With the EU referendum now on the horizon, and polling data fluctuating wildly, it is vitally important that as many people as possible take the opportunity to cast their vote in what will likely be one of the largest democratic events in the country for some time. Despite having been singularly unimpressed by much of both campaigns, I will be voting Leave on the 23rd of June, and it is precisely because I see the question of EU membership as fundamentally about the issue of democracy that I will be doing so; a vote to Leave is a vote against an institution that can fairly be described as anti-democratic, and an In campaign elements of which have increasingly shown contempt for their opponents.
To deal briefly with some other aspects of the campaign, the first point to note is that we simply do not know what Britain's economic future will look like outside the European Union. What should strike us as suspect, however, is the assertion in George Osborne's "dodgy dossier" that Brexit would cause an immediate catastrophic recession with damage comparable to a major war - just as readily as many people dismiss the figure of £350 million a week being lost to the EU. What we do know, however, is that the UK both currently has a trade deficit with the EU, and the proportion of the UK's exports to the EU is continuing to gradually decline. Hence, not only is the EU continuing to gradually shrink in relevance to Britain (a shrinking which could easily accelerate as BRICS powers continue to rise while the EU remains one of the least competitive trading areas in the world, and growth continues to be slower in the Eurozone than outside it), but the EU has a direct disincentive to impose heavy tarrifs - the epitome of cutting one's nose to spite one's face.
Relatedly, there is also no guarantee that the UK's influence would massively decrease outside the EU - an assertion which is sometimes made by some Remain supporters. We are, after all, the 5th largest economy in the world; were ranked the most powerful country in the world last year for soft power; are a nuclear weapons state; and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. To suggest that such a nation wouldn't survive outside a bloc such as the EU seems naive in the first instance, all the more so when a case could be made that the EU's effect on Britain's influence is far from universally positive. When the UK is unable to negotiate trade deals on its own, without the assent of 27 other nations through the EU, its influence is surely curtailed.
While both these points will surely be debated right up until the end of the referendum, in my own view a less disputable point is that the EU is undemocratic at its core -- or more accurately that it is anti-democratic. We need only look at the EU's reaction to previous referenda to see this in action. When theb 2005 referenda on the EU Constitution ended up largely ignored with the promulgation of the Lisbon Treaty (the abscene of the Supremacy Clause being perhaps the only well-known difference), this should have become clear, and if not then then certainly by the time of the Irish referndum on the latter, where the response was to force the holding of a second referendum. Evidently, democracy only suits certain elements of the EU when the "right" result is given. This is all the more apparent when open European federalist Juncker recently went so far as to state that democratically elected politicians spent too long listening to the views of those who elected them; instead of seeing the will of the people as the lifeblood of civil society - as they are in any democratic system - evidently the current EU leadership only sees ordinary people as an inconvenience to their own grandiose designs.
And it is becoming increasingly clear what those grandiose designs look like, as if the repeated calls for a United States of Europe in ex-Commission President Van Rompouy's "State of the Union" addresses (the terminology of which should be raising alarm bells in itself), and indeed in the Oxford Union last year, were not already ample evidence. The concerns of Lord Guthrie about the prospect of an EU Army did not come out of thin air, after all, having been backed by Juncker last year, allegedly as a necessity to "stand up to" Russia - an odd suggestion which comes suspiciously close to war-mongering from an insitution which attempts to cast itself as the only barrier to World War Three, or even more absurldly still the collapse of Western civilisation. On this point, it is further worth remembering that, mere months after the promulgation of the Maastricht Treaty creating the EU as we know it came the start of war in Bosnia, action on which was led not by the EU but by NATO.
When faced with the EU's naked contempt for democracy, in ignoring referenda; having a leader who laments that politicians listen to their electorates; and in the demanding by the Eurogroup (a body with no legal basis) of terms of Greece which included SYRIZA reversing some of the reforms on which it had been elected at all, to say nothing of allowing creditors to author and veto legislation, appeals to stay in the EU to reform it from within ring hollow. "Ever closer union" is, after all, not a piece of legislation from which an exception can be carved out, but an ideology which has underpinned Treaty after Treaty expanding the EU's competences - and forced systematically on European electorates often without referenda (which I suppose is slightly more dignified than those referenda being ignored). So to simply claim that Cameron has somehow managed to opt us out of this ideology seems disingenuous - that is, if his agreement aptly described by Jacob Res-Mogg as "thin gruel watered down" is worth the paper it's written on.
To conclude, it is also notable that this very same contempt for ordinary people is far from confined to senior figures in the EU itself, and has in fact been observable in certain strands of pro-Europeanism for some time. Whether it is the routine branding of opponents of the EU, an anti-democratic behemoth despised by Tony Benn among others, from the left and the right, as simply racists, to Bob Geldof making rude gestures at British fishermen who have seen their livelihoods damaged by EU fishing policy and calling them racists (causing some pro-EU campaigners to desert him), the same message - namely, that the plebs might make the "wrong" decisions without the omnibenevolent EU to guide them, Animal Farm style - has become all the more prominent on some parts of the Remain side as the referendum nears its close.
It was what was described as a "cult of economics" which caused the Scottish referendum to bear witness to one of the most embarrassing narrowings of an early lead in recent history - a mistake from which much of the Remain campaign, including Osborne, has failed to learn. The question of EU membership is about far more than uncertain economics, or even simply "taking back control". It is about whether we wish to remain on a seemingly-inexorable course (backed by the current EU leadership) to political union under a manufactured "European" identity - the will of the wider people of Europe be damned - or whether we want to change course. Precisely because I favour the latter, I will be voting Leave.
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