On Thursday 23rd of June 2016, I'm going to vote to remain in the EU.
For those who have known me for many years, and with whom I may have had the occasional spirited disagreement over exactly this subject, that news may come as something of a shock. After all, as I have written here before, I have serious concerns about the institutions and structure of the EU; Concerns which once led me to be a registered supporter of the UK Independence Party in its pre-Farage (and Kilroy Silk) incarnations.
I believed, and still believe, that the Leviathan-like institutions of the EU and its willingness to impose its will on others (like Greece, or Irish referendum voters) are at the least in need of a serious overhaul and at worst that we may be better off seeking a better plan elsewhere.
It's the final part of that sentiment which, conversely, has led me to my decision regarding the referendum. In short, there is no Plan for Brexit.
There are a lot of arguments being used for Brexit, a lot of figures thrown around and debated and, of course, the same tired lines about Immigration dragged out once again by Boris Johnson and so many others. However, arguments are not a plan. Casually declaring that we will 'trade with the Commonwealth' or 'open up to emerging markets' is also not a plan. All of these are goals, goals that some may agree with and others vehemently oppose, but without thought into the logistics behind them then they might as well be empty air; 'Words are Wind' as Game of Thrones tells us.
Nor does this lack of thought from the Brexit side only relate to the economic arguments that the less-insane have focussed their energy upon. It can also be clearly seen in those whose constant refrain lies in the Xenophobic language around Immigration, the brilliant minds who issue leaflets describing the EU 'importing' African and Middle Eastern migrants; as though the worst humanitarian crisis in the modern world was drawn up by bureaucrats just to annoy Middle Englanders. Here is my simple question to this group: What about the children?
To be clear, I don't mean the children who arrive with their parents from all across the EU and the world (though, they are also worth considering if we are to uphold the humanitarian traditions of the UK) but rather the thousands of children born in this country to migrant families, who are raised and schooled in Britain and who have never known the country of their parents birth. If we are to 'send them all back where they come from' are we to expel these children too? Or should we just remove their parents and shift the burden of raising them onto the state, massively eclipsing the extremely limited benefit spend that actually reaches migrant families. So far, no one has even mentioned this.
Is my example extreme? Yes, and deliberately so, but it nicely drives home the point I am trying to make; that the Brexit camp has relied on soundbites and playing off the worst fears of the electorate rather than the cold, hard facts that such an important decision deserves.
For comparison, let's consider the Scottish Referendum and specifically the 'White Paper on Independence' issued by the SNP. Although the math contained within, along with some of the more optimistic declarations, were hotly contested it cannot be argued that it did not amount to a Plan on what the SNP government would do if the vote went in their favour. It also, along with the rest of the Independence campaign, convinced nearly half of the population that Independence was achievable. The sheer momentum for Independence clearly caught unawares and rattled those in power, leading to the infamous 'Pledge' and Gordon Browns last minute intervention.
Compare this to a Brexit campaign which has so far ranged from contested figures to absurdity and unable to make much headway against a frankly underwhelming 'Remain' camp. Likewise, observe the reaction in EU corridors (i.e not much) and you start to get the sense that no one truly believes Brexit will occur.
Therein lies the greatest failure of the Leavers, by failing to make a viable case for Brexit they have also failed to ignite any further concessions from the EU, or even add political weight to those minor gains David Cameron had already been promised (but not guaranteed). This was a once in a generation chance to make clear that the UK does have very real concerns about the EU, concerns which the EU would have had to address if it appeared there was even a slight chance of 51% voting to go. Look at the lengths that went in to trying to avoid a 'Grexit', can you imagine less being done to prevent one of the EUs strongest economies cutting ties?
It's disheartening to think of what could have been gained. Almost as disheartening as seeing Boris Johnson bumbling around the West Country on that ridiculous bus.