The Inconvenient Truth About the EU Referendum

We’re told that the The EU referendum vote, which is taking place on Thursday 23 June, is one of the most important political decisions we’ll make in our lifetime.


But so far, talk about the EU referendum has been full of contentious arguments and many are still unsure who is telling the truth and which way to vote.

Recently, at a Debating London workshop I attended, the topic was: ‘how to decipher the Morse like claims about the EU that are currently being pitched from all angles’. Or something like that. Finally, I’m going to be able to definitively make up my mind upon whether to ‘Brexit’ or ‘Bremain’, or so I thought.

The people attending were politically engaged folk; definitely not a crowd of people you would expect to be undecided on the vote or uncertain of the facts. What shocked me was that few people (if any) could separate fact from fiction. The question here is whether anyone will be voting on concrete and reliable information or political preference and media persuasion.

When polled, the majority of people didn’t know whether they thought a significant percentage of laws were formulated by the EU and also didn’t know whether the EU is run by unelected bureaucrats.

There were some things they did agree on though: the EU started with a coal and steel agreement after WWII, it costs us a lot of money (‘us’ being the UK Government, taxpayers, and Businesses), and that it prevents the UK from refusing entry to certain people.

The common claim that the EU keeps the peace in Europe was something that the vast majority vehemently disagreed with. It was suggested that the spurious link could even be made between Elvis Presley’s death and the absence of wars.

The truth is that many of the statements being made about the EU are both true and false. And what’s more, the key figures from across the political spectrum seem to be making reasonable claims. David Cameron wants more economic integration, but less political integration; Nick Clegg wants more rights for EU citizens; Gisela Stuart wants to focus on the welfare of UK citizens; and Nigel Farage wants to rein in the UK’s control on its borders and laws. It’s hard to disagree with any of this. At least, not at first blush. The conflicting facts and sophistry is enough to make even the priviest policy bore recoil.

There is no denying that EU membership made sense in 1973. The empire was dwindling and we needed a new single market to join. It’s a bit more difficult to see that it still does.

An optimistic take on the EU is that it represents our universal desire to have peace on earth, to come together, and to cooperate. A pessimistic take is that it has become an instrument for tying our economic interests so tight with other jurisdictions that we’ve lost our sovereignty.

Want to vote objectively in the EU referendum? Good luck in your search for the truth.

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