I had an EU debate with the Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell Chris Grayling on Saturday.
This was one of the many debates that I've had over the last few weeks on the subject of whether or not we should stay in the EU. My very first debate was with the rookie MP for Sutton and Cheam and the more recent one, against a veteran member of her majesty's cabinet. Despite the drastic differences in political experience between these MPs, both debates were strikingly similar. In standard fashion, both debates included our pitches as to why we should stay or go, took questions from the audience, and debated. The obvious takeaway from each debate, however, was this: when pressed to answer the simplest of questions like 'What would post-Brexit look like for our economy'? neither of my opponents could articulate a clear response. Amongst the many questions that need answering by Brexiteers: what will our trading relationship with the UK look like, is a fundamentally important one that needs to be answered. This is especially critical since over three million jobs and nearly half of all UK exports are dependent on trade with the EU. A valid explanation is something the British people deserve to hear while they evaluate the facts before casting their votes on the 23rd of June.
The inability to articulate an alternative trading model for Britain goes far beyond just these two MPs; in the last few months, we've heard various Brexit leaders hypothesise possibilities of modeling nearly a dozen different countries. Fighting fact with fantasy has become a hallmark of the Leave campaign's identity. The undisciplined communication shortcomings of the Leave campaign was perhaps best summed up recently by pro-Leave MP Kate Hoey being unable to name a single credible independent study that suggests we'd be better off leaving the EU. For a referendum being dubbed as one of the biggest decisions of our lifetimes, how can we possibly take the Vote Leave campaign seriously when they can't present viable alternatives or evidence to reinforce their claims?
Another element to their chaotic communications strategy is their bizarre counterclaims against every single international organisation and think tank that warn of negative consequences from a Brexit. In just the last few months, a plethora of globally respected banks, companies, academics, experts, firms, and organisations have cautioned that Brexit would be a wrong direction for the UK to take.
The list includes:
The Bank of England
Centre for Economic Performance (LSE)
The Institute for Fiscal Studies
Marks & Spencer
The World Bank
Talking about the referendum on his show, the BBC's Andrew Marr asked my debate opponent Mr. Grayling quite pointedly, 'You have no big international organisations on your side, do you?' to which Mr. Grayling replied 'Well what I think you have to do is follow the money, Andrew.' To borrow a line from the famous film, Jerry Maguire, I say to Mr. Grayling and the entire Leave campaign to please, 'Show me the money.' Because beyond the rhetoric-laced talking points about how we need to 'take back control' and are 'better off without them', we haven't seen a slice of evidence to back these statements.
The Brexit leadership network is fragmented by an unholy union of climate change deniers, chauvinists and conspiracy theorists--turning their campaign into a circus similar to that of this year's American GOP presidential primaries. Boris Johnson's Trump-like call for a TV reporter to 'Shut up' during his speech at a Leave event and asking for members of the audience to cut off the journalist during a live broadcast, on top of his thinly veiled racist comments directed at President Obama, are a symbolic summation of this sideshow.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, in comparison to the rest of the world, our economy has done relatively well. But make no mistake about it, the volatile status quo of global markets keep our recovery process fragile. A huge part of this recovery can be attributed to trade with our European partners and receiving tens of millions of pounds in investment from this relationship every single day.
Time and again throughout this campaign, we've experienced a flurry of studies, warnings, and facts from reliable independent experts from around the world who favour remaining in the EU. And time and again Vote Leave have attempted to distract the British people with rousing rhetoric, hoping they don't pay attention to the fine print. As the famous saying goes, 'You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig'. In the coming days before the vote, don't let their fantasies dissuade you from the facts. As much as Vote Leave would like to make this referendum about patriotism and sovereignty, this is really about what path best suits Britain's future.
I love my country. We are strong and independent. But we gain a great deal from our close partnership with other EU countries. Is the EU perfect? Of course not, no union is. In cooperation with our allies, not only have we have grown stronger, but have made huge strides on many issues like climate change, equal pay, labour protections, and trade. This vote shouldn't be about campaigning for a vision of a Britain that might have been in years past; this is about what is, and what should continue to be and what will develop. The facts, as I hope you will read are as clear as the day is long, and that's why I am voting IN--to move us forward.