21 June 2016

The EU Referendum and Why It Matters To Me

 The UK is going to the voting booths later this week in an historic referendum on whether or not to remain part of the EU.  The last time the British people had a vote on the matter I had not even been born and the vote was on membership of the European Economic Community (EEC).  Although politics is a large part of my life it is something that I rarely comment on in this blog.  Nevertheless this is a question that is so important that I think it is vital that as many people as possible explain their reasoning.

If we were living in the UK my vote would, very firmly, be going to the leave campaign.  Sadly as an Irish national I only have a vote in the UK when resident there.  My Father and Sister have a vote, I do not.  Of course as a UK national my husband also has a vote.  Nevertheless even though unable to cast my own vote the outcome of the referendum matters very deeply to me.  Our children are British and the referendum will effect their lives for decades to come and although we have not yet decided on retirement there is a very strong possibility that we will repatriate to the UK in later years.  I have stronger ties to the UK than I do to my birth country of the Netherlands or my own nation of Ireland where, as a part of the diaspora, I have never lived.

We all still have to live with each other and work together in the days following the referendum.  have friends in both camps and respect them all because they engage in reasoned debate.  There are some people (on both sides) that I have lost all respect for because of the manner in which they have approached the issue.  Neither camp in the referendum have covered themselves with glory, the scare stories and the ad-hominem attacks have been horrible to see.  In particular the debate on immigration has been divisive and unpleasant.  Of course immigration brings benefits, as either an expat or an immigrant in every country I have ever lived I could hardly think otherwise.  It is not, however, racist or closed minded to want to control the type of people who come to make sure that they are of benefit to the country.  Again, most countries I have lived in do this, it is not unusual or unreasonable.  Sadly there are some people in the leave camp who seem to think about nothing other than immigration and speak of immigrants in a very nasty and troubling way.  That does not mean that I disagree with them about the need for Britain to leave the EU but it does mean that I, and others like me, have a responsibility to call them out on their views.  I love Britain and I love the British, I also love Europe and Europeans but dislike the EU intensely.  My decision to vote leave is not due to any sense of adopted jingoism or misplaced pride it is, quite simply, a question of democratic deficit.

I know that many member states that were once vulnerable and escaped the iron grip of dictatorships see the EU as a guarantor of freedom and democracy.  That may be the case for them but it is manifestly not for Britain.  I understand that EU rules on work, holidays, leave, and minimum standards represent a vast improvement on what existed before in many countries but again Britain guaranteed many of these protections already and even if that were not the case the country would not abandon beneficial legislation on independence.

Access to the common market is valuable to Britain but Europe is not our only trading partner, indeed the EU's share of international trade has reduced in the years since we joined the EEC due to the growth in other world economies, ones we would have freer and easier access to outside of the EU.  We are being threatened by Eurocrats with protracted negotiations and impediments to access to trade in the event that we do leave but that is an empty threat.  As a trading nation our deficit with the EU is such that were they to cease trade with us out of spite they would suffer.  Finance ministers in Germany and Sweden have confirmed that they would still trade with Britain, the eurocrats may bluster but they would not follow through.  Those in favour of remaining in the EU often say that in order to trade we would have to apply the majority of EU legislation in any event but have no say in how it is crafted.  Norway is often used as an example of that, in Norway the pro EU parties use this argument to advance their cause.  The reality is that Norway applies approximately 10% of EU legislation, most of which has benefits to their international trade, if it did not they would not do it and, of course, if they do not like it they have, ultimately, the choice not to apply it, that is the nature of democracy.

Many economists have come down in favour of remaining in the EU.  These are the same people who encouraged us to join the Euro.  Thank goodness Britain listened to sense on that topic,  inability to respond to the recession caused problems across the Eurozone.   Greece and many of the southern states have had initial problems exacerbated by their inability to engage in individual quantitative easing.

Finally we come to the question of democracy.  The EU has a track record of ignoring the wishes of member states.  The French and Dutch voted no to a European constitution, the EU simply recrafted this as the Lisbon Treaty, when Ireland voted no to that it was forced back to another referendum of ratification when the first one gave the 'wrong' result.  Denmark was treated in a similar way over Maastricht.  The Greek referendum of 2015 was ignored as was the Dutch 2016 referendum on the Ukraine. The EU is ruled by an unelected elite that preside over a bloated bureaucracy.

Don't get me wrong, while I think  the  motives of the current EU chiefs are misguided I don't think they are malicious but the problem with unelected rulers is that you are dependant on their own moral compass and sense of benevolence.  The power of democracy is the ability to say no, to throw out those who have done a bad job or who no longer represent your will.  We simply can't do this in Europe.  My grandparents lived in a country under occupation in the second world war.  They suffered under a dictatorship that they were powerless to remove.  When their country won its independence it was hard won, not just by them and their compatriots but by their allies. My other grandparents lived in a country that had struggled for years for independence from its previous masters.   Voting leave will put us in an uncertain future but it will be our future to do with as we want and that is something I dearly hope my children have.


  1. This is a load of tosh. Thankfully you can´t vote!

    1. I see you are so eloquently demonstrating the point made at the opening of the third paragraph. I would be happy to understand why you believe my opinion is 'tosh' and give you the opportunity to try to convince me otherwise.

  2. That was an excellent analysis! Finally somebody who believes that Britain should leave the EU, but not for jingoistic reasons. As a British expat living in the Netherlands, I'm hoping that the UK will vote to stay in. Back in 1974, I was too young to vote, but I've always been pro-European. However, like you, I don't have the opportunity to vote this time either because I've been out of the UK for more than 15 years. Nor did I have the chance to vote about the Ukraine as, even though I've lived here for 30-odd years, I'm not a Dutch citizen. Even worse, my children (21, 20 and 15) will *never* be able to vote in national elections in either country unless they change their nationality. Something has definitely gone wrong with democracy in the EU!

  3. Whilst I don't agree with you I am happy to finally find someone who can debate this rationally and sensibly and with the appearance of having done some research! I wish there were more arguments like this on both sides - I fear the vote tomorrow will purely be on fear or hatred or anger.

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