Over the next three weeks I’m devoting my blog to the most important decision we will all have to make in our lifetimes. I’m emphatically, with every fibre in my body for Remain.
On June 23 we must take a decision that will bind us or sever us from Europe for the foreseeable future. A reassurance has been built in that treaty changes would trigger a future referendum if we stay in, but if we vote to leave there will be no going back. Some have sought to muddy the waters about the finality of the referendum vote. For instance while Boris Johnson was moving from his true belief (which is to remain) to his careerist position of leave, he flirted with the idea that a UK vote to leave would bring our European partners to their senses and we could have a second referendum on a renegotiated deal. That will not happen. It is a theory put about by some Brexiteers to convince waverers to vote to leave because they will get a chance to reconsider the reckless move.
No, this is it. In theory one vote will be enough to begin the whole ghastly, costly and complicated business of separating us from forty three years of complex arrangements with the EU. A tiny majority for Leave will certainly be enough for the Brexiteers. If there was any suggestion that a Leave vote could be ignored or fudged, the Brexiteers would be ready with their criticism that the EU was trying to get us to keep voting until they got the vote that suited them.
The problem will be with a narrow vote to remain. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, has already indicated that the fight would be resumed the next day to get us out. You can already see the excuses being prepared. The government wielded unfair influence and made wild claims. The BBC was in favour of Remain. All that tosh is waiting to be deployed. So let’s get a big majority to Remain with an enthusiastic cheerful campaign that celebrates our membership of this great international institution that has replaced the ravages of war with the hope of peace and prosperity.
To achieve this it is essential that young people register to vote and then turn out. Most of them are in favour of our membership of the EU, why wouldn’t they be? They have grown up with the EU. They travel freely to work and meet new friends without borders getting in the way.
It is also vital that Labour voters turn out to vote to Remain. It is tempting to want to embarrass Cameron and Osborne by staying at home or voting no just to plunge the Tories into chaos. The far more important issue for socialists is to vote to remain. A lot of the Tory Brexitieers want us out so that they can dismantle people’s rights in respect of working hours, health and safety and parental leave. Tory Brexiteers see the EU as a barrier to the naked operation of the free market.
The UK was not conquered in the Second World War nor have we been ruled since by communist or neo fascist governments which was the experience of countries like Poland, Spain and Portugal. For those countries the EU is essential for very fundamental reasons. For us the EU has been a more pragmatic choice, that we are better off economically and politically in the world by being part of this great vision of bringing 28 countries together rather than sitting awkwardly on the global sidelines.
Although our reasons to be part of the EU are different, they are nonetheless equally important. We must Remain on June 23.