Britain (the UK) is less than 2 weeks away from voting to leave, or remain as a member of, the European Union (EU). I want the vote to be large, and decisive, but am increasingly of the view that the result will be to leave.
The two campaigns, Leave and Remain, have been notable for their negativity: neither has put forward a vision of the UK in the future if they win, only what they think will happen if they lose. This is pathetic, but it plays into the hands of those who would reduce this critical decision to one based entirely on self-interest, and self-interest is easily piqued by fear. A recent poll, published in the Independent newspaper, showed that the electorate is largely ignorant of the facts and will vote on the basis of misconceptions. This is especial;ly true for those who want to vote to Leave and a lot of their campaign has been based on fear of immigration and the effects on the British people.
The vote takes place in the same month that the UK celebrated the 90th birthday of its Queen, the 95th birthday of her husband. The specially hyped-up versions of the celebrations that normally accompany such anniversaries – like Trooping the Colour – were noticeably more jingoistic. The Euro 2016 Foottball tournament also (literally) kicked-off in June with 3 of the 4 home nations represented. Britain is gearing up for the Olympics in July. I believe these reinforce “Britishness” and pride in our nation(s) just in time to play into the dynamic of the referendum.
The football tournament has already, at time of writing this, degenerated in to factional warring and violence off the pitch. There is nothing unusual in that, although the level of organised violence has a very nasty nationalist undercurrent to it. I fear that a vote for UK to leave the EU will be seen by some nationalists as legitimising their anti-immigrant views; they may be emboldened to be more vocal and more physical than they already are. God help anyone who is identifiable as being in one of their target minority groups. We have laws to protect us from hate crime, but these are really about redress, not protection – if indeed the perpetrators can be caught and tried.
I will vote to stay in the EU, not because it is perfect but because it holds the prospect of something better than narrow nationalism, which I think is a good thing. For all its faults the EU is no worse than our own national monarchist parliamentary system (with an unelected chamber and massive civil service). We have our own cronyism and corruption and it is pretty thick to point a finger of judgement on the EU while we do. I think Britain is a good country to live in, one of the best; but I’m looking forward, not back, to something that I believe will make it greater.