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W&Y reader Paul Corrick on the political decision of a lifetime:talking

“I’ll be honest; I’m a political animal. I watch the news, read the papers, follow on-line blogs and listen to political pundits like Robert Peston, Andrew Neil and Tim Marshall. I read articles giving both sides of the EU argument. I watch Question Time and shout at the television as I perceive politicians seemingly scoring points, grinding out the same so called facts and figures, and each side contradicting the other.

I am neither a journalist nor trained writer. I am just a member of the UK electorate and like millions of others have an opinion and a vote. I am broadly of the centre left but have no ties to any party. I have voted Labour in the past but would not do so if there was an election tomorrow.

I cringe when I hear David Cameron say the leader of ISIS would favour Brexit, just as I shudder when Boris talks about Hitler and the EU in the same sentence. I hate scare tactics on both sides of the argument. Am I being unrealistic to want a reasoned well thought out debate that gives us the best chance to make an informed judgement? If leaving the EU is going to have such disastrous consequences for our country why did Cameron give us a choice in the first place? I have many questions, but few clear answers.

My heart and head tells me to vote Leave and I will explain why later, however, my judgement is not clear cut. I worry that many of the electorate, who are not political animals like myself, will rely on people like Boris, Gove, Farage, Obama or Cameron to help make up their minds. Some may even listen to Harry Styles or Joey Essex!

Photo from International Red Cross

Photo from International Red Cross

I worry about what is happening in Europe. It is turmoil with the refugee crisis, threats of terrorism, unemployment and a surge of extremist politics. Huge numbers of voters in Austria, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler, cast their vote in the Presidential election at the weekend for the far right candidate.

Think about that and you realise what is happening. Europe is not a continent at peace with itself or in unison. It is largely divided, riddled with unrest and economic disparity.

The reasons for the rise of extremism are complex but surely we must look at the financial crisis, the Euro crisis, the refugee crisis and mass unemployment as influencing factors. Youth unemployment in Spain and Greece is over 45%.

Herein lies the conditions for social unrest, protest and a lurch to extremist politics. The centre ground has been collapsing in Europe in recent years, we saw this with the rise of the extreme left Syriza party in Greece. In France the far right Marie Le Pen is on course to do very well in next year’s Presidential elections. Extreme parties are looking dangerous elsewhere including Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.

Whether the UK is better off in or out of an unstable Europe is a moot point and these problems across Europe would affect us either way. But I have to ask those who want to remain –  is this the European panacea you talk about? Is this a Europe that is united, strong and free? What will happen to the EU if we have another Euro crisis? The EU is meant to be about harmony but can agree on very little, even the refugee crisis sees individual countries taking unilateral decisions. The remain campaign say it will affect the economy, jobs and trade but they have no proof. Both sides have been guilty of ‘project fear’.

We have to make a judgement call on June 23rd. It is a once in a lifetime decision and yet I feel no one really knows what will happen if we stay or leave. It seems as if most of the predictions are based on guesswork, assumptions, prejudice, wishful thinking, personal bias and political grand standing.

Where is the statesman, the Churchill character, who can rise above prejudices and give the people the truth? Maybe there is none. Maybe we have to accept no one really knows. How can anyone forecast what will happen in 5, 10 or 20 years anyway? Governments revise economic forecasts more often than Henry the VIII changed his wives!

The reasons why I have decided to vote Leave on June 23rd are varied, however I respect those who will vote Remain. My main worries are about our ability to remain an independent country.  I can vote for my MP, local representatives, and Government, and know they are answerable to me and the British electorate. I have though no say about politicians in Poland, Hungary or Spain but they can have a say in how I live. I remember how some of our politicians recommended we join the Euro and how wrong they were. I remember the fiasco of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

I know if we as a country want to have control over our lives – be it borders, legislation, how we trade – we have to be able to self-govern. I recognise the arguments that some EU legislation may be positive with regards to employment law but surely we should have no need for the EU to protect us. I believe in local democracy.

