The Blog

The EU Referendum for Dummies

Have we had that book yet? Has it come through the post with all the other pieces of paper now lying on your kitchen table? Have you attended the town hall discussions and asked all your questions?

Have we had that book yet? Has it come through the post with all the other pieces of paper now lying on your kitchen table? Have you attended the town hall discussions and asked all your questions?

What we need before the 23 June referendum is a pre-referendum: "Vote Yes or No: Are you fully informed and absolutely clear about all the pros and cons before you cast your vote on this issue deciding the future for Britain?" If I was the Prime Minister who has turned this decision over to We the People, that is a referendum whose results I would first like to know about.

This has become more than a heated discussion, though increasingly heated it is. When we look at history, we know we only understand events more fully in retrospect.

There is a sense we are living now at a momentous time; see the decisions being made on both sides of the Atlantic which could affect the course of history and every one of us and our children. The funny thing is, that when you are in the midst of such moments, you do not fully realize what is taking place and the full implications of that. See the eye-opening story, The Nightmare Years, that excellent account of the American journalist William Shirer who was an eyewitness to the pivotal events in Europe preceding WWII.

Is this a significant time in world events? If it is, it behoves all of us not to sleep walk through it. And yet the abiding impression when listening to interviews with the man/woman on the street is that everyone would like to be better informed, would like to know clearly how this will affect 'me'. "Well, we still have one month to find out more information", one interviewee said. "I would like to see a list of everything that would happen if we stay or leave set out clearly", said someone else. We have seen many such lists. But we've also read: What will be the effect on me, Britain and the world? The answer we hear: No one knows for sure. Those who say they know, can we believe them? Fear tactics on both sides have so clouded the issues.

Then there are the lucky ones who have made up their minds and feel in full control of the facts they need. I suspect an instant referendum might show these to be largely in the minority, if the population were taken as a whole. We hear people deciding on one factoid or a phrase that has hit home.

Some polls asked people: Do you feel more British or European? Surely votes will not be cast and the decision made based on that? The people are not being asked to give up their Britishness or individual identity; the concerns are about sovereignty, economics, immigration and who is in charge here. "Let's take back control" is the Exit slogan, and there's the rub. We have seen the election debate in America stimulated by both sides wanting to "take back control" from their view of the "Establishment". We have also seen, however, that the most powerful person in the world, the President of the United States, has been stymied for eight years, held back and prevented from "taking control" by the hard-headed intentions of the opposing party to absolutely refuse to work together......on anything. The question is always, who's in charge, who's in control, and who has the power? When we really look, it's frightening; and a Big Brother is always frightening.

Of course the EU has led to Britain being stymied, held back and prevented in so many ways. But we are not entirely powerless. It seems to my mind, that in the absence of a crystal ball and knowledge of the future, we still have a choice, if we step back and try to see the larger picture. Like the red and blue states who united after the Civil War and today still fight amongst themselves yet try to negotiate with each other as the "United States", and like the United Nations, formed after the worst, most divisive war in history which yet endures as an organization working for world peace whilst often taking one step forward and three steps back, the European Union was formed "out of a desire for peace in a war-torn and divided continent". We can choose to keep striving for unity. This is a choice and this is a power. When in doubt, try to work it out.

Or is this the "marriage from hell" we must now escape from? Young people today especially value our increasingly connected global world and being a part of it. As Eddie Izzard, the famous British comedian said recently: "If we want a world where seven billion people all have a fair chance, we've got to try to make Europe work. To make Europe work we've got to be inside it. Running and hiding is not the British way. Standing and fighting is."

Let's hope that standing and resolving is the British way. There comes a time in life, and in any group, union, or situation, when it's time to call it a day and move on.

Looking at world events, the need to resolve our differences and work together, and in view of the valuable and inevitable blending of nations, cultures and minds taking place all over the world, I have a sense that now, for Britain and the EU, is not that time. Surely we're bigger, greater and better together.