become too. For this reason alone I trust the electorate do not make the same mistake they made in 1975 and become beguiled by the romance of Europe as opposed to the hard realities.

The wind of political change

Ballot BoxThe ink on the General Election  ballot paper is barely dry, yet the die for the next five years is already well and truly cast. As the individual politicians either celebrate their victories or lick their wounds with various party leaders already falling on their proverbial swords, thoughts must turn to what the next five years will mean.

Surprising as it may seems, in the longer term and by that I mean after the next five years and the next General Election, the outlook for working people could be far better than it has been for a long time provided the Labour Party quickly learn their lesson. In the short-term, provided there is no political trickery, it should also mean that finally the electorate will  have its say on Europe which they have been denied by politicians for the last 40 years.

No one can say if the majority of the electorate will eventually vote to stay in the EU or not but there can be no doubt of the hue and cry from the electorate over the years that people want their say on the matter. With the leader of the Labour Party saying  a EU Referendum is unlikely  to take place if Labour won the next General Election and another Labour politician suggesting that British people could not be ‘trusted’ to decide if they wanted to stay in the EU or not, caused resentment amongst many voters.

Equally ignoring issues like over immigration and the real consequences it has caused in employment,  housing, education and health did nothing to curry any favour between the electorate and those they perceived dismissive of the problem in the past.

Although I do not support them, the SNP has won a massive victory in Scotland and must be congratulated for that as clearly that is how Scottish voters feel. However although they will now form a sizeable minority party in Parliament, their political teeth have been pulled in terms of hopes of ruling the whole of the country through a coalition. The SNP victory also shows how dependent Labour had become over the years on their Scottish politicians at the expense of other and less urbanised areas of the country. With that support taken away overnight, the numbers simply did not add up in terms of parliamentary seats of them ever hoping to form a government on their own.

And there lies the nub of Labour’s problem, one of trust or more accurately lack of trust in them by many of the electorate. Lack of trust or faith is something that did not happen overnight, it has been building for years and Labour did not appear to have the foresight to see it coming, understanding it, or countering it.

The electorate is not a single entity that can be taken for granted and used as a rite of passage into Parliament,  it is millions of decent hard working individuals each with their own independent thoughts and aspirations most whom loathe being lectured at by elitist politicians. Many working people now feel they have no political party to represent their views. For many it was once the principles of Keir Hardie they supported, strong principles which sometimes seem more recently to have become clouded or evaporated.. For a great many people it is not a case of them having moved away from the Labour Party, to them it feels more of a case that the Labour Party has moved away from them.

The Labour Party is now begun the process of choosing a new leader and it is likely unless they choose a person that voters can believe in, that any future policies Labour develop will be seen as anything other than words on paper. This point on the choice the right leader has already been expressed by some Labour politicians fearful Labour may once again be sleepwalk into the same mistakes of the past.

Something I often hear in conversations is peoples distrust in careerist politicians who they feel  lack the contact, experience and understanding of everyday folk and their hopes, fears and aspirations. Nothing makes many peoples blood boil faster than politicians they perceive as “champagne socialists” glibly deciding what is best for them rather than asking or understanding them.

At the end of the day, it is those same people who are going to put their X on a future ballot paper against a particular politician’s name or not. Politicians who appear to alienate people  are only alienating themselves.

Choice of their new leader is a matter for Labour alone although some bloodletting over their General Election defeat has already begun. Even if they choose the right person, Labour still face the monumental task of rebuilding its trust and faith with the electorate. Choose the wrong person and they face many more years in the wilderness.

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