For the first time in my 'political life' I have arrived in the 'undecided' camp. As very much a left wing citizen, who believes in fairness, peace and equality, I've never really been an undecided person (with one exception when I was gripped by Nick Clegg fever in 2010 and didn't vote Labour for the first time ever) and I usually know both sides of an argument which makes my choice easier.
The question of remaining in the European Union (EU) is the most important question facing the electorate until 2020 and it will have far-reaching consequences, if polls are to be believed (which we know isn't always the case).
Depending on where you look, it appears that as many as 65% of the English want out of Europe. Less than 30% in Scotland and NI and in something that I find amusing (in a horrid kind of way), no one seems bothered what the Welsh think. This might look extremely contrasting but England has the biggest population and is likely to absorb 'No' voters from other parts of the current 'Kingdom'. It would appear that we're on course to Brexit with as high as 60% of the people who can be arsed to vote choosing what some would regard as a backward step.
As little as two years ago I was espousing remaining in Europe and taking an even stronger role, but as the General Election loomed I started to see more and more people wanting to leave Europe for purely racist or xenophobic reasons and yet again I was appalled at the BBC and other media outlets for failing to 'put right' misnomers spouted by ignorant idiots, because if you're going to give a twat the right to voice his ignorance, you should give a knowledgeable person the same platform, at the same time, with the same editorial support - unless, of course, it is in the interests of the people who run the media to actually come out of the EU?
I ventured into the 'undecided' camp when we started to see how similar to fascism the richer countries of Europe could sink in their intent to humiliate and bankrupt Greece, which probably should never been accepted into the EU in the first place, or at least until it's unbelievably corrupt rich were re-educated. But the EU wanted to be an economic powerhouse to rival China and the USA and to do that it needed to be big, broader and even more diverse. None of Europe's advocates ever bothered to think that inviting Greece to the party was a little like selecting the top 7 footballing nations to play in a 'Super World Cup' and inviting Bhutan or Comoros to make up the numbers. In reality, countries like Portugal and Ireland probably should have been scrutinised considerably more before they were welcomed and these two economic 'power houses' make Greece seem like a small tin-pot African republic that bases it's entire economy on sunshine and guns.
It should never have happened, but how can you have a fair and competitive Europe if you don't allow the mother of democracy in (unless you just want to humiliate the mother of democracy to ram home the point that democracy is actually just a concept the people believe is happening). So, after the Greek Crisis, I sided with the Out camp; I didn't want to support something that was encouraging a European country to have to survive like a very poor 3rd world country. There was nothing said about improving economic conditions, the EU just wanted money and didn't care what the human cost was.
However, in the last six months I've softened my position again and have flopped back into the undecided camp. The reasons for this are the reasons why I have been Pro-European for most of my life; the ultimate cost to this country should we pull out. Even people like David Davis, Nigel Farage and Kate Hoey admit there are some things we, as a country, might struggle to adapt to or, far more realistically, struggle to pay for.
Take for instance the amount of subsidies the UK gets from the EU on farming. People can bleat until they're blue in the face about the amount of money we have to give the EU as our contribution (or membership fee), but you never ever hear those same people complaining about the UK getting as much as 15% of that amount back in farming subsidies alone. One of the simplest reasons for milk being so cheap in supermarkets is because if dairy farmers didn't get huge amounts of cash from the EU, many would go out of business, few would be able to make any profit at all, and it would allow what has happened in the USA, which is small and independent is phased out and corporations take over the entire running of an industry, which leads to drops in standards, animal cruelty and the same kind of scares we had in the 1990s with salmonella and CJD.
If supermarkets have to pay more for their milk they won't absorb the costs, they'll put the price up and blame the farmers - a lot like what the Tories do when they have to do something people don't like; they blame someone else and are believed. Your milk will just be one of the things that will swell your weekly shopping bill.
