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Even if you support Brexit, vote In for the referendum

June 6, 2016

I wouldn’t give a damn which way the EU referendum swung, if I really thought that it was about honestly examining whether the EU is a force for good. I probably wouldn’t even show up to vote, since I’m no expert.

Unfortunately, many of my fellow countrymen don’t subscribe to this view – particularly, the “Out” supporters. The Out campaign is many-headed, and contains some interesting points, such as Adam Hamdy’s reflection on the effect of the EU on the African economy. But these considerations are lost underneath general howling about how immigrants are messing things up.

If it wasn’t for all the floating xenophobia, these nuanced points about the EU wouldn’t lead to a referendum. Insofar as they fetched any action whatsoever, it would all be from obscure lobbying groups. My problem with the referendum is that it patently does not exist to analyse these complicated problems, but is instead an ill-conceived pacification of Middle England’s Right-wing.

If I were in favour of a Brexit, I would not vote Out in this referendum. Nor would I have voted for UKIP in the general election. I would have understood that although I had legitimate concerns about the impact of the EU, my peers did not. They were performing the same actions as me, but for bad reasons. They were making a mockery of the very idea of a referendum, which earnestly and naively asks the public to properly consider an important debate.

That is not how people approach referenda. They use them like online petitions, whereby you express your frustration about something with a tick box. Absent is the pressure of needing to understand why things are the way they are; I can sign a petition asking Dave to ban plastic beads in cosmetics, because I have absolutely no idea what these plastic beads are, where they come from, or whether they can actually be removed.

This is because a petition is of no consequence. It just establishes that X number of people are concerned about Y; For Your Consideration When You Have Time, Mr Prime Minister.

If there was a referendum on the subject, I wouldn’t be so keen to act. I’d realise that policy would be changed directly as a result of what my peers and I decided, whether we were well-informed on the matter or not.

I would prefer to be enlightened on the facts before voting, but I would know that the majority of my friends and acquaintances would make minimal effort to educate themselves properly, and rarely travel outside the simplistic rhetoric of social media to inform their views. For that reason, I would not support a referendum.

Referenda should be for simple concepts. Gay marriage? Sure, why not. It’s not rocket science. It’s just a question of whether society is ready for it. The EU and its impact is the political equivalent of rocket science, because it involves a level of understanding re economics that the majority of us don’t have.

Yet, the most-read articles on the matter are noticeably lacking technical information. So, my peers behave as though it’s not political rocket science at all, it’s as easy as a lollipop. They fall for shouty, panicky propaganda I’ve read a thousands times before, in as many contexts.

Against my inclination, I feel compelled to vote. I am broadly in favour of staying In the EU, because I am ideologically inclined towards greater political, legal and economic unity between the countries, and have not discovered any greatly convincing reason to take a backwards step in that regard.

But the main reason I will be voting In is because I know that there are a lot of misinformed Out votes heading towards the referendum. It seems to me that the only way to counteract misinformed Out votes is with equally misinformed In votes. That’s not the way I want it, but apparently, that’s how things are.

Voting to change systems isn’t inherently wrong. But changing a system significantly for bad reasons, when you have no way of predicting the effect, is obviously not the canniest move. If you’re a smart Outie, counteract your stupid Outie neighbour and vote In. We can figure out the details later. If the referendum is a close call, maybe the appropriate powers will take reasonable objections more seriously.


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