There is nothing more annoying than someone telling you how they think you should vote. Worse, there's something even more frustrating when someone tells you how they are going to vote; without knowing any of the facts. The problem is that in this referendum very little is known about the precise 'facts' behind the vote to leave or to remain the EU. The lines of historical political allegiance have become blurred; and voters across the spectrum now find themselves in unchartered territory having to do the unthinkable; think. This referendum isn't about party manifestos, it's a risk assessment of what might happen if we stay in or decide to leave.
But the more I speak to friends, family, and colleagues, the more I learn that it's not facts that are swaying people, but gut instinct; that irrational (and in some cases, accurate) feeling that we all have before we make any decision.
I'll be honest, when the referendum campaign first began I responded with mixed emotions; the usual scepticism that something isn't quite right about a referendum where the Prime Minister is urging us to stay, coupled with an impulse to experience a UK, free from the shackles of Europe. I even took the Crowdpac test I had heard about, and interestingly it showed that my concerns were based around the lack of transparency the EU has in its legislative process, and actually believing that we might be able to sustain our economy, out there on our own.
As a mother of two and a long-time public servant I have real concerns about the pressures being placed on public services in this country; with growing class sizes, the lack of places at good schools, and excruciatingly long waiting times at my local doctor's surgery and A&E, I'm frustrated by the increased strain being placed on our services in this country as a whole. But I've remained mostly on the fence.
Nevertheless, as the arguments have unfolded and the Brexit campaign has gone from drawing on facts and opinions from 'experts' to sheer racism and xenophobia, my marginal views have changed. And for those thinking my opinions are based on the untimely and tragic death of Jo Cox, something we've heard a lot of from the leave campaign in recent days, here's how I'll tell you why my reasons are based on anything but:
As a parent, I know I'll be covered
We've all heard arguments from the remain camp that quote the Working Time Directive, and fairer working hours for all, but what about my rights as a parent? As a working mother I am protected by some of the most stringent laws in the land, my maternity and parental rights are covered, through the Pregnant Workers Directive, which has enabled expectant mothers to challenge discrimination due to pregnancy at work, and the Parental Leave Directive, which acted as a catalyst for the provisions parents in this country have to take unpaid leave for any child up to the age of 18. Although it's unlikely that we'll be dragged back into the dark ages of employment law if we leave, I'm not convinced that I'll have the same progressive and evolving employment protections as we've learnt to adapt to by staying in the EU.
I want to be treated fairly and equally
Another thing the EU has given us is the right to equal pay; which underpins womens' rights to fair pay and pay progression, and I'm free to work part time with no penalties. While I recognise that although in theory these provisions exist, as women, we all know that the consequences of working part time can have a detrimental impact on our careers, in some organisations. But do I really trust a Europe-free UK to navigate my part-time, women's workers' rights on its own? I don't think so.
I can go where I like, in Europe, when I like
It isn't just workers' rights that I'm rooting for; it's all these open borders - yes open borders (remarkably not part of the Schengen area) - which means all of us can travel freely across Europe without care or consideration for visas, extra travel tariffs or the like. UK citizens travelling to the EU benefit from consumer protection through the Consumer Rights Directive, health protection vis a vis the European Health Insurance Card, and Passenger rights and the Package Travel Directive, that gives us protection in case of a European holiday company becoming insolvent. According to a recent study by ABTA, UK tourists could face higher levies to travel across Europe should we leave. Considering how cheap it is to travel to European countries at the moment, especially for young families like my own, this is one luxury I don't want to lose. Furthermore, according to the study 44% of UK inbound travel and tourism is by EU nationals, that's about £9.5 billion a year - that's money coming into the country that I don't want to see leaving, due to travel restrictions.
I want my children to actively engage in multiculturalism
In an ever shrinking world, which is getting closer by the day, where distance and time zones are quashed by facebook, whatsapp, and snapchats, in a world which is actually seeing people get closer, not further apart, I don't want to see my children part of a country that clambers itself up into a cocoon, closing its borders from the fear that our heritage will somehow be hijacked. I want my children to know the rasion d'etre behind the European Union; that in the face of war and injustice, countries can unite to create a better, more peaceful world, through commonly shared agreements and treaties. I want my children to know the importance of learning from other people; their cultures, their ways of life. They should be free to make that choice by being part of something bigger, not having to argue about whether we should have stayed or left in years to come.
So there we have it, with only 48 hours to go this is my last attempt to get people to get off their armchairs and into their local polling office. Whoever you are voting for, whatever you believe in, do what is right. I'm not here to tell you how to vote, I'm here to tell you about the reasons that are important to me and my family. So think, make a choice, and more importantly, make sure you vote (vote remain!)