The case for … HUBERT CECIL argues that voters leave the EU on Thursday 23rd June.
To make this case I have to tell you I am an idealist – and for you to listen I ask you to be one too. To believe in anything at all you have to hold a handful of key principles close and democracy is one of the most basic of these. With this in mind, look at the country we take for granted and see how it has grown into a well-functioning modern state, strong in its diversity, prosperity, equality and stability. As much as anywhere on earth, we in the UK can grow into the people we want to be. This is the fragile product of the loud voice of independent principle, first asserted at Runnymede 801 years ago and reasserted when threatened through history. It is a rare jewel that we must again jealously guard on the 23rd of June.
We have been expected to submit to the combined weight of global players that include the President of the U.S., the IMF, the WTO, the Governor of the Bank of England and the OECD. Mysteriously, however, the admonishments of these establishment behemoths have not changed the weighting in the polls. One of the latest, published by the Bruges Group, puts Brexit 19 points ahead. The imbalance of opinion between the elite and the people has defined the debate along the axis of the governors and the governed. A gathering volume of voters wonder if the edifice of authority really has the interests of the British people and their future at heart, or rather wishes to dodge the temporary instability it would face in the event of Brexit. Leave’s gathering pace and promising trajectory confirm to me that we are witnessing a popular revolt against the continentally-cosseted few.
However accurate the polls emerge to be, I feel fortunate not to be in the opposing camp, if only for association with its representatives: Jeremy’s silence and David and George’s synchrony have allowed for a storm of deceit. But surely positive arguments like the ideals of unity and familiarity are more likely to engage the electorate than the fright-fiction and sophistry that have characterised Remain’s tactics? Instead, in one of his numerous warnings, the Chancellor was found to have used previously unheard of economic definitions to furnish front pages with his fabricated financial figures. Is it a case confident of its own merits that lies?
My beam of suspicion swings to Mr. Cameron. Would the Right Honorable Gentleman explain the shifting sands he finds beneath his stated principles? Amid self-imposed fanfare, Cameron announced he would not campaign for Remain if he failed to achieve his aims of renegotiation. He received a sticking plaster promise on ‘ever closer union’, didn’t meet his own restriction on migrant benefits and had his thoughts on pro-competitive, anti-regulation economic reform met with a ‘no’ lightly cloaked in a ‘where feasible’. I don’t buy Dodgy Dave’s snake oil and I would be sad to see the public even countenance another ‘dodgy dossier’ from George.
What we need to do is listen to Michael Gove and have faith in ourselves. Brexit is often characterized as a ‘leap into the dark’. Though this is true, provided we leap confidently, we will leap well. We already know much of what the alternative will bring. If we Remain we will have no room to manoeuvre around our ‘allies’ and it won’t be fun: we will have given Brussels a mandate to sweep us up into ‘ever closer union’ and we would reap all of the debilitating, independence-sapping by-products of this. By Leaving, in an unsolicited show of national pique, we will have ruffled the feathers of those who claim to know what is good for us. I can’t help wondering why those who are uncertain trust so blindly the otherwise vilified capitalists and oligarchs when it matters the most?
One ubiquitous word of justification for Remaining – trumpeted as though mention alone is sufficient to silence any riposte – is ‘togetherness’. This argument’s simplicity is precisely its undoing. The narrative is as follows: ‘We face a hostile and confusing world, surely we can be significantly more secure and influential as a unit?’ The answer would be yes if the concept that underlies the union could stand up to practical tests of functionality, service and accountability. The fact that it can do none of these things means that, in real terms, we live in a tattered and dysfunctional monument to post-war social optimism: modern European countries face huge financial and demographic challenges that the EU fails to solve. The salient point here is that we can and will continue to be united by geography, common history and culture well into the future regardless of our supranational affiliations.
Another spurious but prevailing feeling is ‘if I vote for Brexit I will be aligning myself with Nigel Farage’, in association with the populist right. This idea entirely disregards the fact that the Brexit debate bisects politics: both positions have right- and left-wing connotations. In fact, the single biggest compromise of Jeremy Corbyn’s career as leader of the Labour Party has been his abandonment of Euroscepticism. The Old Left he represents had the interests of working people at the heart of its politics and consequently was hugely suspicious of external economic forces interfering with our existing law. There is equal invective from both sides and to tar either case with something as exclusive as a single political ideology – or even with accusations of xenophobia – would do the polyvocality of this debate a disservice.
The ideal of ‘sovereignty’ may be arrogated to a list of vaguely pompous, out-dated and seemingly irrelevant terms like ‘chivalry’. Howver, on this subject, John Stuart Mill is verbose but apt: ‘the person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself’. He talks in dramatic terms, but the importance of having the courage to represent ourselves and the reciprocal importance of having a voice are still urgently important. Voting to Remain would have terminal consequences for our country as a democracy, a surrender of our sovereignty.
Probity, decency and sense are conflated with a Remain stance, without anyone taking it upon themselves to interrogate that relationship further. A range of polls seem to suggest that general faith in what Europe represents is collapsing: 53% of French would like a referendum of their own, joined by 48% of Italians and even 29% of Germans. The Nationalist groups that are emerging in each principal EU nation are an aggressive popular response to power seeping from their parliaments. Simultaneously, Greece sinks into abject poverty and the Balkan states are principalities of Brussels’ in all but name. The successful maintenance of the common good is an EU claim not a reality. We must not confuse preserving the status quo with upholding unexamined certainty.
Let’s remember what has made us good in the past: independence of thought and self-reliance. To remain would set us defenceless and adrift back into a sea of supranational directives at the mercy of potentially vindictive lawmakers. Our special position would be no longer even a mirage. Ultimately if we leave, the demise of our country as we know it will come about thanks to our casual ideological iconoclasm. We must fight hard for the democracy we claim to defend and uphold it when it counts the most.
This is part of a conflicting opinions series for SAVAGE. To view the case for Vote Remain, click here.