22nd February, 2016
You will reap what EU sow
Looking out of my window I can see some of the crocuses beginning to flower. I’ve never grown crocuses before. I have a habit of killing plants, either through too much attention or too little. It’s so difficult to get the balance right, not least because the symptoms of both look very similar. But flowering they are. What we get out of life is so much about what we put in. Our relationships, families, communities, towns and cities, our country… and beyond.
So, the 23rd of June then.
First things first, I think the referendum was a daft idea. Daft to have so much hinging on how people may feel on one day after a concerted campaign from some rather aggressive voices in the media. This isn’t the X-Factor at its peak; we don’t just get another series next year. Referenda should be ladders. The EU Referendum is a giant snake. Back to square one.
I’m no fan of David Cameron. Aside from our difference in political leanings, I’ve always believed him to be a man of little conviction, easily swayed and apt to pursue the path of least resistance. But credit where it’s due; he’s exceeded my expectations in terms of actually being able to get out there and make the case. I’ve always been pro-EU anyway, so these negotiations were never going to bear any relation to my vote, but his efforts have clearly demonstrated that, with the EU, there are reforms to be made and it takes character and determination to get out there and dig the soil over. Like it or not this contrasts directly with those that have simply sat back and heckled while there was constructive work to be done.
It was somewhat disingenuous for those, on both the In and Out sides of the campaign, to be so coy about their views before Cameron returned from his negotiations. “Oh I’ll see what he achieves and make my mind up then” was the kind of phrase we heard often. But they knew. This is part of politics though, part of diplomacy. Sure, it may be seen as unhelpful to undermine your leader at such an important time, but it was so much of a phoney war it was laughable. Have an opinion, but don’t pretend you “listened carefully to the agreement.” At at no point would a “good” deal for Cameron have been heralded by anybody in the Out campaign as anything other than a failure. Similar for the Ins.
A lot of people seem to buy into this idea that somehow we don’t have any say in Europe and our own Government has no power. Yet European Parliament election turnouts have been around the 35% mark for the last two elections, which is about 30% lower than those for a General Election. So, if people think the European Parliament has all that power why don’t they exercise their right to have a say in who represents them? Do they actually believe that the European Parliament isn’t related to the EU or that somehow their vote is just a watering can in the ocean?
Nigel Farage, the man not so much with a chip but an entire chip shop on his shoulders, is a prime example. If he thinks that the EU is where all the power is, why is his European Parliament voting record average at best? Surely, as a member of that Parliament, according to his continued judgement, he is part of the all-powerful organisation that we need to get out of. Does he not like that power? Sure, the European Parliament isn’t the European Court, isn’t the European Commission, but does our influence become any greater by backing away?
Again, big decisions. This isn’t the answer to general dissatisfaction. Maybe if I vote “no” I won’t wake up bald in the morning… any more.
I think, what we’re really lacking at the moment is a positive vision of the future. For me, the future is about people coming together. Now, that may sound like some airy-fairy, been-watching-too-much-Star-Trek idea. But it’s a logical (Star Trek again) development of where we are now. Families to communities, to villages, to towns, to cities, to counties, to countries, to groups of countries. What is actually wrong with that?
There are over 7 billion people living in the world right now and very little that happens has an isolated effect. From the Middle East to the Far East to America, when something happens it has an effect on our lives. It’s simply unavoidable. We have passed the point where we can duck our heads in to the sand and hope everyone else will go away. Now, that doesn’t mean we have to deal with all the world’s problems on a daily basis, but it does mean that we have to accept that we have a part to play in the world. It’s our choice of whether that’s a positive part, or a negative part. There’s no “dipping your toe in to see if it’s safe”.
Most borders are artificial. We have the advantage/disadvantage of having our borders defined by water. That gives us a distorted view of our importance. The borders of the countries inside mainland Europe looked considerably different 100 years ago. The sea has clearly protected us in the past when it was a considerable boundary, but in the modern world it has become little more than something to hide behind: “We’re British and British is best.” Everyone’s brought up to think their country is best. Ironically that’s something we all have in common.
The main argument for borders right now is down to its being related to migration. Migration for economic benefit, for a better life, or simply for one’s life. What are the real issues here? Jobs, housing, schooling, integration. These aren’t really difficult problems to overcome. It’s shocking how some otherwise compassionate people are horrified by the thought of refugees living in terrible conditions but are staunchly opposed to the idea of actually doing something to help. Jobs are based on supply, which is based on demand, which is based on people. Most of these problems are ones we have to deal with every day anyway, with population growth.
Surely, the key to a prosperous future is to help everyone up to the same level, ensure everybody has the same chances? Yeah, maybe that sounds like pure idealism, pure fantasy, but you know what? That way people can stay where they want to stay; we can move, they can come here. Isn’t that something worth fighting for? That, by the way, is something that can only be achieved by working with other countries.
I like that people can come here and bring something of their culture to share, and I like that we can do the same. I like that people can stay where they want to stay and not be forced out by a destabilised government, civil war, a shortage of food or resources, or economic collapse. The only issue of borders then becomes the ability to ensure that there’s adequate provision for those that want to stay in an area. And that is not difficult, provided you are willing.
Seeing the Out arguments at the moment, I can imagine how people must have felt in the 10th Century as the Kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and so forth gave way to the greater Kingdom of England. Oh, how they must have longed for the return of their old borders. Would that Ipsos-Mori had a time machine for a little post-Hastings polling: “Do you consider yourself Northumbrian or English?” Let alone British, European, those were the days that “English” was a dirty word.
Yes, expect people to have loyalty to their family, their community, their city, their country, but the differences we have with others are wholly outweighed by the similarities. We are better together because we are basically the same. You want any influence over that, you need to be part of it. It is as simple as that. You don’t approach the future, particularly a future where more and more people are working together in larger and larger groups by backing away from everyone else and expecting that somehow others will look at you and assume you must be something special. Would you? They won’t either.
I hope that in June people will vote to stay in. Maybe the rest of my plants will have flowered by then. They’ll look so much better together.