We are and will remain a part of NATO, the Commonwealth and other European-International bodies. I believe if we left we would still be able to trade with the EU and have favourable trading terms. The rest of the EU will not stop selling us their cheese, cars, components etc. They need us as much as we need them. We live in a global economy where we trade with countries from all over the world.

Turkey is another concern. It’s a country situated in Asia with only 3% land mass in Europe. I know Turkey would have to meet certain criteria before it could be admitted to the EU but at what cost? It has as its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an authoritarian figure who is suppressing freedom of speech and trying to push through constitutional changes giving him even more power. The controversial plan allowing Turkish citizens visa free travel to the EU looks dangerous, unworkable and flawed. The borders of the EU could one day extend to the borders of Syria, Iran and Iraq.  Some may think this a positive step – I do not.

With regards to our security you only have to look at Ukraine to realise the myth of a more stable unified Europe. There have been over 8,000 casualties due to the Russian intervention and the EU remains powerless in dealing with it. Over the last year we have seen horrific acts of terror in Paris and Brussels which the EU intelligence agencies could not prevent. There are reports that the Belgium police and security services were not sharing intelligence. If individual countries within the EU cannot share their own intelligence internally what hope is there for the rest of Europe? We share intelligence and co-operate with lots of countries, such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, Sweden and New Zealand, so we do not have to be part of the EU to do so.

History will prove if my decision and indeed the country’s was the correct one. I would rarely quote the late MP and Labour minister Tony Benn but his view on accountability and local democracy resonates –“In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person-Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates-ask them five questions. What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you? If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system”.

Back in 1973, when I was a teenager, the UK joined the Common Market in what was seen as largely an economic union of states. The European Union came into existence in 1993 following the controversial Maastricht Treaty of 1991.That paved the way for monetary union and had a social chapter in which the UK opted out. The treaty began the process of further integration in foreign policy, security, asylum and immigration. However, Europe then is a very different entity to the one we have today.

If the EU is working effectively for the UK why do we need to opt out of rules that others Union accept? Some in Europe want to push European integration even further. They openly advocate a Federal European super state. I say thanks, but no thanks.

That is why I will not be listening to Obama, Boris or Cameron on June 23rd but voting with my head and heart. I realise the choice is not black and white and there are convincing arguments which can be made by both sides. I hope whatever box you tick it is based on reasoned independent thinking and you trust your own instincts.

I know I do not have all the answers and believe no one does or ever can. Like everyone I have to assess the information provided and make the decision that feels more right than wrong. I mistrust politicians who are so sure of their position. How can they be so convinced about what is not imagescertain? Are they speaking in the interests of the country or their personal agendas or power-base? We do not know.

“If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system” Those words will follow me into the polling booth on June 23rd.”





10 Comments on "A Reader Writes – Remain? Leave? D Day, June 23rd"

  1. Lesley Lubert | 24th May 2016 at 8:22 am | Reply

    Excellent Paul. Like you I want to leave the failing EU. David Cameron made a huge mistake in heading up one side of the argument; he should have been impartial, because he was offering a free vote. A free vote is not “do what I say”.

    So far we have not been given any figures pertaining to remaining in the EU. What is it going to cost us to stay in? We have however had a lot of negative campaigning, much like during the last election, “vote labour and end up with Sturgeon”…well the electorate didn’t vote labour but Cameron did get Sturgeon! Cameron is unwilling to give us those figures, probably because he does not know what they will be, the likelihood is that they will rise, perhaps even dramatically, as other poor countries join the club, he will have no say over them in any event, we can be outvoted by 27 other voices. He bandies figures around about the cost of Brexit, he cannot be sure they are correct in any way shape or form, because that will depend on what decisions we make in the negotiations.

    What we do know is that if we leave we shall be in control of this country, it’s borders, it’s finances, it’s laws, the number of people we allow to come and work here. Our industries, which need to be rebuilt, and have been neglected for far too long.

    People will still want to invest in the UK and London especially, since the economy in Europe is heading in the wrong direction. They will want to know their investments will be safe from the euro zone.

    We have a much brighter future. I know we can have trade agreements with the rest of the world, including Europe, we import more than we export. European countries can not afford to lose our trade.

