Someone said on the radio yesterday that there are now just 35 days until the EU Referendum and last night I watched – well, until I nodded off about ten minutes from the end – Jeremy Paxman’s BBC1 programme Paxman on Brussels: Who Really Rules Us?
I read somewhere that, given Paxo’s alleged EU-scepticism, he had been warned about not being too biased against the Remain case. Nevertheless my overall impression of his treatise was that it did not say much that was novel about the arguments for either Leave or Remain and indeed probably left most viewers – be they one or the other, or even as yet undecided – exactly where they were before he started.
His main thrust seemed to be that sovereignty was the key issue. As I saw it, Paxo’s view was that there was no doubt that the UK’s sovereignty had been systematically eroded over the past forty years and the argument was about the degree to which this mattered.
For Brexiteers, democratic accountability and the loss of sovereignty – both that which already gone and that likely to go in the future if the UK remained in the EU – were of paramount importance.
For Remainers, the admitted loss of sovereignty was less of a problem if you looked at it from the angle that ‘sharing sovereignty’ within the EU and its other 27 nations was a price worth paying. It gave the UK not only greater commercial advantages (not least the single market), greater ability to influence geo-political issues such as climate change, global warming and a greater chance action to curb tax havens and/or corporate tax avoidance, but also greater authority generally in the world.
Separately, on Stephen Nolan’s late-night Radio Five Live programme, there was a lively phone-in on the furore over Labour’s Shadow Europe Minister Pat Glass had to apologise for being caught out calling a male member of the public “a horrible racist” after he expressed concerns over immigration.
Both Nolan and BBC political correspondent Chris Mason remarked towards the end of the show that, although some members of the public and the Westminster media circus had been starting to suggest that voters were generally bored and losing interest in the EU Referendum, the evidence of their couple of hours manning the phones had proved quite different – the passion generated on both sides of the EU argument, especially on the issue of immigration, was both real and great.
Lastly in this context, I received a ‘forwarded’ copy of round-robin email overnight from a pal, written by someone that I have heard of by reputation but do not personally know at all.
I did not previously know the author’s political leanings, but I certainly do now because he has sent out to all and sundry a long, slightly rambling (pro-EU Remain) thesis. Here is an extract, to give you a flavour of what I am talking about:
‘The European Idea was created to avoid Europe going to war again: and it has succeeded. We have had a long period of peace in Europe thanks to European Union, and I pray that it will remain so. I do not want to see my grandson fighting in another dreadful war.
Nigel Farage and UKIP are an insult to our fathers’ memories, with their superficial sloganising and their immature “let’s get drunk in the pub” Public School attitudes. Brexit needs a far deeper level of thought than pub talk. I have known and distrusted so many people who looked and sounded like Nigel Farage. He was a “commodity broker” – really a gambler – and now he is an MEP, taking a fat salary from the European Union he wants to destroy. Farage is on record as boasting that he has received €2 million from the EU in salary and perks. When a female journalist asked him about UKIP campaign financing, she reported that “the interview turned nasty.”
The Leave Campaign relies on prejudice and emotion. The recent trade debate was long and pointless: no one knows which set of assumptions will prove correct. Of course trade will continue. Of course some companies will lose business as their European markets dry up: some may go bankrupt, but I do not know which. Some foreign companies will move out of Britain and into Europe, but no one knows which. The CBI predicts that Brexit would cost £100 billion and 1 million jobs. My guess is that Britain would lose 6% of GDP over ten years, and that the City of London will lose 10% of its business in the first five years. It is just a guess, but a good guess. Many financial services will move elsewhere; Frankfurt is licking its lips, waiting to take over London’s business; Ireland is waiting eagerly to host the companies who want to relocate to the EU.
This debate does not just concern Britain: President Obama in London spoke not just about British trade with America, but about future world peace and stability. I live in France where everyone has an opinion – and so they should! Hearing mediocre slogan-raisers like Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and now Boris Johnson – whom I had thought more intelligent – I conclude that they are wrong. The other side carries much more “weight”: the CBI, London Chamber of Commerce, Livery Companies and Captains of Industry, the Prime Minister, the Bank of England and all the Trade Unions believe Britain is stronger in Europe. Are they all wrong? …’
‘Brexit is a very bad idea.
Tell your neighbours and friends.
Leaving the EU would be catastrophic.
Make sure that young people are registered to vote on June 23rd.
Everyone – especially young people – must mobilize to vote REMAIN in the EU.’
I don’t know about you, but to me this sort of thing hums with just the sort of totally one-eyed propaganda that campaigners on both sides are now resorting to.
It amounts to little more than “The other side are wrong, stupid, ignorant, deluded. The right way to vote in the Referendum is so blindingly obvious that only a half-wit could possibly vote other than the way I am going to …”
Er … well, no actually … this half-wit is now going to join the list of those voting for Brexit for a wide variety of reasons – one of biggest of which is your attitude, mate!