The EU Referendum: Are You a "Leaver" or a "Remainer"

31/05/2016 16:10 | Updated 31 May 2016

I don't know about you, but I am finding the whole EU referendum business a turn-off. What I find particularly annoying are the reasons presented by the two sides within the Conservative party. On the remain side, we have the two most senior members of the government, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor no less, warning us of what would befall us if Britain were to leave the European Union.

Our pensions would shrink, our economy would go into recession, our security and well-being would be compromised, unemployment would go up and our wages would take a nose-dive, and we would all be reduced to nervous wrecks. Hold on a minute, if that is the case then why are we holding this referendum? And what about the negotiations our Prime Minister was conducting with other EU leaders. They seem to have sunk without a trace, and no more is being said about them. Surely if leaving the EU could have such dire consequences, then it follows that whatever is the outcome of negotiations we would be better off staying within the European club.

This exposes the whole process of re-negotiating the terms of membership as a sham. Of course, we know that the whole exercise is an attempt to counter the influence of UKIP, and an attempt to bridge the gap between the two wings of the Conservative party. So here we have a referendum designed in the interest of the Conservative party that is endangering the future prosperity of the nation if the leavers win.

So if the Prime Minister and the Chancellor believed their warnings, then they should never have agreed to hold a referendum. The interests of the country should have trumped the interests of the party. As it happens, this referendum will not even achieve its intended outcome. On the contrary it may lead to a split within the Conservative party.

On the other side of the argument, we have doom and gloom of a different kind. "Beware the Turks are coming" is their latest cry. The exaggerations and the shrill rhetoric on both sides within the Conservative party, are not serving the cause of either camp, and are leaving the electorate bewildered and confused.

For a saner, more reasoned argument for the leave camp, Paul Mason in the Guardian puts it thus:

"The leftwing case for Brexit is strategic and clear. The EU is not - and cannot become - a democracy. Instead, it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime. It has an executive so powerful it could crush the leftwing government of Greece; a legislature so weak that it cannot effectively determine laws or control its own civil service. A judiciary that, in the Laval and Viking judgments, subordinated workers' right to strike to an employer's right do business freely. Its central bank is committed, by treaty, to favour deflation and stagnation over growth. State aid to stricken industries is prohibited. The austerity we deride in Britain as a political choice is, in fact, written into the EU treaty as a non-negotiable obligation. So are the economic principles of the Thatcher era. A Corbyn-led Labour government would have to implement its manifesto in defiance of EU law."

He then tells us to ignore this because the alternative presented by the leave campaign led by Boris Johnson is even worse:

"In two words: Boris Johnson. The conservative right could have conducted the leave campaign on the issues of democracy, rule of law and UK sovereignty, leaving the economics to the outcome of a subsequent election. Instead, Johnson and the Tory right are seeking a mandate via the referendum for a return to full-blown Thatcherism: less employment regulation, lower wages, fewer constraints on business. If Britain votes Brexit, then Johnson and Gove stand ready to seize control of the Tory party and turn Britain into a neoliberal fantasy island."

To me there is another issue that will propel me to vote remain; it is that of climate change and our environment. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, sums it up well:

"The EU helps us look after our environment, too. It's only by working with our European neighbours that we can tackle climate change, protect wildlife and reduce pollution. Thanks to EU rules, our beaches are cleaner and our dirtiest power stations are being shut down."

So let us vote remain in the upcoming referendum on our membership of the European Union (23 June). Let us help shape it to become more democratic, an EU of the people, not of finance and corporations.