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Fasten your seatbelts, a serious public EU debate will be coming anytime within the next decade

March 22, 2014

This EU thingamybob has got us all in a sticky-wicket, hasn’t it? I’m sure all of use who vote would love to know the facts, even those of us who are emphatically pro international unification. Quite apart from anything else, like all contentious topics, it’s so much better to have it out in the open. How can we possibly hope to have a referendum on a topic no one knows about? The air itself ought to be thick with dialogue about the EU, but I have to say the BBC coverage has been remarkably scant. Even as a journalism student I’ve had to scratch around for information. I will because I’m interested, but other people won’t because they are not.

It is not their fault that they are not. You can’t possibly develop a passion for something if you don’t understand how it affects you (either personally, or jointly as a member of the human race). You can only know this if you are told, whether you particularly seek to be told or not. Fuck, they should be having one of these debates in miniature before every airing of The Voice. Otherwise, people like me will fret and grumble that, if we have a referendum now, the only people who will vote will be the people who know nothing but their own stubborn minds, both in the pro camp and in the anti.

This is a debate for the people outside of those brackets – a debate for people who come in neutral and take each issue as it comes. Their conclusion will likely be that alterations, rather than drastic overhauls and severing of ties, must be made to the system if it is to work. But we’re systematically discouraged from having this debate, for fear of being accused of either a xenophobic nationalist or a silly middle class liberal who doesn’t understand the impact joining the EU has had on the lower income brackets.

I say, better to have the dialogue. Better to hear what people have to say and discuss it. Those with sense will take the intelligent parts of each argument, if there is an argument to be had. When you silence people whom you disagree with, you show that you are afraid to give a space to views that differ from your own, which suggests that your own convictions are too weak to stand in contrast.

Secondly, you disarm people who agree with you of the correct selection of arguments with which to defend their point of view, because there is no space for them; if your views take the form of the argument, they will never be voiced unless the person who made the original point has their own point put across. These are enjoyable enough – many a favourite article of mine was written in response to hatred and anger from an unpleasant source – but they have their place more during peace time than in war. And this EU thing, it’s a miniature political war.

Thirdly, you remove an important part of the learning process; showing people who disagree with you what types of people agree with them. Many a seemingly sound argument loses its appeal when the opinion is shared by crazed buffoons.

On the EU debate, both sides are afraid to have the discussion because they think that maybe, if the other side are more on top of their game the day the debate takes place, it might shift public perception away from the direction they want it to go. This fear that the public will make the “wrong” decision if exposed to the other side of the argument is not just condescending, but also tells you quite how much people whose job it is to make decisions about the EU and the UK doubt themselves. Surely, if you really thought you were right beyond and shadow of a doubt, you would welcome a chance to prove it?

Neither side does, it would seem. The most sensible arguments come from economists who are more motivated by what they perceive to be the facts that by political motivations, such as the cynical attempt to win voters by playing on their fears about the corruption of “community” or other such nonsense. Those arguments don’t stand in such stark contrast to each other; it isn’t the simplistic question of “Should We Stay Or Should We Go?” (cue The Clash song), but rather an attempt to unpick what changes would occur and how to offset the negative with the positive. As such, there are plenty of economists on both sides of the argument.

Not to say that I think the EU debate should be purely about money, but if we heard more from everyone about what has occurred since we have joined the EU, the good and the bad, the public might feel ready to make an informed choice. As it is, our current government are talking about a referendum when most people in this country don’t understand the issues. The last televised EU debate I saw on TV went approximately thus:

Layman liberals: Xenophobia…! Xenophobia! Xenophobiaaaa!!!

UKIP: You lefties are a load of bleeding heart liberals!

Lib Dems: Wait, what? We didn’t say anything. *whistles*

Tories: Logic! Logic! You must use logic! Vote for us, and we’ll tell you what it is!

Labour: We think…….. Sometimes.

Layman conservatives: Would now be a good time to mention that I wrote a book about how the end of civilisation is nigh?

Which was very unhelpful.

It isn’t all that complicated really. What I want to know is: What do people who have knowledge in the matter think were the legal, economic and social advantages and disadvantages of joining the EU, and what will be the advantages and disadvantages are leaving? I’m looking for a long term, broad spectrum approach rather than a short term approach. I’ve railed on UKIP before, but I think their world view is pretty narrow. Considering they’re going for the “community, community” angle, they sure are quick to jump ship from the community that is the EU. That was the point of it wasn’t it – to foster better relationships between the countries and potentially improve them?

It would be sheer arrogance to suggest that Britain doesn’t need this from the EU or anywhere else. The reason I want to stay is simply that it’s a step in the right direction. Eventually, I’d want a worldwide arrangement to the same effect. It could be difficult, but it would fix a hell of a lot of problems. Create a few no doubt, but they will be economic ones. And as I keep saying, to the extent where I’m in danger of turning blue in the face and passing out, it’s not all about money and certainly not all about British money.

But that point is for another day. The point of writing this wasn’t to say how much I want to hug the pink, fluffy EU. It was to say that I’m tired of the slinking around in corners. I’m ready, and waiting, to hear the cold hard steel of the opposite viewpoint, warts and all. And indeed, the much more threatening, not so warty bits.

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