But, if our trade is restricted, it might mean the UK has to do something that will be good for the long term health of the planet - the UK will again have to depend on seasonal produce more. It might mean more shops sells odd shaped fruits or potatoes that aren't uniform. It might see the rebirth of more historical varieties, but, of course, unless the supermarkets are prepared to pay farmers more, because they won't get subsidies and the government simply won't be able to or will be unwilling to plough money into farming to support it, then food production will be the sole area of conglomerates and you'll still get uniform vegetables but you will pay 30% more for them.
To think that pulling out of Europe won't have a detrimental effect on the economy is ignorance and short-sightedness. The Norwegian equivalent to our foreign secretary commented in various newspapers last year that Norway still pays Europe as much money as it would have done, but get seriously less competitive deals.
Our Western press is doing a great job to demonise Russia, for all manner of transgressions, but how many of you are aware that this all started because of some chicanery by the EU? We don't hear so much about the Ukraine now because Syria is the important news leader (for a variety of reasons all centring around fear and loathing), but the majority of all this conflict began when the EU backed an overthrow. The Ukraine is and has been a very divided country since before the USSR. It has a very pro-Europe west and a very pro-Russia/Asian east. Western Ukrainians make jokes about Eastern Ukrainians the same way the British made Irish jokes in the 60s and 70s. While the East hold the west in utter contempt because they have most of the wealth and have cast off their socialist heritage. This was a country massively divided long before the EU decided to help a pro-Europe opposition leader overthrow the alleged 'puppet' of the Kremlin. This, oddly enough, is common knowledge, but our media has just decided to overlook it.
Now Russia pays through the nose for what it needs that hasn't been sanctioned; as a result if any EU transgressors want gas then they have to also pay through the nose and it's always the consumer who pays, whether the reasons behind it are right or wrong. The reason I use Russia as a good example of you not knowing what is really happening is because the media has made it quite clear who is the enemy and we're buying into it. They, the media, also seem to be content with allowing ignorant idiots set the agenda when it comes to decisions about our future.
There is this belief that the UK is running out of land; people seriously believe that if we get many more migrants here we'll be full. Show these people the actual evidence that we only actually cover about 3% of the UK with houses and they won't believe you (or worse accuse you of being a leftie); show them evidence in figures everyone from the BBC to the Daily Telegraph and, guess what, they don't believe it. They don't believe it because it doesn't sit with their own misconceptions. Tell someone from Northampton that there are only x number of Polish migrants in this country and they'll call you a liar (or left wing), but Northamptonians have a skewed vision of the Polish because we have more than most places - because we have history with Poland that stretches back before WW2 (but let's ignore the multicultural nature of Northampton because it doesn't agree with our personal xenophobia).
Yet earlier today I saw someone accuse anyone who is unemployed of being feckless and living off the state; I couldn't comment on his ignorance but if I could I would have said that I am unemployed, not claiming any kind of benefits because I'm not entitled to any and I apply for 10 jobs a week; I suppose in some peoples' eyes I'm not doing enough and they can decide on my fecklessness based on a single statement; the same way someone from Wellingborough can say with extreme authority that the country is almost full and it all has to stop. I lived in Wellingborough for years; it's one of the greenest small towns in the country, surrounded by miles and miles of lovely countryside. The last I looked it was not crawling alive with feckless foreigners coming over here to access our incredibly easy (read: difficult) to claim from benefits systems, oh and shag our women while simultaneously converting them to Islam and forcing them to eat Hallal meat.
Honestly, we have an increasingly large population of complete and utter racist fuckwits.
I've banged on before about how much more groceries will cost if we come out of Europe; this will be a reality very quickly after a Brexit vote; it will happen within a month and people will be taken aback by it. It will almost feel like a form of revenge for those who want to stay in and as I said a while back somewhere else 'I told you so' will become the political hashtag of the second half of this year. Fuel (maybe not petrol) will go up because we won't get the trade subsidies we usually get and, actually, let's stop right there... I've mentioned subsidies a lot and we really need to look at the realities of subsidies especially when you have a neo-liberal Conservative party in power...
The most notable thing about this government has been the cuts. There might have been some achievements worth noting, but most people are going to remember the way we've seen everything get stripped back to the bone; wages reduced in real terms and fears conveniently placed to make us realise that we have to continue with austerity. This Tory government doesn't subsidise things; they stop cuts when there's too much public backlash, but they don't subsidise - it's what their ideology is; let the private sector fill that void, somehow. The private sector isn't a charity; it doesn't do things altruistically, it does things for a profit, even if that profit is minimal. Without subsidies an enormous amount of small businesses, cottage industries and farms based around the agricultural heritage of this country will disappear.
You know the trickle down effect that this Tory regime bangs on about, well the Trickle Up effect has been considerably more apparent when you see how many businesses have suffered or disappeared because of punitive measures to other areas of employment. This isn't my opinion; it's a fact that our right wing media just happen to ignore.
The lack or constant dwindling effect on peoples' disposable incomes has meant less people go for a meal, go to the pub, use theme parks, do things that require them to spend a lot of frivolous money; as a result pubs and restaurants go out of business, through no real fault of their own, and even major entertainment suppliers show a trending drop in profits, which, of course, leads to corners being cut because the profits have to go to the shareholders and their bank balances are far more important than the health and safety of their consumers. Is it not that obvious?
Legally, pulling out of Europe could leave us open to changes that the EU would have blocked that could see your civil liberties changed or your freedom of speech stopped. The Tories are making it illegal for councils to boycott goods or services from countries people believe are not ethical or run oppressive regimes, which other than being a blatant erosion of our human rights is an indicator of what TTIP will be like and we'll get TTIP whether we're in Europe or not, but through it in Europe there'll be some come back towards TTIP's authoritarian measures.
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that for the first time ever the multi-national corporations have made a statement that suggests they are above the laws of whatever lands they work in. Hippies have been saying for years that the world's richest companies are really the people who run/rule the world and now we're seeing companies like Google and Apple flaunt rules and then laugh in the face of confrontation, because they know any move to stop them is going to lose; they hold the world by the short and curlies now and that might not change in our lifetimes.
The Brexit campaigners have essentially one argument; forget the jingoism and blatant xenophobia, the Brexit camp are saying everything will be fine via re-negotiation. They believe that once we're out of the club, we'll be in a position of strength to renegotiate everything we felt was stymied by the EU and its slightly less neo-liberal agenda. Where do we negotiate all these things? Who pays for it? As I said about the Norwegian politician - Norway spends as much time and money as a non-voting member than anyone else, but when a major decision is made that could affect them, they have no say in it - at all. Changes to the way Europe does business happens and Norway has to acquiesce - it doesn't have a choice. This will be the UK.
Imagine us not wanting to get involved in a war? I know, highly unlikely, but bear with me. We pull out of Europe and Cameron decides that we're going to spend the money on air-strikes in Syria we will instead bolster the country's coffers now that we no longer get subsidies from the EU (highly unlikely again, but if not this something similar). We don't have the clout we used to have, despite believing we do.
What if Russia and its allies decide that what Europe is doing is counter-productive to its own agenda and eventually there is the signs that the crisis in Syria is finally going to spill into Europe and Russia: where do we stand? We'll be part of Europe then, won't we? It won't matter that as a result of leaving the EU makes things politically difficult for the Tories in power (and don't think that won't happen; if they can butt-fuck the Greeks, imagine what they'll do to a former member that shoves two fingers up at them?). Do not be so conceited as to believe Europeans hold us in the same regard they might have done in 1919. We've made ourselves unpopular and how often do unpopular people get their own way in a democracy?
Obviously our press will always spin it positively and pulling out of Europe would surely make UKIP obsolete (except it won't because no one will want Farage and he'll invent something new to keep them going). We can close our borders (except we can't, because the government make money out of immigrants - have you never considered that despite saying he'll stop the flow of migrants, they've actually increased since Cameron said that?). We can become an isolationist nation (except we won't because we need the rest of the world to survive and to launder their money, plus we enjoy having wars with and against them). We will lose our influence (Can you say with any authority whether we have any at the moment?).
There will be some nations that will hold us in even more contempt than they already do and I'd bet that international relations on a basic level will deteriorate as more and more Brits (English) are happy to wear their racism on their sleeves and perpetuate myths based on lies and fear. If that happens, how long before 2nd generation Eastern Europeans are targeted and then 3rd, 4th and 5th generation Asians? Don't call me alarmist when a Presidential candidate reckons they shouldn't allow ANY Muslims into their country until they know what the hell is going on. If it was satire people would say it's lost touch with reality.
Pulling out of the EU would also allow governments to change employment law, not be held accountable for reneging on deals that previous administrations authorised (not that that has stopped any of them recently) and put even more power in the hands of the employers and the richest people in the country; so you can see why the establishment and half the Tory party are keen for us to get out as quick as possible - they make lots of money at the moment and will make even more when any form of regulation is discarded. You are making Britain's top 1% even richer and all because you're a xenophobe with no desire to understand ANY facts.
So, I started this by being on the fence. Everything above isn't just based on what I believe or my experience. I have researched as much as I could on most of the points - the pros and the cons - and the conclusion I draw is this:
Brexit: it would benefit about 10% of the population, possibly have a positive effect on the next 20%, but most people will see a dramatic increase in inflation. This will be offset by rises in interest rates and more money being directed through property, but the only people who will see that will be the rich. You, me and the bloke down the road will eventually be scratching our heads as we look at the price of some things and realise that what we've gained we lost big time elsewhere. Leaving this club will really show us how much we depended on it and the lower down the class ladder you regard yourself the more likely you are to vote to come out and the more likely an exit will effect you the most detrimentally.
Stay in: I'm still a little undecided, but in a different way. Part of me would relish us exiting Europe so I could join the 'I told you so' group in a year or so; but unlike the Scottish independence issue - which would rear its head if we did vote out - if we come out of Europe, we won't be (invited) welcomed back when a UK Euro-friendly government is elected. The chances are a UK exit could act as a catalyst for the entire concept of a United Kingdom to fall apart and also precipitate a new Europe that would rise from the ashes, one that serves the rich more and allows each countries' specific prejudices to be appeased.
Remaining in allows us to keep the benefits while trying to change certain things that we, as pompous pride inflated buffoons, think we should have. If we had a negotiator rather than an arse talking to Donald Tusk and his gang we might get somewhere.
There is a fact here that you need to, at the very least, try and get across to idiots and ignoramuses - while migration isn't really that high here (which they won't believe); economic migrants want to come here because George Osborne is telling the world what a great success story UK PLC is; when we (those who care) all know that ½% of growth hardly makes us a Tiger Nation. He's been harping on about how great we are and therefore people want some of that.
The fact a lot of our economy is based on borrowed money, (lack of) service industries, zero hour contracts and the destruction of the public sector, means that even if the public believe George, they also don't believe him because the streets are no happier and there's even more Polish voices in said street. And before you start saying that is wrong; look at the USA - the land of opportunity, built on migrants going there to make it. We had that rammed down our throats for over a hundred years, to the point where we've grown so tired of the concept we've forgotten it when we see (our own) migrants (let's not even get into the refugee situation) wanting to come over here to make a better life.
A lot of Brits simply can't fathom the idea that we've been a multicultural country for a very long time and by their very nature multicultural societies will breed a lot of racists, because someone will think, because of their skin colour or how they worship that they are immediately better than someone from another country. The press do a good job of stirring up tensions and I fail to see what they ultimately believe will come out of it; they want to make money, but surely allowing the tide of general opinion to slip towards brown shirts and authoritarianism is self-defeating; they can't make money if the plebs have none to spend.
Something might change my mind; but I think I'm definitely back in the Stay camp. You'd seriously have to be a really selfish and potentially despicable person to support the Out campaign once you've weighed up the pros and cons - and don't take my word for it; do the research yourself, because if we do come out and everything turns to shit, you won't be able to change your mind; you'll be stuck with it.