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Living in annual festive limbo

By this time of year, like most of the population, I tend to have abandoned all restraint and am ‘going for it’ on the basis that all diets, exercise campaigns, New Year resolutions and vague goals to do better in every aspect of life can and should always begin again with renewed vigour and determination on 1st January.

You know how these things work. Somewhere around mid-November a mix of domestic, family or social imperatives begin impinging upon even your longest-applied personal disciplines.

Much as you’d far prefer to continue to breakfast on half an orange, a fat-free yoghurt (with a handful of nuts thrown in) and an expresso coffee … miss lunch altogether … and maintain your daily late afternoon trek to the health club before consuming a one lettuce leaf, one tomato and one avocado salad plus a protein shake before retiring to sleep, suddenly your dear old Dad needs escorting to half a dozen social engagements which, allowing for the three-hour round trip this involves for you in collecting and returning him to his home in the country, require you on each occasion to apply your entire your fourteen-hour waking day.

Then there’s the three ‘old pals’ lunches or parties coming rapidly into focus upon the horizon – fixed in your diary months before – that you cannot avoid without causing embarrassment and/or offence. Then there are a number of annual sport or hobby-related matches, events or festive celebrations that you know you’re going to enjoy very much but which cannot be undertaken without the obligatory accompanying 5,000-calorie sumptuous feast and enough alcohol in various forms to stun a rhino.

The obvious solution would plainly have been to have moved to a tiny hamlet in Cumbria or West Yorkshire in about 2002 and become a hermit. [Well, with the benefit of hindsight and the current weather and flooding problems, probably not Cumbria or West Yorkshire, but you get my drift]. The plan certainly has its enduring attractions.

resolutionsHowever, if you end up not taking such a drastic step, there’s really very little that you can do about the end of the year period but loosen the trouser belt and lie back and enjoy it, notwithstanding the inner regret you are simultaneously going to feel at letting all those months of hard work and supposed self-improvement go to waste.

That much said and acknowledged, and furthermore given the inevitability that all the resolutions and campaigns one initiated in January 2015 are simply going to be rolled-over and begin again in January 2016, this year I’m looking to attempt a novel approach and add to the mix another major resolution which involves breaking the habit of a lifetime.

If and as an EU referendum on UK membership does take place in 2016, not only am I going to campaign in favour of Brexit but (for the first time ever in my life) I’m going to take part and actually vote for it.

I haven’t come to this decision on UK membership of the EU after a particularly-careful weighing-up of all the argument for and against, or even via any rationally-driven conviction of principle regarding the UK’s economic or geo-political strategic best interests. In this I am sure I am not alone.

You see, I (and I think a large proportion of the UK public) believe that David Cameron’s strategy on the forthcoming EU referendum – whether the decision to commit to one was borne of principle, or efforts to buy himself time, or win the May 2015 General Election, or simply keep the lid on the potentially far-reaching rifts within the Tory party on the subject – of announcing with great fanfare that he was going to renegotiate better terms and fundamental changes to the direction of the EU which, if/when satisfactorily achieved, would allow him to campaign in favour of the UK remaining part of the EU was not only fatally flawed, but actually an irrelevant red-herring, from the outset.

It also had the additional problem of laying him open to potential ridicule if he could achieve nothing in this quest. Or if he simply got sent home with a flea in his ear after months of frantically flying around the continent desperately trying to (1) attract support for his demands and (2) persuade/blackmail the-powers-that-be to concede enough of them to enable him to ‘do a Chamberlain’ and return to the British public claiming that he had achieved a great victory in our time which would not only allow us to remain part of the EU project with enough safeguards to protect our proper sovereign interests, but also place a vice-like UK grip upon the tiller of the unstoppable EU ship (as it goes forward) to guarantee it would never do anything to the UK’s disadvantage.

Instead, for me and those like me, the EU membership issue boils down to a very much black and white choice. I think that our politicians, opinion-formers, media owners, business leaders and strident activists of every colour on the subject instinctively acknowledge this.

Fundamentally, those in favour of the UK’s continued membership of the EU would have (and will) vote to stay in, irrespective of whether Mr Cameron had ever embarked upon his hapless ‘renegotiation’ referendum strategy – whilst, by the same token of course, those in favour of leaving the EU will remain intent upon voting for Brexit.

EUDavid Cameron was always going to come back claiming that he’d achieved enough of a re-negotiation success to allow him to vote in favour of staying in, even if he had done no such thing … and even if he never actually believed in his heart of hearts that he ever had an earthly chance of doing so before he set off on his adventure.

My reasons for leaning towards Brexit are instinctive and simple.

The EU project is hell-bent upon moving towards what amounts to a European super-state in which national entities – and democratic principles – are respected only in theory.

Those in favour of remaining in the EU believe that the benefits of being part of a European-wide ‘geo-political pressure group’ (or super-state) far outweigh those of the UK retrenching back to a ‘solo’ position in which trading deals and standards would be uncertain and/or have to be laboriously rebuilt anew. Especially in a world in which India, China and other other nations or empires (even Brazil perhaps?) may become bigger players even than Europe. Basically this is a broad version of ‘the devil you know’ argument – or “at least we’re better off in something like the EU than we would be on our own”.

The beginnings of ‘ensuring the correct result’ strategy of the ‘let’s staying in’ campaign is revving up.

In the past week we’ve had media reports that Mr Cameron is going to be allowed to spend far more public money on persuading us to stay in than the ‘Yes to Brexit’ campaign is going to get to support the proposition that we should get out; and overnight comes news that, in the run-up to the referendum, the EU itself will be spending unlimited amounts of money bombarding the UK electorate with pro-EU propaganda.

Personally I don’t think the above will make much difference – it certainly won’t stop me embracing the Brexit option with glee.

When you add the fundamental problem of the ‘pro-EU’ campaign (it’s a negative operation, relying upon frightening the voters about the dangers of leaving) … the fact that for the umpteenth successive year those responsible for auditing the EU commission’s accounts has declined to sign them off, effectively pronouncing them ‘dodgy’ … and the recent report by a highly-respected independent think-tank that Britain’s economy is on course one day to overtake all those of all other EU nations’ (which hardly supports the contention that we’d be economically far better off remaining in the EU) … the conclusion is almost a no-brainer.

My first reaction is that ‘out’ is preferable in any event, simply in terms both of regaining/retaining control of our own destiny and no longer being prey to ridiculous, arrogant and interfering impositions from the EU.

My second – similar to that of many of those in favour of independence in the Scottish referendum – to the very fact that the EU will be campaigning negatively [thereby inherently implying that anyone thinking of supporting Brexit is an idiot and/or deluded because any sane person could see immediately that staying in is the only option] is to stick two fingers up and vote ‘out’ anyway, simply to defy/annoy those who, arguably, are desperately trying to ‘rig’ the vote to ensure the outcome they want.

Lastly, of course, it would be both fun and ‘cool’ to cock a snook at all those in authority over us – whether at home or abroad – who pay theoretical lip service to the concept of democracy but in fact actually regards it as an inconvenience to their right to exercise power on our behalf because they supposedly know better!

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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts