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The EU Referendum Is Not an Obvious Choice - Stop Pretending It Is

21/03/2016 17:08 GMT | Updated 22/03/2017 09:12 GMT

The vast majority of students are expected to vote in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, and I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with this fact. Why? Because I have no idea how I am going to vote, and I find it surprising that the demographic I belong to are already so sure of themselves.

The EU referendum is a vote more important than a general election, and certainly more complicated than one, and the idea that the students sit almost entirely on one side of the debate... well, at the very least it's a little odd.

I am not sure where I stand on the EU. Not at all. I genuinely have no idea which way I will vote, and whilst this is unusual for me, in this case perhaps it's okay. Maybe for this referendum other people should be a lot less sure of themselves.

I don't mean they shouldn't have a view on the matter, but more and more I have got the feeling that each camp cannot understand the motivations for the other: both campaigns seem to think that the arguments in favour of the opposing side are based on misunderstandings.

I have read and talked to numerous 'In' supporters who tell me about the benefits of immigration, and how the tabloids exaggerate the power Brussels has over British law, and why the laws they do make are usually very beneficial.

Likewise, 'Leave' supporters insist that the economy can handle Brexit, that the EU has made some ridiculous laws that the UK ends up adopting, and that there is no way the UK can force an administration change in the EU because of the ludicrous and undemocratic ways in which it is structured.

The point is that neither side is wrong. But they are not addressing the concerns of their opponents, they are talking past them.

Sensible leave supporters are not concerned about immigrants 'stealing their jobs', but they can reasonably find open borders concerning. There is a real threat of wage depression, and in some communities the net benefit that immigration brings to the national economy has not been felt on a local level. And, despite many laws that are made in Brussels being made for the right reasons, some are simply ridiculous. Why on Earth did our PM have to ask the EU's permission to remove the tampon tax, for example?

Leave supporters make the same mistake here. Those who want to remain don't seriously think that the economy isn't strong enough to handle us leaving the EU, but it is a concern that some of our best industries and institutions, such as our scientific research, will suffer because of it. And yes, the laws made in the EU can be horrendously undemocratic. But I certainly don't trust UK governments to tackle global warming without EU legislation when they could make short term vote-winning policies instead.

The EU is complicated and there are so many arguments on both sides of the debate that I sympathise with, but the only way I am going to make up my mind is if someone can address the actual concerns of their opponents.

So this is my personal plea to anyone who has a strong view on the subject: please, for the sake of me being able to make a decision on the 23 June, sympathise with your opponent's arguments.

Don't get angry when Nigel Farage talks about the problems of being in a union with poorer countries than our own. Don't pretend that if the UK government were unrestricted by the EU it would suddenly start making sensible long term decisions. Don't dismiss your opponent's arguments as mere misunderstandings. Address them.

The economic debate in the run up to the 2015 general election was very poor, and more often than not political campaigners know that the best way to convince voters is not to give reasonable arguments, but instead to repeat meaningless slogans over and over. Can anyone remember the debates of the last election? Or is it just me who still has 'long term economic plan' ringing in my ears?

What I would really love is to reach the ballot box and for once to feel like I have heard a debate, not a propaganda war. I want to be persuaded of a way that the EU can be reformed from within to create a sustainable and accountable model. I want to be persuaded that leaving the EU does not mean that the future of the country is decided by big business that has an isolated UK government on puppet strings. Is this really too much to ask?

So here I am, a floating voter in a sea of uncertainty, unsure about what to think on possibly the most important election I will ever vote in. Please, someone convince me.