The arguments I have encountered from many In campaigners in recent weeks could, at my most generous, be described as misguided and ill-informed. This is something that deeply troubles me, as this referendum, where we are making a decision which is so crucial in defining our futures, is being fought on the basis of misinformation and deception. I have thus decided to take a break from my usual issue-specific Musings on Europe for the next few weeks, and instead engage in some myth busting.
Myth: ‘Je suis Européen’
The most common myth perpetuated by the In camp is about identity. Yes, the notions of Europe and the EU are used interchangeably as short hand (most notably from my perspective in the name of this blog series), and yes, there is a place for questions about identity in this referendum, but it is not, and should not be, the ‘I am European therefore I must vote In’ line espoused by the Inners.
Conflating ‘Europe’ and ‘the European Union’ in this regard is an underhand tactic. Europe is a continent. It is a great continent. The continent of Da Vinci, of Mozart, of the European Championships. I am, and always will be, proud to be European, but membership of ‘Europe’ is not what we are voting on (for a start I should imagine the equipment required to drag ourselves out into the Atlantic would be quite pricey)!
What we are voting on is membership of an undemocratic political union, a bankrupt economic union, and (with its future direction) a dangerous security union.
So to the Inners (and particularly to James of Southampton Students for Europe, whose blog title this is aimed at), I say: Oui, je suis Européen, mais ce n’est pas pertinente!
Myth: ‘We don’t know what Leave looks like, we’re safer In’
This is a statement I often see, which requires both a rebuff and a rebuttal. I shall begin with the rebuff.
When In campaigners say this, it is to put forth the fear of going against the status quo to the electorate. Here is the truth: we know exactly what Leave looks like. When Britain wakes up on the 24th June, having voted Leave, the Cotswolds will still be standing, the Channel Tunnel will still be running, and the UK will still be a member of the European Union.
What changes then? Well, a government that you elected will begin a two year long process of departure from the European Union. Two years in which we can decide whether our departure will be to EFTA or some other deal. Two years in which we can secure not the Canadian Option, not the Norwegian Option, not the Swiss Option, but the British Option. What does that look like? Whatever we want. On the 24th June 2016 we will begin a transition to a new, a free, and a great Britain. That is what Leave looks like.
Now to the rebuttal. In 1975 the United Kingdom voted to join a common market and got a political union. Our politicians promised us then, that ‘we’re safer In’ and that what we saw on polling day was what we would get. They lied. This time around, they tell us that we are voting for the existing Union, the status quo, that the EU we see is the EU we get. It isn’t.
The only certainty on June 24th is that if we voted In, we give the EU freedom to change, safe in the knowledge that we are tied in for another generation. We don’t know what the EU will look like in two years, in five years, in ten years, but from past experience we have a rough idea. The quote then should really be, ‘We don’t know what Stay looks like, we’re safer Out’.
Myth: ‘Leaving the EU will put our rights at risk’
A common misconception spouted by In campaigners is that Brexit would have an effect on our human rights. This is plainly untrue. Our human rights are guaranteed in the Human Rights Act, which is based on, and linked to, the European Convention on Human Rights, set down by the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe being an entity of which we are a founder member of, and which we joined in 1949, some 24 years before we joined the Common Market. The Council of Europe, of course, being an entirely separate organisation to the European Union, and the ECHR (and our adherence to it) not being linked to this referendum in any way.
As for workers’ rights, here I will concede that there may be some effects. After all, our workers’ rights presently do far outstrip minimum EU levels, and I do fear that (with the increased funding we could pour into constantly and consistently improving these) our workers’ rights could indeed change after we vote Leave!