The EU referendum will be held on the 23rd of June. As I write, that is 100 days from now and I am sick to the back teeth of it already. I am well aware that the referendum is incredibly important and will have far reaching repercussions for everybody in Britain and indeed in Europe, but is anybody really interested in three straight months of hyperbole, grandstanding and scare stories from both sides of the debate?
The newspapers are being as partisan as can be expected; reporting daily on which business leader or monarch has had their say, and running an extraordinary number of comment pieces on the issue. I am well aware that in writing this I am contributing to the blanket coverage of the referendum I so dislike, but someone has to point out that the onslaught is already too much.
I think it might be best to state my opinion at the outset. I am moderately in favour of Britain remaining in the Union, but I do not find either option particularly appealing. It goes without saying that there are all sorts of things wrong with the EU, especially the lack of democratic accountability and highly confusing power structure. It needs reform desperately, but that will be nearly impossible for Britain alone to achieve. On the positive side, membership is undoubtedly beneficial to our economy, supporting many thousands of jobs. We also benefit from the free movement of people that allows us to move to, holiday in or study anywhere in the Union. These benefits slightly outweigh the drawbacks, though I am painfully aware that neither result will be cause for celebration.
“One day, historians may well look upon this song as the vital turning point in the EU referendum”
The various ‘Out’ campaigns pulled off an early coup in Boris Johnson, whose lengthy debate with himself over the best course of action for his own political career ended with the announcement that he would back Brexit. This warrented 48 hours of endless round the clock news coverage. Then emerged the spectacularly awful Britain’s Coming Home song, set to the tune of Euro ’96 classic Football’s Coming Home. It features inspiring lyrics such as ‘they’ve taken all our fish and money through the years’ and ‘we believe our flag’s red, white and blue/more than just a star’. All in a way that suggests the writers of the song may not be 100% certain that the British Flag is red white and blue and contains no stars whatsoever. One day, historians may well look upon this song as the vital turning point in the EU referendum.
In contrast, the ‘In’ campaign has been marked by a stupefying dullness, choosing to trot out an unending procession of business leaders in expensive suits to drone on about how good the EU is for their company. The website is one of the least interesting things on the entire internet. It has also indulged in scare stories, such as the suggestion that the Calais migrant camp would move to Kent if the UK left the Union. The campaign has failed to really inspire anyone, largely because it can only argue that Britain will stay exactly the same as it is now.
“The website is one of the least interesting things on the entire internet”
There is a real danger that the referendum will become more about personalities and emotions, and less about facts, the longer the campaigns go on. Surely, the British public is more interested in hard facts that might help undecided voters make an informed, rational decision. Much more than the media turning the whole thing into a saga over the next Conservative leader or giving undue prominence to what the Queen apparently thinks about Brexit.
If we vote Out, the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage get to brag about how we have regained our national sovereignty, while the economy goes into a tailspin. Vote In, and we get to stay part of a corrupt and antidemocratic union, while David Cameron’s bragging smug face appears on our television. We are caught between a rock and a hard place, yet are being bombarded with stories from across the campaigns trying to convince us that everything will be wonderful if their side wins. It won’t, so I would appreciate some respite from it all.
Image: Quinn Dombrowski