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I'm Pro-EU, But I'm Still Going to Vote Leave

22/06/2016 15:22 | Updated 22 June 2016

I'm a fully paid-up member of the Labour Party. A Blairite. I welcome immigration and support freedom of movement. I wanted us to join the euro. I love Europe and I'm passionately Pro-EU.

But, after a long period of indecision, I'm going to vote Leave on Thursday.

Why? Because for Labour voters like me this is one decision that must be made with the head and not with the heart. And despite what I - and many others in my position - once believed, the 'head' decision is to vote Leave.

Neither side in this campaign can hold its head high

This whole EU Referendum campaign has been a trauma. It has divided us and pitted us against family and friends. The hard-right Leave rhetoric has been appalling: hate-filled, incendiary nonsense that encourages division and welcomes verbal aggression. For me, migration is a good thing. Immigration is good for our economy and it's good for humanity. Freedom of movement is one of the EU's proudest achievements.

The Remain rhetoric has been equally outrageous and unfathomable. Outright lies at every turn: scaremongering and patronising; threatening and provoking by equal turn. The UK economy will not collapse if we leave the EU. We will not be cast out into a global wilderness. Workers' rights in UK will not be affected, and war will not break out on Friday morning if we vote Leave.

Both sides have been savage, heartless and disingenuous. When this campaign started, no one knew how vicious we could be to each other. How much division we could create and how much suffering we could cause by our needless words and thoughtless actions.

There are very few voices on the Remain side that resonate and cut through the cacophony of exaggeration, vitriol and spin. And even fewer within the Leave campaign. However, there are some measured tones from people including Gisela Stuart for Leave, who make a left-wing case I can relate to.

The decision must be made - we must vote

We have to vote. We will never get another chance in our lifetimes to have a say on our future in the EU. So a decision must be made. For all its inflammatory rhetoric, for me, the decision on which way to vote boiled down to just one single question:

Is this incarnation of the EU right for our future and right for the future for Europe?

And, as a Labour supporter, when you look at the issues with a clear head. The answer must be 'no'.

Youth unemployment and tax avoidance

Look at Spain, Greece and Italy. Look at how the EU has treated them and continues to treat them. It ran roughshod over Greece and its people, ignoring their pleas, threatening, blackmailing and leaving it with a youth unemployment rate that currently stands at 50 per cent. In Spain it's not much better. Their youth unemployment is 45 per cent, and in Italy it's 36.9 per cent. These are real young people with no hope. And it's the EU's obsession with saving the euro that has caused this abject and continuing misery.

Take another issue: tax avoidance. The EU promotes tax avoidance. Mega-corporations that do the bulk of their business in the UK have been given carte blanche to set up in the cosy tax haven of choice, Luxembourg, whose former Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Junker, is now President of the EU Commission. The European Court of Justice enforces the rights of EU states as tax havens and outlaws attempts by the UK to crack down on tax evaders.

Animal welfare and the spectre of TTIP

I'm a vegan, so let's look at animal welfare. In principle the EU should be a good thing for animal welfare both here and across Europe. But in practice it most definitely is not. The UK has a ban on intensive battery cages. EU law ignored this. The UK banned sow stalls in 1999, but 17 EU countries continue to use them. And under EU law, the UK is powerless to stop the utterly inhumane and horrendous practice of exporting live animals, many of them lambs, abroad for slaughter.

Let's take TTIP. This secret deal is a huge threat to the UK. It will become the template for all future EU trade deals and if, as Labour voters, this alone doesn't scare the pants off us, then I'm not sure what will. War on Want say TTIP will cost 1 million British, European and American jobs and sell off all UK public services including the NHS to the highest bidder for ever.

A Labour government in a regressive EU



Finally, what about a future progressive Labour government? If we stay in the EU, we can kiss goodbye to any policies designed to help the most vulnerable in our society such as energy price caps, or any renationalisation of our railways or post office. All this is banned under EU law, and in fact there is a little-known privatisation policy similar to the Tory programme called the Fourth Railway Package, which is set to be imposed onto every single EU Member State. A Labour government would be utterly hogtied. Our dreams and aspirations to create a better society, utterly laid waste by the EU.

It's time to decide - and I vote Leave

Ultimately the decision we make will change history. And it's for each of us to decide what's important to us, what we hold dear and what kind of UK and Europe we want to live in not just today but in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. If we project the current EU policies and trajectory forward, do we like what we see?

This decision was made easier for me by thinking about this analogy: by staying in the EU we are giving them a vote of confidence; we're saying, we love all your policies and future plans; go ahead! Not just for us but for every other Member State.

But if we had a good friend who was continually in debt; who overspent compulsively, would we keep giving them money; keep telling them everything is going to be fine? No, we'd get to the point where we had to stop for their sake, and for ours.

Similarly, when we're buying a used car, we make a judgement as to what it's worth to us. If the price is right, we pay the money and buy the car. But before we do, we stop and think: is it worth it? Is the price worth paying? And for me, the price we pay in human terms for the EU is just not worth it.

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