    We will continue to share security, and police intelligence, as it is in the interests of all concerned, and we are highly respected in this field.

    Our laws will be supreme. Human and worker’s rights will still exist, because the government we elect in the future, will have to sign a bill of rights.

    We will still help other countries with our foreign aid. Personally I would give the money to projects rather than leaders who trouser it.

    We need belief in ourselves and our country…we can do it, if we do, others will follow. Countries who also want their democracy back.

  2. Good stuff Paul.
    I think like you many of the Brits would fundamentally like to stay, but have some much ‘wrong’ going on that we end up diametrically opposed. If the EU is to be, it has to be better. Why? Because we say, feel, and gut instinct think that way. It is who we are. It is how we are. It is why we are.

    Britain’s quality is a quality all its own. “If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system” Those words will follow me into the polling booth on June 23rd.” — Bingo. Exactly this.

  3. Very well written, concise and to the point. I will (with your permission) pass this on. Thank you

  4. Paul Corrick | 24th May 2016 at 9:13 am | Reply

    Thank you for your comments Lesley and thank you Tim for publishing my first ever Blog. Lesley you echo many of my feelings and I am sure many who feel our country will be better off out of the EU.

    I had a discussion on Facebook with someone who has been an economist for over 40 years. He is so sure that we are better off in and presented a lot of economic facts and figures. It was striking he said my views were opinions and his were facts. I must admit he had what appeared to be some convincing points but surely no side has a divine right to all the facts.

    He quoted a number of economists who support the remain point of view and discounted those who support the Leave campaign. He quoted Security experts who believe we are better off remaining but I have heard many who make the case the leave

    I will share this Blog on my wall as I think it would be interesting to hear his views. I respect all views and I believe it is important they are aired and challenged where appropriate

    Like many I am no Economist, security expert or Politician so I have to read listen and research and make the best judgement I can but often it can be difficult to know who to believe. I feel many of the voters are also feeling confused with only 4 weeks to go I wonder if things will becom

  5. Paul Corrick | 24th May 2016 at 9:18 am | Reply

    sorry missing from last sentence of my reply to Lesley “I wonder if things will become any clearer.”

  6. A very well though out piece Paul, alas you will be on the losing side I think as the remain campaigns strategy of forecasting everything from a war in Europe to a collapse in house prices to a delay in a cure for cancer is starting to reap dividends with the more easily led elements of our electorate. It’s going be interesting to see where a remain vote eventually takes us, in the short term I think we will be starting with a welcome change of Prime Minister.

  7. mahatmacoatmabag | 24th May 2016 at 6:06 pm | Reply

    Valid reason for Remaining in the EU number 49,795 :
    ‘If we leave the EU we will not be able to prepare the UK to deal with the catastrophic effects of the Millennium bug on the UK’s economy ‘

  8. Paul Corrick | 24th May 2016 at 8:58 pm | Reply

    Thanks all for your comments .Mike of course it is in the public domain so thank you for sharing. Rob I think you are right. Quite a lot of people I Speak to are undecided or confused so will vote for the devil they know which is remain. Maybe there should have been a third voting option of don’t know!

  9. Francois Moscovici | 26th May 2016 at 1:05 am | Reply

    Well written Paul. My feeling is that you are asking the right questions but may be coming with *some* of the wrong answers… Let me elaborate:

    – Social unrest and political extremism: around the world the political elites are becoming unmasked as careerists (valid point) and the only conviction politicians are extremists. To quote Lukashenko (Belarus dictator for those who don’t know him): “I’m a demagogue and this has served me well”. These characters thrive on chaos and Brexit would notch chaos up quite a bit. Britain as a calming influence is to be welcomed.

    – Unemployment and economic stagnation: if we buy the argument that Britain as a liberal country has much to teach the rest of Europe (convince the Germans on this one), then if it’s out, it wins the argument but loses market access; if it’s in it will remain frustrated but will have an influence in ‘big block’ negotiations.

    – Security and terrorism: incompetence has no borders. Belgium would have been just as bad inside or outside the EU. Now consider this: in a Brexit scenario, the UK border moves back to the UK, so the Calais ‘jungle’ moves to Dover. Not exactly an improvement. Regarding Turkey, I was working with the Turkish government in the 90s when it had a much more salubrious regime than today and the odds of accession were pretty small then. Do you really think that France, Italy and Greece can conceive any configuration where they would let Turkey in in the next 20 years?

    – Economics: I once saw a Canadian refuse lorry painted with the slogan “Garbage is beautiful: 10 billion flies can’t be wrong” The ‘In’ arguments are those flies and all the ‘out’ can reply is “balderdash!” Repeatedly. Without convincing counterarguments – pretty much ever. Like you, I resent the ‘Ins’ pushing the truth to its limits but this is not the real question. The real issue is: “given that Brexit will create a significant temporary cost and possibly a long term one too, are we prepared to incur this cost as a price for renewed independence?” – The Scotts said No.

    – The Common Market Only argument is interesting too. So we started with a Steel and Coal community and then a trade union. So what have the Romans (and Belgians) ever done for us? – Well espoused pretty much all the British liberal concepts of the enlightenment for starters.This has resulted in the total free movement of goods and people and to a large degree services. The protection of intellectual property (and the fact that you only have to register patents once). The ability to start companies in any country without any nationality constraint. Convergent taxation on tobacco products. Convergent road rules. Soon to be free telephone roaming. Free movement of students including the right to pay local fees. Free healthcare. The ability to buy second homes and retire anywhere. Etc. And Yes, you can’t have 2 million Britons abroad and not accept the same numbers coming into the UK. That’s free trade, Adam Smith and his children…

    – The one argument that you make that is rock solid is ‘the ability to get rid of tyrants’. The European Commission is powerful but undemocratic (although Commissioners are nominated by elected governments), while the European Parliament is ineffectual. Even if it had more power, it would be too large and unwieldy to act beyond alliances and compromise. This is not a new debate. To some extent the US system is just as paralysed and subject to undemocratic influence (so federalism is unlikely to be the answer). If you’re a pessimist, you’ll argue that we hardly live in a democratic system anyway: giving carte blanche for 5 years on all issues via a first-past-the-post election is a poor comparison. My preference goes to a blend of the French and Swiss systems: a first round to vote with your heart, a second one with your head + frequent referenda to involve as many citizens as possible in the political process. What Britain can do IN Europe though is to push for subsidiarity, preserve its uniqueness, while enjoying the economic benefits. Not perfect but a way forward.

    – Finally, the argument is national but is essentially an intra-Tory quarrel that we are all dragged into (why?) The only reason Boris & friends have aligned themselves with Brexit is to position themselves post-Cameron and pocket the Blue Rince vote. And I would have to pay for their naked ambition? No thank you. Besides, do you really want to wake up on June 24th to be governed by the incompetent quatuor or Boris, Gove, IDS and Farage? ‘Thought so…

  10. Paul Corrick | 26th May 2016 at 11:05 am | Reply

    Francois thank you for such a thoughtful and insightful response. You make some valid points for the case to remain and it is refreshing to hear someone say the EU is not perfect. I do think that a lot of the country are confused and fed up with the way the campaign has been run I think the voters deserve better than gimmicks like Cameron and Osborne at B&Q or Boris doing stunts. It is for me not Black and White and people will ultimately make a choice according to perceived self-interest. If you are a big business you will probably vote to remain but if you run a small business and are fed up with say red tape you may vote to leave. I heard Alan Sugar last night making the case to stay which was around trade and he is as everyone thinking about his own self-interest. I am still very wary of the EU due to those politicians who once tried to convince us that joining the Euro would be a good thing for us and I am not convinced that Schengen and open borders is a good thing. Who will it really benefit?

    I have a feeling the outcome will be the perceived safer option to remain but I just hope whatever the result it proves to be the right one for the country overall and is a decisive result either way. I hear some people say they are fed up with both sides and the constant media focus and can’t wait for it all to be over. I just hope this does not translate into apathy and a low voter turnout.

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