There has been nothing on the news this week except the story of David Cameron's negotiations to try to achieve a better arrangement for Britain within the European movement.
It was part of the Conservatives election manifesto that they would renegotiate the terms of our membership and then put the issue before the people in an in/out referendum, which will be held in June.
The Britain-out campaigns (several of them) have been running for ages and making lots of noise, well before David Cameron's negotiations started, let alone concluded.
The referendum is being described as the most important decision we will make in our lifetime (a bit hyped), but currently I have no idea how I should vote. My inclination is to be part of Europe and, to me, a single European currency and a united states of Europe make a lot of sense. On the other hand, there’s a fug and a fog about the whole EU operation, which seems to create bureaucracy and inefficiency and waste millions of Pounds (or Euros). I like the principle, but I have some issues with the implementation.
What I really need now is some clear arguments and debate about why we should stay in or why we should leave, but there’s no sign of that happening. The In and the Out campaigns are focused on scaremongering and pandering to prejudice, neither has presented a coherent argument.
I think the main reasons people dislike the EU are xenophobia and immigration.
Lots of people dislike foreigners in principle; it's a position that's less widespread than it was, but it's still a position that many hold. In this case, it can’t be called racism (although some are also racist) because these particular foreigners they hate/dislike/mistrust are the same race as they are, even the same root religion and culture.
Bloody French (always on strike), bloody Germans (want to rule the world), bloody Greeks (bone idle) ... the list goes on. Nothing David Cameron could negotiate would persuade people like that to embrace the EU.
Then there are those who fear immigration (or the free movement of people - one of the key principles of the EU). There are two million EU nationals working in Britain and many people feel that their wages have been eroded by migrant workers or their jobs taken.
I have to say, I share some of these views - I think the Greeks should work a bit harder and I have been known to mutter “bloody French” when I’ve arrived at Calais to find no ferries and a line of fishing boats blockading the port. I’ve also been known (more often) to think similar things about British people. But I do think that free movement is a fantastic idea and there are millions of British people living and working in Europe.
So as an “undecided leaning in” how am I going to decide how to cast my vote?
I have decided to decide by keeping a list of those arguing for out and those arguing for in. Anyone on the list I dislike will get one minus point and anyone I find truly obnoxious will get five minus points.
So the Britain-out campaign gets an immediate -10 thanks to George Galloway and Nigel Farage; while Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond and Tony Blair add up to -7 for the Britain-in lot. It’s a pretty negative way to make up my mind, but entirely in keeping with the negative campaigns being run by the opposing groups.
|Alex Salmond - he's in, so I'm out|
|Nigel Farage - he's out, so I'm in.|