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They’re off! The Referendum race begins …

And so we now know that the UK’s Referendum on whether or not to remain in the EU will take place on Thursday 23rd June. There’s little doubt – based upon the last six to eight months of the Prime Minister’s apparent tactics on the issue and the various splits within the Tory cabinet that began appearing as if by magic just minutes after yesterday’s rare Saturday cabinet meeting – that the next four months are going to make for some of the most fascinating in British politics of the last half century.

That said, as government ministers, opposition spokespersons and fading (or faded) ex-political figures of all political hues took to the airwaves yesterday afternoon in a feeding-frenzy of media attention-gathering … this as the rest of us spent our time shopping, watching or playing sport, driving around the country on motorways to visit relatives and long-long friends, taking the dog for a walk in the park, or simply devouring a pub lunch and then going home for a welcome afternoon snooze … certain incongruities seemed to flow naturally to mind …

Such as:

Cameron3Does David Cameron himself really believe, let alone expect the rest of us to swallow, that he would have been an ‘Outer’ had it not been for the magnificence of the ‘New Deal For Britain’ that he has managed to prise, cajole, beg or blackmail out of his fellow 27 (or is it 28?) heads of government within the EU?

I ask because, at the moment, he seems to be pushing the notion that – now he has secured it, this deal has at a stroke placed the UK in a better, nay perfect, relationship within the EU [i.e., broadly speaking, ‘still sitting at the top table influencing things, yet not having to be involved, at any time and at our exclusive election, in any of the wilder madcap schemes and/or stupidities of the EU project including eventual total integration] – and that therefore we are now rendered safe and secure (militarily, economically, culturally, and global-influence-wise) forever.

In other words – so Mr Cameron’s thrust would have it – not only there is absolutely nothing of consequence in the arguments or concerns that the ‘Outers’ have ever raised historically, or indeed that they could hatch and mount before 23rd June, but that, because how events would unfold if there actually was a Brexit is completely unknown and speculative, it’s definitely a case of ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’, thank you very much.

(Oh … and Vote ‘YES’ – you know it makes sense) …

Unlike my fellow Rust columnist Mr Campion-Brown, I’m actually of the persuasion – without any regard at all to the contents of Mr Cameron’s celebrated Deal – that, for all the EU’s many faults and frustrations, in the medium-to-long term (the next 40 years plus) the UK would better off being part of it than not.

As I see things, however, the trouble is that – in the heady atmosphere of general distrust and derision instinctively aimed at all those who partake in politics at both regional and national level in the UK – there’s a least a live danger that (irrespective of any of the arguments that might come up in the ‘free and open’ debate on the issues that many on both sides seem to be calling for)  enough of the UK population, in an effort to ‘stick two fingers up to the lot of them’ out of sheer edginess and devilment, will vote to leave … and actually make it happen.

Although with a heavy heart I’d acknowledge that nine times out of ten if it was actually posed to them in an interview, any politician worth his or her salt would fudge their answer in time-honoured fashion, the one thing I’d like to know from David Cameron – or anyone – is the answer to this unknown:

Supposing that (1) the UK votes to stay in the EU in the Referendum on 23rd June, and then (2) the rest of the EU either ignores the ‘Cameron Deal’ won at such effort and cost for the UK, or even refuses to approve it in the EU parliament, or just drives a coach & horses through it … in other words, essentially de facto continues to lock the UK into the EU project (as it has always been up to now) without implementing any of the Cameron Deal’s supposed ‘checks, balances or opt-out vetoes’.

EU2What then?

Will the UK population simply be told “Well don’t worry, we did our best to try and improve the UK’s position within the EU – in fact thought we’d managed it – but in fact it now turns out we weren’t able to do that. In fact, things are going to carry on as they were before – we’ll continue having laws imposed upon us, having to pay huge sums into the EU, having to ‘swallow’ all its absurdities without being able to do anything about it – but so what? We’ve had to do that for the past forty years anyway, so in essence you won’t notice any difference at all …”?

Or is there some ‘brake’ mechanism, some inviolate conditional sanction, in place within this famous supposedly ‘unanimously-agreed’ EU ‘Cameron Deal for the UK’ that means that – if ever the EU in any form or manner tries to ignore, ‘get around’ or reject its fundamentals – then the UK has the absolute right to declare any 23rd June Referendum result in favour of staying in the EU null and void at a moment’s notice?

I only raise this query because – if not, and if and as the UK votes ‘YES’ on 23rd June and then the ‘Cameron Deal’ is then swiftly torn up and consigned straight to the rubbish bin by the EU – what’s to stop this whole Referendum process having by then turned out to be  nothing more than a charade, a con-trick and a complete red-herring?


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About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts