Wednesday 22 June 2016

Please Vote Remain

Houseboat with "Please Vote Remain" banner
Houseboat next to Stourbridge Common, Cambridge, with a "Please Vote Remain" banner.

I hope Britain stays within the EU, and fear the consequences if it does not.

The effect of a Leave vote on our economy might be catastrophic, or it might merely be very bad. Independent, knowledgeable economists are agreed it would be negative.

In the face of clear warnings from people who have spent their lives studying this subject, the Leave campaign covers its ears and chants, "La, la, I can't hear you." Yesterday, Michael Gove compared these economists to Nazis, simply for expressing their professional opinion. Boris Johnson said he agreed with Gove.

To review: One side has sober, thorough analysis backed up by facts and data. The other has a floppy-haired ex-Mayor who is entirely too fond of Hitler comparisons; and it has a pattern of making things up -- or more bluntly, telling lies.

Maybe all of the experts are wrong; but is it really worth taking the risk? Our jobs, savings, mortgages, and public services are on the line. So is the inheritance of our children and grandchildren. Why should we take the chance?


The Leave campaign is less than clear on this point. Its strategy is copied from the Underpants Gnomes:
  1. Tear up all of the UK's international trading relationships
  2. ???
  3. Profit!
There is no explanation of how this will work. We already have trade agreements with countries like the USA and China; they were negotiated on our behalf by the EU, the largest and richest trading bloc in the world.

Leave claim that after a costly period of disruption and uncertainty, we can get much better trade deals, based on... what? Boris Johnson's charming personality? I'd rather not bet my pension on that.


Leave campaigners claim deregulation will set business free and make us all rich. In this scenario, things like the EU directive on beach cleanliness are holding Britain back from becoming an industrial and financial powerhouse.

I like being able to take my son, who is eighteen months old this week, to paddle in the sea without worrying if it is contaminated by raw sewage or industrial waste. If it means some businessman is making less money than he otherwise would, I am very comfortable with that situation. The Leave campaigners insinuate they will make us filthy rich, but in fact we may end up just being filthy.


This is a popular argument with the Leave campaign, but frankly it is nothing but a distraction. British governments can and do reorganise schools or the NHS, raise or cut taxes, and declare war without consulting the EU. When we enter into an international agreement, whether it is the EU, NATO, or the Law of the Sea Treaty, we are exercising our sovereignty, not surrendering it.


Another of the Leave campaign's tactics is denouncing immigration. I have previously explained why Nigel Farage and his friends are wrong on this point. I will add that immigrants from the EU pay much more in taxes than they cost in public services. They are a clear benefit to the UK economy. Blogger Kevin Hague has a useful breakdown of the numbers.

Let's now step back from the language of accountancy. Migrants simply make a country more interesting and fun to live in. Yes, the Portuguese bakery down the street from me is generating economic activity and employment. It also makes really delicious breads and pastries. It adds life and enjoyment to the neighbourhood.

I am an immigrant from Canada, married to another immigrant from the USA, and our son was born here in the UK. I love this country, with all its quirks and peculiarities. I am glad to make my home here, and raise my son in England's green and pleasant land. No doubt he will grow up loving the Premier League instead of ice hockey, and I'm perfectly happy with that.


When all is said and done, we are human beings first, and Canadian, British or Portuguese second. We face great challenges, from global warming to the refugee crisis in the Middle East. The European Union is about facing them together.

The European Union has countries who suffered under fascist regimes; either home-grown ones, as in Spain and Germany, or external invaders as in France and the Netherlands. It has countries who lived under the tyranny of Communism, as in Poland and the Czech Republic. In their darkest days, all of them looked to Britain with admiration and hope.

Now, we stand together as free and democratic societies. We elect our leaders; we have freedom of speech and religion; we trade together peacefully; we settle our disputes in courts of law, not on the battlefield. These achievements were hard won. They are not something to take for granted. This is no time to walk away; instead we need to cooperate with our neighbours, and try to build something better.

The Leave campaign insinuate that we cannot work with our fellow Europeans; that they are just too alien in their beliefs and values. I do not believe that.

The European Union is messy and flawed, as all political institutions are. Its leaders sometimes make unwise decisions, as all leaders do. But on balance, I believe the European Union not only helps the United Kingdom prosper; it is a force for good in the world.

Please vote Remain tomorrow.

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