“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
― Bill Bullard
I recently experienced first-hand the ‘divided family’ situation that Brexit has brought to our nation. Clearly, I’m the only one of the siblings who voted to remain in the EU, so with mum and dad firmly in the leave camp as well, any discussion on the topic is somewhat one-sided to say the least.
When it was suggested that the ‘remainers’ had lost and should just accept it, I foolishly happened to say that I did accept it but it was a shame that the leave campaign had been so obviously full of lies about the cost of membership. That the £350m a week was simply not true and maybe the result would have been different if the truth had been told about how much money would become available to the NHS if we left. This was met with a tirade of (near) abuse about how no people voted to leave because of the figures quoted and everybody realised that the figures weren’t true anyway. I was ‘informed’ that the leave vote was purely down to the perceived corruption and money wasting which took place in Brussels – which was nothing more than an undemocratic behemoth foisting unreasonable legislation onto us and holding us back from realising our full potential in the world. You get the picture?
Now I have no problem with people having a different opinion on something than I have but to be told I am wrong for thinking the way I do is another thing altogether. To be told that I am ‘talking shit’ because I defend the things I believe in is unacceptable, particularly when I put a lot of effort in to researching things to ensure I’ve got my facts straight. I’m not always right of course and I have no problem with being corrected if I’ve got things wrong – but generally I will put forward a reasoned argument and will debate that reasonably with someone of opposing views. Unless the person with the opposing views is not prepared to listen and instead prefers to shout me down in a rant about me not knowing what I’m talking about. Then things are different. Then it gets personal and I begin to feel disrespected….and you know how I hate that! The family dinner did not go well. Things were said and I made my leave. I made my (brrr) exit (a cold departure).
I don’t like conflict. It leaves me with an empty feeling. A feeling of waste. I’m a lover not a fighter but this is what we face now in our post-referendum society. Divided from Europe. Divided from family. And all because one side of the argument feels hard done by and the other wants us to just shut up.
But in the aftermath of such an event I like to look at the facts to see if there was any validity in the argument being put to me. Was it true that nobody voted to leave because of what was emblazoned on the battle bus? Was the fall in the value of the pound since the vote a good thing because the pound was too high anyway? Will we get better trade deals by being outside of the EU? Is sovereignty important to us? And of course, the elephant in the room that night, is free movement of people a ticking time bomb?
Let’s examine these questions and see if I deserved to be shouted down after all.
The £350m a week saving. So, I’m told that this lie (and be clear, it is a lie – go check the facts) had no bearing on the result. This statement means that the number of people who voted leave on this basis (because they thought the money would go to the NHS) were not enough to change the result. I have not been able to find any figures relating to people’s reasons for voting but I put this to you – if the £350m a week was not a reason then why was it at the centre of the Leave campaigns strategy? If they thought it would not get votes then why use it? I put it to you m’lud that there were an awful lot of people who thought that by voting leave the NHS would get more money. Instead, what we’re told is that there is no more money for the NHS. My gut instinct tells me it did tip the balance but I can’t prove it either way so can’t say who’s right on this one.
The fall in the value of the pound. I’ve been directly affected by this one as the company I work for pays for components in dollars. We’ve had a 16% increase in costs which we inevitably have to pass on to our customers, so to be told that this is a good thing needs some further investigating. When is a lower valued currency good for a country? When you export a lot (as it makes exports more attractive). The UK imports more than it exports (a difference of £6.6bn in Dec 2016) so it does not make sense to devalue your currency (on purpose) as that means the goods you import cost more. And what did my sister-in-law (who is a banker) mean by saying the devaluation caused by the Brexit vote was just a correction? A correction from what? Had the pound been at an inordinately high level prior to the referendum? The answer is no. Seldom in the 50 years prior to the referendum has the average yearly exchange rate been below $1.40 and from 2000 to 2015 the average rate was $1.538. So how can today’s rate of $1.25 be regarded as a correction? I don’t accept this and believe that this rate means that we, the general public, are now paying more for our goods as a direct result of the vote to leave.
We will get better trade deals outside of the EU? Maybe, maybe not is the answer. Personally, I think that as we will no longer be able to offer piggy-backing for non-EU countries then we look less attractive but I’m prepared to accept that as one of the world’s richest economies there will be lots of countries wanting to trade with us. See, I’m being reasonable. Yet in our ‘discussion’ I was told that we definitely will get better trade deals. How can anyone know that? And does it make sense to sacrifice non-tariff access into a market of 500m people? Why take the risk is all I’m saying. And when I asked ‘what if the risk means that over a million people lose their jobs (note that I said ‘if’) I was told it was a risk worth taking. Yeah…..if you’re comfortably off and able to retire if the going gets tough.
The sovereignty issue. I’m led to believe this was the big one but let’s face it, there was a lot of misinformation about this too. Are we really ruled by Brussels? A recent study suggests that 14 to 17% of our law is derived from EU membership. And, for the sake of balance, it’s true to say that our membership also impacts on a lot of areas of our lives. But the EU has very little influence over such things as defence, taxation, public services and foreign policy – particularly as we have the protection of the veto in some of these areas. So whilst we must accept that the EU has a big say in British life it is clear that in some very important areas we have not lost sovereignty at all. And in this globalised world we live in we are often required to relinquish sovereignty because it is worthwhile doing so – eg NATO and the WTO. The main reason for this desire to regain lost sovereignty would seem to be so that we can control the immigration of EU migrants, a situation we cannot currently control. So yes, leaving the EU means we get back control of who comes in but again, at what cost? If we do wish to stem the flow of EU migrants then we must give up our current access to the single market. Therefore, if we wish to trade with Europe we will have to pay to do so…which in turn means the savings we get by leaving the EU will be substantially eroded. I’ve heard people saying that we don’t need to trade with Europe as there’s plenty of trade to be had elsewhere. But that’s just a childish answer surely. Why give up trading on our doorstep? And if other countries see we are desperate to trade with them are we likely to get a good deal? So, is the cost of sovereignty going to be worth it? If it means that every household is going to be worse off I say no. And somebody please tell me why it’s so much better to have the government of this country making the rules that affect our daily lives rather than the European Parliament (which our government gets a say in anyway).
To discuss the whole immigration issue would take just too long here and if you want to know my views in more detail then read my previous blogs. Suffice it to say, about 80% of EU migrants living in the UK are working and paying taxes. Overall employment figures have been rising in recent years which suggests nobody is taking anyone’s jobs and several areas (NHS and food production) rely heavily on migrant workers. All research you may wish to examine concludes that there is a net gain to the UK from us having EU migrants here. For those of you who feel the numbers are too high, don’t blame the migrants blame the system that allows employers to breach the laws on minimum wage! But also remember that as the number of retired people grows in the country the more younger aged workers we will need to attract in order to pay for the adult social care. If we don’t have enough revenue from income tax then how is any of this sustainable? Perhaps the next referendum will be on euthanasia.
You may not agree with my reasoning but I offer my thoughts for constructive debate. I welcome anyone to give their counter arguments to any of the points I have raised. Just don’t shout at me and tell me I’m wrong (don’t reply in capital letters). Remember, all I said was I was disappointed about the lies of the Leave campaign and I wonder if the result would have been the same if we had been told the truth. And yes, I’m aware that some of the things claimed by the Remain campaign may have been stretching the truth somewhat – but the fact is that we haven’t left yet so nobody knows what will happen when we do. I’m resigned to the fact that we will leave and just ask that the leave voters among you show some humility and concede that certain aspects of your campaign were misleading. I accept that over 17 million people reached a different decision than me and I respect that but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong and you’re right. It’s not as simple as that.