Why do so many people loathe politics? Let’s start with its forms of disingenuous repetition. You know that feeling you get when you see a bunch of junk mail lying at your front door every morning? David Cameron’s series of negotiations over brunch in Brussels during the middle of February provoked that exact same irritable resignation. Here was a Tory bastard window dressing in an attempt to appease the hard-line Brexit ‘we must have sovereignty’ imbeciles in his own party. First, he set a date for the EU referendum, and attempted to placate them further by securing a ‘preferential’ deal for us to remain In, should the Out campaign fail, all the while trying to maintain his position as the PM who wanted to be a leader of the In campaign, but trying not to look like a massive hypocrite in the process.
We can recognise this was a thankless task, but we don’t have to, and we’re not inclined to, but not because he’s a Tory PM. It’s because the debate on whether to leave or remain in the EU won’t be centred, as it should be, on whether the EU construct is democratically fair and open, if each country’s representation is weighted fairly, how it affects jobs, your income, agriculture subsidies, fishing quotas, if the EU’s high consumer and environmental standards truly impinge on ‘competitiveness’, whether integration improves the economies of its members, you know, the stuff that’s relevant and informative. Nah, this EU referendum will be decided by the incurable melanoma of the debate on immigration (and that’s both sides discussing ad nauseam the xenophobic misnomers and inaccuracies that’s informed the debate surrounding it), and, secondly, by reigniting the question of Scotland’s tenuous inclusion in the UK. We know these circular debates will be restored and foisted upon the public. Worse yet, neither of these issues will be resolved by the EU referendum’s outcome, but they will unduly influence the result.
Many of the In campaign’s figureheads, especially someone like Cameron, will be happy for the debate to be fought on these hateful terrains. It allows him and them to look moderate, even sensible. And for good reason, the debate on immigration has been hijacked by the loons and hand-wringers. It’s an easy story for the media to report scaremongering and petty hysteria from the cynically uninformed than fill column inches or screen time with factual, informative graphs and insightful commentary.
Through tactical spin and avoidance of the facts, we’ve reached the point where the real figures on immigration seem to sit so far from the contrived perception that has informed and fomented many opinions blithely held by the impressionable or disinterested. Sadly, in the context of the EU debate, much of the counter debating techniques involve necessitating a slapping down of the nonsense that the likes of Farage offer with equally uninformed threats over the consequences of the UK leaving. One such example seen recently – that leaving the EU will allow this Tory government to create its own draconian, dogmatic bill of human rights, but the court of human rights in Strasbourg doesn’t fall under the umbrella of Brussels.
Now, a confession, one of my motivations for tackling this subject, other than the angle of the piece, was to inform myself about the EU, and how it affects the UK, and whether my own existing perception of how influential Europe is over its member’s affairs, regardless of whether their integration is full or partial, was broadly correct.
My research has led to me towards an In vote. Ceding from the EU won’t, for instance, save us from the ghastly prospect of TTIP. The UK, as a separate entity, could also sign up, with even less protections, indeed, the UK has consistently voted for more deregulation within the EU since it joined. Plus, to trade with the EU, you need to comply with its regulations, so it makes little sense to leave, whereas if you remain within it you hold some influence over setting them. Now some more consequential facts on said point, if the UK leaves the EU it will need to trade with the EU, as the percentage of the UK’s total annual exports to the continent generally ranges from 38% to 49% as per here. Many of the Outers cite Norway as an example of a European country that prospers outside of the EU zone, but they, you know, have built up two separate sovereign state funds, which, combined, roughly amount to the same value as the UK’s current debt.
But, remember, this isn’t about facts. The main misnomer that the isolationists would have you believe is that being part of the EU allows too many people to ‘easily’ arrive in the UK each year. I hate quoting these figures, especially as they can be perceived to support and vindicate certain economic policies of the current government, but I found many of them striking, and this from someone who was very sceptical of the motivations behind the reporting of the recent migrant crisis and how extensive and excessive immigration truly is.
Latest employment statistics from the Labour Force Survey show estimated employment of EU nationals (excluding British) living in the UK was 2.0 million in October to December 2015, 215,000 higher than the same quarter last year. Non-EU nationals in employment increased by 38,000 to 1.2 million and the total number of British nationals in employment increased by 278,000 to 28.3 million. Therefore, nearly half of the growth in employment over the last year was accounted for by foreign nationals. (These growth figures represent the NET change in the number of people in employment, not the proportion of new jobs that have been filled by non-UK workers.)
Statistics can be manipulated to suit any pre-existing position, but surely the paragraph above completely dispels the assumptions that there are too many immigrants coming here without work or that they’re stealing jobs from UK residents. Even if a good proportion of the rise in employment of UK passport holders is due to ghastly zero-hours contracts or temporary staff contracts through agencies, the point is there are jobs out there if white people, who pronounce ‘H’ as ‘Heych’, want them.
However, even if that truth is put out there enough, there are other supplementary arguments already lined up, the most common being having complete control of our borders will make us safer from terrorism, and will help protect jobs for UK citizens from illegal immigrants (because apparently it’s dead easy to get a job without being issued a National Insurance Number from the Department of Work and Pensions). We’ll hear that one quite often, and it’ll often go unchallenged, as the Out campaign will be fronted by the most laughable and vile characters we have in mainstream politics; Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel ‘Fag and a Pint Nige’ or ‘Pound Shop Enoch Powell’ Farage, all them a combination of shitty ideologues, careerists or comedic asides who fill time for our complacent media.
The debate around Scottish independence, but only in the event of England voting Out and Scotland voting In (and taking Scotland out of the EU against its will), will arise again, and it’ll become yet another woeful vote-this-way-or-else fear tactic, this time wielded by the In campaign. Even if the SNP aren’t the ones to incite it through any declaration post their inevitable landslide win in the Scottish elections in May, those who support the UK in its current incarnation are aware that independence has been increasing in popularity since the Scottish referendum. Unionists resent having to continuously defend the status quo of UK and that the Better Together campaign’s victory failed to bring finality to the issue. Now with the introduction of the EU referendum, pro Unionists who also want to see the UK remain in Europe are fighting on two fronts, contending with the Nats on Scottish independence is a simpler equation, but dealing with Unionists who want the UK to remain as it is, but outside the EU, has the potential to add yet another complication to their argument if the scenario outlined above comes to pass. Ironically, for some, the EU referendum could be a true test of what’s more important, Unionism or independence from Europe? Is it worth sacrificing Scotland’s place in the UK to leave the EU? It may not be possible for staunch Brexit Unionists to achieve EU separation with the UK in tact.
Either way the debates and debating techniques that will decide the EU referendum’s outcome are set and it’s hard to see anybody with any tactical motivation, or enough clout or charisma, to cut through the widespread apathy it’s already creating among the electorate. I mean, take me, I went to the trouble of researching and writing this piece, but even I find the prospect of following then voting in this EU referendum less enticing than witnessing the eye socket scene in ‘A Serbian Film’ again. Basically, if you do watch it, you’ll learn nothing and just be disgusted by the stupidity and complete contempt they have for you.
You don’t need to understand most of the levers, law and machinations of EU membership, or the difference between it and partial membership, the only responsibility you have is to educate yourself enough about the consequences of voting either Out or In, for both yourself and the people you know, then vote.
If there’s anything we can all agree on, it’s that, and that this ensuing EU referendum farce be over as quickly as possible.